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Stealth Kyoto

Environment | A national environmental group is quietly reshaping American policy on climate change-one gulible state at a time

Issue: "Out from the shadows," Dec. 22, 2007

President George W. Bush has consistently opposed federal caps on greenhouse-gas emissions, a policy position many environmentalists say contributes to global warming and is an embarrassment to the United States around the world. But Bush is not the country's only politician with executive power. State governors are increasingly taking the matter of climate change into their own hands, many pushing legislation that mirrors the international Kyoto Protocol-the very kind of top-down restrictions Bush rejects.

In more than a dozen states, special governor-commissioned advisory groups have completed climate-change action plans that include such measures as tightened vehicle emissions standards, investment in alternative fuels, government incentives for consumers and manufacturers to go green, strict limits on development in forested areas, and involvement in regional or national cap-and-trade programs. It's enough to make California look like Germany, where efforts to curb greenhouse-gas emissions have wrought significant economic damage, despite falling well short of targets.

Nevertheless, the stateside trend of following Europe's failures is spreading rapidly-and not only in Al Gore-enchanted quarters like California. Utah, Montana, and Virginia are among the more conservative states developing climate-change action plans. In all, 28 states have taken steps toward creating a top-down comprehensive strategy to mitigate global warming.

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But the uniformity of language and policy directives invariably present in these respective strategies is no accident-nor is it merely the result of settled science and intuitive solutions, as propagators of climate-change hysteria might claim. In fact, behind almost every Kyoto-like policy proposal and governor-commissioned advisory panel stands a little-known national organization committed to subverting the Bush administration's resistance to hard caps on greenhouse-gas emissions-not that the group would ever admit as much.

The Center for Climate Strategies, a self-proclaimed nonpartisan policy center, insists that it maintains complete impartiality when working with state governors to develop policy proposals.

But even a cursory glance at the CCS website reveals underlying assumptions that are anything but impartial. Among its stated goals is to generate cadres of government advisors in every state that are "committed to a set of policies to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions." Even the group's slogan attests to its underlying belief that global warming demands tough action: "Helping states and the nation tackle climate change."

Without question, CCS operates under the assumptions that climate change is a problem worthy of considerable government response and that changes in human activity can alter the current warming trend. Such positions may represent the majority scientific view, but they ignore dissent from many credentialed scientists, who contend that moderate warming may actually benefit the planet and that human activity has little to do with natural climate cycles.

Nevertheless, CCS claims it "does not take positions on climate policy issues or legislation." In an interview with WORLD, CCS Executive Director Thomas Peterson objected to the very idea that his organization enters policy discussions with any particular stance on the issues at hand: "We absolutely do not have any preconceived notions. Our organization doesn't take positions on anything."

But the results of CCS actions seem to suggest otherwise. The organization operates by approaching state governors with an offer to educate and facilitate policy advisory groups to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and help solve global warming. Should a governor accept that offer and appoint an advisory panel of interested parties within the state, CCS consultants then make directed presentations to the group, framing the discussion as though no dispute exists over the dire threat of manmade climate change-or the type of policy solutions that can fix it.

These advisory panels generally arrive at the same conclusions and submit roughly the same few dozen policy recommendations to the state's governor and legislature, characterizing their findings as "expert," "nonpartisan," and "consensus-based." Governors can then implement the proposals by executive order or seek to push bills through state legislatures.

Peterson says the widespread desire among state governors to partner with CCS springs out of a growing public demand for action on global warming. Indeed, even Republican governors are not immune from the pressure to go green. Mark Sanford in South Carolina and Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota are among the more surprising state executives to work with CCS. Pawlenty's office did not return WORLD's request for comment, but Sanford spokesman Joel Sawyer tried to downplay the role of CCS in South Carolina's climate advisory committee.

"In our state, they're simply providing logistical support for the committee we put together," he said. "We didn't go into this with any preconceived notions or agenda. We certainly welcome this group's input and their perspective just as we welcome the input and perspective of power companies."

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