Commentary

Stepping up the Pressure

This article first appeared on Techcentralstation.com on June 21, 2005.
As the G-8 summit to be held in Gleneagles, Scotland nears, the Bush Administration finds itself coming under increasing pressure to alter its course on climate change. A couple of weeks ago, British Prime Minister and acting G-8 head Tony Blair came to Washington to persuade President Bush to see global warming as a looming threat necessitating dramatic measures to abate it — measures that could be hammered out at the upcoming G-8 summit. All indications are that Blair was unsuccessful. Now, several leading U.S. newspapers have tried their hand at the issue by applying a different tactic — running stories which give the appearance of “exposing” an Administration conspiracy to suppress the true nature of the global warming problem.

For instance, the front page of the June 8th, 2005 New York Times carried a piece by science writer Andrew Revkin that revealed edits to a government global warming reports that were made by White House Council on Environmental Quality chief of staff and former American Petroleum Institute employee Philip Cooney. An example of one such change that had Revkin concerned was “Mr. Cooney amplified the sense of uncertainty by adding the word ‘extremely’ to this sentence: ‘The attribution of the causes of biological and ecological changes to climate change or variability is extremely difficult.’”

Such trivialities led science and policy expert Roger Pielke Jr., to write on his weblog that the Revkin piece amounted to “Manufactured Controversy.” For instance, Pielke Jr. points out that one of the documents cited by Revkin as being altered by Cooney, the U.S. Climate Change Science Program’s Strategic Plan, later went on to be thoroughly reviewed and approved by the National Research Council. The NRC then endorsed its scientific content and recommend that it be implemented “with urgency.” Apparently Cooney’s edits weren’t found to be too objectionable by the NRC.

Not satisfied to let the Times have the monopoly on manufacturing controversy, 10 days later, on June 17th, 2005, the Washington Post ran a front page article by staff writer Juliet Eilperin who claimed to have uncovered further evidence that the U. S. government was editing “scientific or policy documents to accord with its position that mandatory carbon dioxide cuts are unnecessary.” This time the guilty parties were U. S. negotiators who were involved in drafting some climate change verbiage to be discussed at the upcoming G-8 meeting. It seems that the negotiators had the audacity to be actively participating in preparing issues to be discussed at next month’s G-8 meeting (undoubtedly just like their counterparts from the other participating countries). The U.S. negotiators convinced the document preparers to replace language such as

“increasingly compelling evidence of climate change, including rising ocean and atmospheric temperatures, retreating ice sheets and glaciers, rising sea levels, and changes to ecosystems”

and

“inertia in the climate system means that further warming is inevitable”

and

“unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate”

with the summary

“climate change is a serious long term challenge that has the potential to affect every part of the globe.”

There can be no doubt that this summary is accurate. Further, it is much more scientifically reasonable than the original text. For one thing, the need for “urgent action” is far from being established. Even the Joint Statement issued recently by the science academies of the G-8 countries really couldn’t come up with a compelling threat that they could agree upon.

What’s more, the drafters of the original text must have been completely unfamiliar with the earth’s climate history to write of “irreversible” changes to our planet. As the earth has spent the better part of the past 3 million years getting itself into, and even more impressively, out of ice ages, the climate shows a remarkable ability to reverse its course.

What all of this — the Times article, the Post article, and the Joint Statement — really amounts to is simply an all-out, last-ditch effort by global warming alarmists to find any excuse to compel the United States to take some sort of legislative action to regulate the emissions of greenhouse gases. The Bush Administration realizes that simply knowing that human activities are impacting the climate is not grounds for “urgent action” to do something about it. Especially given that the overwhelming majority of these human activities have made the world a better place and one capable of supporting a growing human population that now tops 6.5 billion people. A prudent person, or Administration, would think long and hard about scaling down such activities without compelling evidence that the results of not doing so will prove more detrimental than the active pursuit of their curtailment.