Energy & Environment

The Facts Al Gore’s Typical Enviro Rhetoric is Missing

Today, former Vice President Al Gore, in a speech sponsored by MoveOn.Org, will attack President Bush’s record on the environment. Undoubtedly, Gore’s speech will be a bilious, thoughtless reiteration of the threadbare charges, most exhaustively crafted by radical environmental groups, leveled against the Administration: it is “Orwellian,” it has the “worst environmental record in history,” it is “censoring science for political ends,” etc. In other words, it will be an exemplary, Gore-like exercise in factless, baseless demagoguery of the worst kind.

The following are some of the expected lines of attack from Mr. Gore:

GORE: President Bush recklessly walked away from the Kyoto Protocol, and because of the lack of U.S. involvement, effectively put the international treaty on life support.

FACT: First, even Howard Dean, as he announced last week, opposes Kyoto.

Second, even the Washington Post editorial page thinks Kyoto is a bad idea, and that President Bush made the right decision by rejecting it: “The Bush administration may have been right to abandon the treaty, given its unrealistic targets and its failure to include developing nations such as China.” [December 5, 2003]

Third, a bit of history: Mr. Gore never submitted Kyoto to the U.S. Senate, probably because he knew the treaty could never overcome the 95 to 0 vote on the Byrd-Hagel resolution that rejected Kyoto. The Senate spoke again last October, when the McCain-Lieberman bill — a bill that resembles Kyoto in many key respects — failed by a vote of 55 to 43. Simply put, even if President Bush supported Kyoto, it would never be ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Further, much of the failure to commence Kyoto was placed squarely on the Europeans. As the Vancouver Sun reported on April 9, 2001: “European intransigence, and not U.S. President George W. Bush, is behind the ‘fallen down’ Kyoto accord on reducing greenhouse gases, [Canadian] Environment Minister David Anderson said Thursday. ‘This Kyoto (deal) had fallen down, had ceased to functioning effectively in November…Nothing that Mr. Bush has done since has altered that fact.'”

The Europeans, before President Bush came into office, pointed fingers at each other, as the BBC reported on November 26, 2000: “[British] Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has blamed the French for the failure of the global warming summit to agree on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.” Prescott “attacked European colleagues for failing to back a deal on emissions which he had brokered with the United States.”

The Europeans are now valiantly pressing ahead, pushing for reductions that, according to the EU Environment Ministry, they cannot, and will not, achieve. All but two EU countries will not meet their Kyoto targets. And now Canada, which ratified Kyoto last year, is expressing serious doubts that they can achieve their targets by 2010. Prime Minister Paul Martin, according to the Canadian Business Journal, points out that no clear framework exists to ensure that Canada meets its goal of cutting annual emissions by 240-million tons by 2010. Not to mention Russia, which has lambasted the treaty’s scientific basis and its negative impact on the Russian economy.

So even now, in the face of overwhelming evidence of Kyoto’s utter failure, Mr. Gore thinks this is a good idea?

GORE: We should be very afraid of global warming because, as the IPCC says, temperatures could increase by as much as 10 degrees F by 2100, unleashing a torrent of extreme weather events that pose catastrophic consequences for generations to come.

FACT: The IPCC’s work has been systematically dismantled over the past year. Pursuant to a new study undermining the IPCC’s temperature assumptions, the Economist accused the UN body of “dangerous incompetence.”

As the Economist wrote: “Disaggregated projections published by the IPCC say that — even in the lowest-emission scenarios — growth in poor countries will be so fast that by the end of the century Americans will be poorer on average than South Africans, Algerians, Argentines, Libyans, Turks, and North Koreans. Mr. Castles and Mr. Henderson can hardly be alone in finding that odd.”

Dr. James Hansen of NASA recently threw cold water on extreme temperature scenarios. “Future global warming can be predicted much more accurately then is generally realized … we predict additional warming in the next 50 years of 0.75 ºC [plus or minus] 0.25 ºC, a warming rate of 0.15 ºC [plus or minus] 0.05 ºC per decade.” This warming rate is approximately 4 times less than the lurid top figure widely trumpeted by the IPCC, and, indeed, not a cause of concern.

GORE: The White House is ignoring the science of climate change, as there is a very clear consensus in the scientific community, reflected by the 2001 NAS study requested by the Administration, that man-made emissions are largely to blame for global warming.

FACT: Gore will most likely cite the now infamous line from the report’s summary: “Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that a significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability.”

To cite this is misleading and disingenuous, for on page 1 of the report the uncertainty surrounding climate change and global warming becomes clear: “Because there is considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how the climate system varies naturally and reacts to emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols, current estimates of the magnitude of future warming should be regarded as tentative and subject to future adjustments upward or downward.”

The report states further: “A causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established.”

GORE: The White House censored and suppressed climate change science from the EPA’s “State of the Environment Report” for political ends.

FACT: This is nonsense. Nothing was censored. The report includes references to the Administration’s 10-year strategic plan on climate change policy — which, incidentally, was crafted pursuant to a 2001 National Academy of Sciences study on climate change — and a statutorily required document called “Our Changing Planet.”

Question: how can there be suppression of climate change when the Administration has put out hundreds of pages of documents on climate change research, including the Climate Action Report, released last summer?

GORE: A recent study in Nature shows that global warming, clearly a man-made phenomenon, will cause thousands of species to go extinct by 2050.

FACT: Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute penned a devastating critique of this study. Here’s an excerpt: “[Researchers] have extrapolated to all species a model that looked at only 1,103 species in certain areas (243 of those species were South African proteaceae, a family of evergreen shrubs and trees). For one thing, we don’t know how many species there are — estimates vary from 2 million to 80 million — and have only documented 1.6 million. However, assuming the 14 million figure widely used in the press reports is anywhere near accurate, the sample size is a mere 0.008 percent of the total species population of the planet, with certain species vastly over-represented (there are only 1,000 species of proteaceae on the planet). All the researchers have demonstrated is that, if their model is correct, certain species in certain habitats will run a risk of extinction.”

GORE: President Bush is recklessly rolling back environmental protections in the Clean Air Act to pay back his corporate contributors. In December, he announced yet another rollback of reductions for mercury.

FACT: Greg Easterbrook, a senior editor with The New Republic, put it this way last year: “[N]othing you hear about worsening air quality is true. Air pollution is declining under President Bush, just as it declined under President Clinton.” If you don’t believe Easterbrook, just look at the most recent EPA data on air quality.

Question: did Gore, or former President Clinton, ever propose a 70 percent reduction in NOx, SO2, and mercury? No.

Did Gore, or former President Clinton, ever go forward with regulations to reduce off-road diesel emissions? No. NRDC called President Bush’s proposal to reduce diesel emissions from off-road vehicles “the biggest public health step since lead was removed from gasoline more than two decades ago.” According to the Washington Post, an NRDC official referred to the emissions plan as “the biggest health advance in a generation.”

How about anything like President Bush’s Interstate Transport Rule, largely modeled on Clear Skies, to reduce NOx and SO2 by 70 percent by 2018? No.

Did Gore, or former President Clinton, ever address mercury emissions? No. In fact, the Clinton Administration did nothing until, of all dates, December 15, 2000, two days after Gore conceded the election. On that day, after doing nothing for 8 years, EPA miraculously announced a settlement agreement with NRDC to regulate mercury. The Bush Administration went forward with a regulation that will reduce mercury emissions, using a proven market-based approach, by nearly 70 percent by 2018.

What about New Source Review? Yes, Carol Browner’s EPA crafted a proposal in 1996 to reform it, but never followed through. President Bush did.

GORE: The Administration, at the behest of the White House, lied to New Yorkers about air quality after September 11.

FACT: On this issue, the New York Times editorial page said it best, dismissing the entire controversy as “retrospective nitpicking.” The Times, no friend of the Bush Administration, also agrees with the most recent scientific findings about air quality since September 11: “The broader public faced little or no risk from breathing the outdoor air once the initial cloud settled.”

The EPA IG report, the source of the controversy, was unequivocal about the Administration’s intentions: “In regard to the monitoring data, we found no evidence that EPA attempted to conceal data results from the public.” In a September 4 NBC interview with EPA IG Nikki Tinsley, Lisa Myers reported that Tinsley “stopped short of accusing anyone of lying or of knowingly providing false information.” And EPA IG staff told aides from the Senate EPW Committee that there was no conspiracy or attempt to suppress information.

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