Features

The hot-air industry

National | Environmental theology is expanding government power

Issue: "Dirty little secret," Aug. 23, 1997

August in Washington usually means temperatures in the 90s and high humidity. With most of the politicians out of town (and taking their hot air with them), temperatures are in the mid-80s, dropping into the 50s some nights. The Clinton Administration thinks it's an ideal time to step up the attack against "global warming." Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt is such a true believer in global warming that he recently characterized those who doubt there's enough scientific evidence for such a diagnosis as "un-American." He further claimed that energy-producing companies are engaged in a "conspiracy" to discredit the theory. Liberals denounce this kind of "redneck" rhetoric when it comes from the mouths of Bible-thumbing preachers. Now, they engage in a kind of environmental fundamentalism on behalf of their god, the Earth. Their bible is compiled from texts from pronouncements of tree- and whale-worshipers. More than a cleaner environment, their goal is expanding government power. President Clinton has promised the United States will present strong proposals to reduce levels of greenhouse gases at an environmental conference in Kyoto, Japan, in December. He will do so without a scientific consensus that there is such a phenomenon as "global warming." Even if the threat were real, the uneven proposals to combat it would produce more negative than positive effects. Political pressure is cracking the once-solid wall debunking global warming by producers of fossil fuels. The largest is British Petroleum, whose chairman, John Browne, says there is now enough scientific evidence to warrant concern about a link between human activity and the "Earth's changing climate." Statistics frequently cited by those who believe in global warming allude to the 1 degree Celsius rise in temperature in this century. What they don't mention is that this increase occurred mostly before 1940, while the intensity of man-made greenhouse gases and efforts to reduce them has been greater since 1940. A 1995 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that "the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate." But in almost the same place, the document admits that "our ability to quantify the human influence on global climate is currently limited ... because there are uncertainties in key factors." This uncertainty hasn't dimmed the zeal of the high priests of the environment who believe anyone who does not blindly accept their inspired doctrines is an Earth-hating polluter and enemy of Bambi and little children. The fundamentalist Environmental Protection Agency is ready to impose its will on all but the main polluters-the so-called "developing countries," including China, North Korea, Mexico, and Brazil. The EPA has drawn up a list of proposals, most involving higher taxes and more regulations. By some calculations these proposals could raise gas prices 50 cents per gallon and increase the price of a car $2,000 to $4,000. Conservative estimates place the loss to the gross domestic product if these higher taxes are implemented at $350 billion. Jobs could be lost and, under proposed Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE), the safety of vehicles would be compromised. In 1991 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates highway safety, found that since the 1970s, downsizing vehicles was responsible for 2,000 deaths and 20,000 serious injuries. More recently, a study by Harvard's John Graham found that increasing CAFE to 40 miles per gallon would result in an additional 1,650 deaths and 8,500 serious injuries per year. Other proposals to reduce carbon emissions include charging an annual inspection fee based on miles driven; highway user fees; a pay-at-the-pump auto insurance program to provide coverage only at the moment it's needed (stay at home and save money, get it?); natural-gas price controls; a national bottle and tire deposit-return program; and creation of a "Solar Hot Water Heaters for Southern Low-Income Homes" program. British Petroleum is already waving the white flag of surrender and is working with the ayatollahs at the Environmental Defense Fund to help them achieve the group's objectives. If this environmental wackoism is seen in religious terms it is easier to reject as fanaticism. While no one is for dirty air and water, fewer people should favor an imposed theocracy based on a philosophy that the Earth is holy and that the environmental "gods" must be appeased. c 1997, Los Angeles Times Syndicate,/i>

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Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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