Memo To: Al Gore
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Kerry and Kyoto
Dear Mr. Vice President… I’ve written to you before in this space about your passion for the Kyoto Treaty and global warming. I believe the latter is a myth and the former an international bureaucratic boondoggle. To tell you the truth, I might have voted for you in 2000 because I did worry about the neo-cons Governor Bush had surrounded himself with, afraid they would persuade him to go to war in Iraq, and maybe several other places too. You seemed much more levelheaded on questions of national security, which is what forced me to at least give you a fair hearing. Your utter devotion to the idea that mankind is responsible for the climate change of the last century is what turned me off. If you could be that black and white on an issue that is, at best, unproven, I was afraid you would be just as set in concrete on many other great issues that confront our nation. There is something to be said for Senator Kerry’s “flip-flops” on many of the issues that divide us, because it at least confirms that he has an open mind and is willing to listen to all sides of an issue that will affect us all.
The reason for my memo today is your review of a new book on global warming, “Boiling Point,” in Sunday’s NYTimes Book Review section. This being the second book on global warming by Ross Gelbspan, which I gather continues the theme of his 1997, “The Heat is On,” I’m genuinely surprised the book editor of the Times would not only devote a full page to it, but also bring you in to rhapsodize on its importance. Gelbspan, after all, is only a reporter, not a scientist, and about all he has to say on the subject is that some oil and coal companies have actually paid money to scientists to debunk the global warming myth. Because his first book did not make enough waves to cause the public to rise up in anger and demand U.S. Senate ratification of the Kyoto Treaty, Gelbspan returns with this second expose, which blames politicians, journalists and even environmentalists, for goodness sakes, for these failures. You write:
At a time when prominent journalists are writing mea culpas for allowing themselves to be too easily misled in their coverage of the case for war in Iraq, Gelbspan presents a devastating analysis of how the media have been duped and intimidated by an aggressive and persistent campaign organized and financed by coal and oil companies. He recounts, for example, a conversation with a top television network editor who was reluctant to run stories about global warming because a previous story had “triggered a barrage of complaints from the Global Climate Coalition” – a fossil fuel industry lobbying group – “to our top executives at the network.”
When I read that, Mr. Vice President, I wondered where the lobbing groups were when President Bush was signaling his intention to go to war with Iraq, on the basis of the skimpiest of information that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which the UN inspectors could not find. The reason the news media are now offering their mea culpas for not raising questions about the evidence on the need for war is because it is clear with hindsight that they had not asked the right questions. Clearly you were opposed to the pre-emptive war, but if you had been more “aggressive and persistent,” don’t you agree you might have made enough of a difference to allow the UN’s diplomacy to work, short of war? The country knew you had won the popular vote in 2000 and would easily win the Democratic nomination in 2004 if you had shown more spunk than you did. I was frankly disappointed when you did not.
But now you are among those in the Democratic Party and the Naderites who are pushing Senator Kerry into a pre-emptive war against global warming. Because he does waver on important issues like this one, Kerry is now in your camp, more or less, but so far has not made a big deal out of Kyoto. With you on the sidelines beating the drums, with Ralph Nader on cymbals, I’m afraid this could be the issue that does Kerry in. The reason Kyoto seems a dead letter is that the global warming lobby has never made the case that the American people are heating up the planet by turning carbon into carbon dioxide, by driving SUV’s or Lincoln Town Cars, or simply by inhaling and exhaling.
So here’s what I’d like you to do. Ask some questions that you have not asked in the past. Just as I kept asking questions before the war with Iraq that enabled my to conclude that Saddam had no WMD and no ties to Al Qaeda, I’ve been dogging scientists for a decade on global warming, even asking questions they had not thought about. I’m not going to write a book about it, but will boil it down to a few sentences. Please check them out.
I’ve found that the earth is warmer today than it was a hundred years ago, which helps explain why ice is melting at the poles where it was still frozen way back then. I’ve also found that practically all of this warming took place in the first half of the 20th century, with scientists positing slightly greater radiation from the sun being the reason. I’m also told that since 1950, the measuring devices used to track temperatures in the stratosphere indicate that no further warming has occurred. Ice may continue to melt for a while, because of the warming of the early 20th century, but there is nothing mankind can do to arrest that process. I’ve also gone to the trouble of finding out how much petroleum was consumed in the first half of the 20th century, when the earth was warming, and how much in the second half, when temperatures have steadied. According to the American Petroleum Institute, 6.4% of all the petroleum oxidized since it was first discovered in the 1860s, in Pennsylvania, took place before 1950. The other 93.4% -- more than 900 billion barrels -- has been consumed since 1950 with no increase in temperatures where theory should have expected one. This does not make any sense if we are to believe mankind, not solar activity, is to blame.
Do you see what I mean? If there were no solid science to persuade people like me that we should not be shutting down economic growth to a level permitted by Kyoto, why would we ask the American people to ante up the tens of billions of dollars it would cost even in the earliest stages of “compliance”? They are already committed to spending tens or hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, as far as the eye can see, because the President did not ask the right questions. You’re the fellow who has put the Democratic Party out front on global warming. So why not ask a few more questions? They might make a difference in November.