During the 2000 presidential campaign, candidate George W. Bush said he was skeptical about Vice President Al Gore's fundamentalist doctrine on the threat of global warming. Bush said there was disagreement among scientists and we shouldn't be stampeded into a response that would cost a lot of money and require Americans to substantially alter their way of life.
Now, in an unannounced transmission of a climate report to the United Nations, the Environmental Protection Agency accepts the doctrine that the Earth is getting warmer and partly blames human activity for the trend.
In an exercise in political hair-splitting worthy of the previous administration, the report says the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to slight temperature increases, but that much of the warming can be attributed to natural causes. Expect big government liberals to ignore the natural part and focus on how they can further alter our lifestyles by forcing us into smaller and less safe cars, increasing taxes on gasoline (something Gore proposed) and further penalizing prosperity that the use of fossil fuels has fueled.
Asked about the report on Tuesday, the president seemed dismissive. He said it had been put out by "the bureaucracy." But isn't Bush the head of the bureaucracy? If reports are going out in his name and he disagrees with the contents, shouldn't he replace the people who oppose his policies?
The media, predictably, have pounced on the report. To them, automakers and SUV drivers are a greater threat to humanity than terrorists. The main reason so many people accept the global warming doctrine is that they hear too few contrary scientific voices.
The earth has warmed and cooled naturally for thousands of years. From the 1940s until the late 1970s, a period in which fossil fuel consumption trended sharply upward, the planet temperature declined. Since the late '70s, there's been a slight warming trend but nothing that has differed substantially from previous heating and cooling cycles, many experts say.
Carbon dioxide is portrayed as the villain in global warming. Yet, according to the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change (www.co2science.org/ center.htm), there's no real-world evidence to suggest that whatever global warming might be occurring is due to the ongoing rise in the air's CO2 content. In fact, carbon dioxide has helped meet the world's food requirements (CO2 is plant food, in case you missed that in science class) and higher concentrations of the gas in some regions already has led to increased food production.
Center President Sherwood B. Idso, Ph.D., says the surface air temperature record used to support "the warming hysteria" of the past two decades "suffers from a host of maladies," which the Center Web site outlines but the media ignore. These include incomplete coverage of the Earth's surface (satellites cover it all, but surface measurements are spotty), ever-changing urban heat island effects, and a number of changes in measurement times and techniques. While these data depict warming over the last quarter century, within the troposphere the first few miles above the earth's surface where climate models also predict there should be warming satellite data from the late '70s show almost no warming at all. In addition, the U.S. Historical Climatology Network data set, which Idso calls the best in the world, agrees with the satellite data and shows essentially no warming since 1930.
The computer model used by the EPA in its report to the United Nations is based, in part, on the one used by the Clinton administration. The Hadley Centre in England warned at the time that its data was unreliable. Quoted June 4 in the Washington Times, Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says the Hadley Centre "was willing to take the stupid American government's money, but they knew that the product they were getting was phony, no good."
Neither is the politics of global warming any good. If the president has been poorly served by someone(s) in the EPA, discipline or dismissal should swiftly follow. Otherwise, the administration will be seen as having conceded a fundamental debating point. While, with this announcement on global warming it may have neutralized liberal Democrats on another issue, one can legitimately ask what difference it makes to elect Republicans to anything if they will think and behave like Democrats when they get in.
What's the point of having power if one does not lead when he has it? The hot air on global warming is coming from somewhere within the administration.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.