Buying Votes in Argentina

November 2, 1998 • Commentary

Soon after the election, Clinton administration officials will journey to Buenos Aires to buy American votes for the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. This is the agreement negotiated last 1 December that would effectively require us to reduce our energy use an astounding 30 to 40 percent below where we would use by the year 2010 if we just continued on our merry, prosperous way.

Sixteen months ago, the Senate voted 95–0 for a resolution declaring that it would not even consider a climate treaty that would cause economic damage or failed to include the world’s developing nations. The Kyoto Protocol requires only the United States, Canada, the European Community and a few others to actually reduce their emissions. China, India, Mexico and just about every up‐​and‐​coming economic competitor don’t have to do a thing except burn fossil fuel in manufacturing operations, while we export jobs to them. At least Kyoto kills the Asian contagion.

But unless the administration can somehow demonstrate that what it calls “key developing nations” are playing ball, the Senate simply will reject the treaty if it’s ever formally offered. Hence November’s junket to Buenos Aires, for a gathering officially called the Fourth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Clinton and Argentine president Menem have already negotiated the deal. It’s not very novel and it works like this: First, we give them money. Then, we give them technology bought by U.S. taxpayers, like gas turbine electrical generators. In turn, they plant a few trees on Patagonian hillsides that have been so overgrazed as to be useless for raising cattle. Next, Clinton claims a “joint” credit at the United Nations for reducing their emissions with our turbines and soaking up our globally distributed carbon dioxide with the trees they plant. The U.S. suppliers of the turbines and the gas that runs them ask for a subsidy because of their planetary responsibility, as they did in a letter to Clinton last month. Hardly novel.

[A]s the chief of staff of a key [Argentine] senator told me, “Look, the science doesn’t matter. I don’t care if it’s cooling or warming. You have money, and we need it, and we’ll do what you say.”

Big old Brazil can’t take the idea that its rival across the Platte gets all this dough, so the Brazilians go along, too. They agree to stop trying to raise cattle in what used to be the tropical rainforest. That’s no sacrifice because the land there is too poor in nutrients ever to have been considered much of a pasture anyway. Beef and tropical rainforests just don’t mix. Maybe someone should have noticed, before this whole silly enterprise started, that the Yanomanis, who have lived there for centuries, aren’t cowboys and can barely feed enough children to replace their parents.

Brazil + Argentina = a lot of South America, and South America is a pretty respectable chunk of the developing world. So what do you think of that, senator? Now that we’ve cleared away your major objection to the Kyoto Protocol, what is to keep it from being ratified?

Forget the notion that scientific truth has anything to do with this. Everyone now knows that the computer models that served as the basis for the original climate treaty grossly overestimated global warming. And more and more people are beginning to realize that the new, improved versions are making such fundamental errors as to make us wonder what scientists really do all day.

The problems are this bad: All of the computer models calculate that a rapid warming of the bottom 50,000 feet of the atmosphere should have been going on for the last 20 years. In fact, that zone’s temperature hasn’t changed a lick during that period. The warming that has occurred is mainly confined to the dead of winter in the coldest air masses. It hasn’t spread into the atmosphere like the computer models indicate it should have. And all of the warming in the free atmosphere over the last 40 years occurred in one gulp 22 years ago. That hiccup was so slight that no one noticed it until two decades later.

When these facts were put before the senior staff of the Argentine Senate, they conceded that the science against global gloom and doom was pretty darned convincing. But, as the chief of staff of a key senator told me, “Look, the science doesn’t matter. I don’t care if it’s cooling or warming. You have money, and we need it, and we’ll do what you say.”

All this from urbane Buenos Aires, capital of a not exactly poor, rapidly developing economy. Every other developing nation must be for sale at an even better price. How long before the administration buys up the support of just about everyone, so that the United States Senate no longer can argue, as the ads say, that “it isn’t global”?

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