“So,” said Al Gore at the recent Bali, Indonesia, conference on global warming, “I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that.”
Well, no, Al, what we all know is that a sufficient degree of disloyalty, pomposity, vengefulness and incompetence can lead people to dismiss truths that don’t lend them credence.
And we know that one such truth in your case is that America is controlling its increases in greenhouse-gas emissions better than a long list of European and other Kyoto-signing poseurs. Another is that the objective the United States opposed at Bali was an immediate industrial-nation commitment to emission-reduction goals that could throttle economies and create vast misery if met. That would be anything but progress.
Look at an online White House recounting, and you’ll see why we’re accomplishing more than most others — a list of efforts that simply refutes the furled-brow moans and groans that the federal government has been sitting on its hands.
We have used both incentives and mandates to promote cleaner energy technology in no fewer than 60 programs. There have been significant loans and tax credits and other steps taken to assist in the future development of more nuclear power, which is be the single most important current alternative to fossil-fuel consumption, despite the superstitious hesitations of Gore-style greenies.
The United States is also working in a clean-air partnership that includes two countries that will soon be emitting more greenhouse gases than we are, India and China, as well as supplying most of the money for U.N. climate-change programs. Another international effort aims to capture methane emissions as an energy source.
Now maybe all of this — and there’s lots more — isn’t enough for Gore, but it is producing results, many of which could be important for anti-pollution, oil-conserving purposes beyond any possible curtailing of global warming, and we have meanwhile learned from the Kyoto Protocol that ill-considered grandiosity doesn’t produce anything but braggadocio about good intentions that pave the road to nowhere.
That treaty’s goals could worsen industrial economies, and even if Europeans and others were meeting them — most are not — their efforts wouldn’t reduce warming by much more than a smidgen by the calculations even of global-warming alarmists who adore the accord. The whole idea of Kyoto was to get something going and expand it gradually, which could mean long-lasting, job-depleting, poverty-increasing recession, if not a downright depression. Throw developing countries in the mix — the only way to make it work — and you could well be ensuring terrible human misery in the Third World for a long, long time. Want to starve children? Travel that route.
A reportedly impressive presentation by U.S. representatives at the Bali conference demonstrated that achieving new goals considered by some sufficient to make a difference would be breathtakingly gargantuan in the absence of new, reasonably inexpensive technologies, and here, surely, is where the alarmists should put their emphasis: technological research. If their dire prognostications are right, the only salvation will reside in coming up with answers we don’t now have. They can maybe make a case for adding some to fossil-fuel costs to better instigate innovation, but even this is politically very difficult even after pledges have been made — and perhaps unwarranted by the science.
Supposedly, there’s a “scientific consensus” that human-induced warming will deliver a series of enormous catastrophes if left untreated, but the extent of concurrence has never been what it has mostly been made out to be, and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., has recently released a list of 400 of the growing number of reputable scientists from all over the world who have voiced serious doubts about one aspect or another of the thesis. Inhofe himself may have said some insupportable things on the subject, but it is not so easy to ignore the observations of these researchers.
Real progress in serving the welfare of humanity is not a matter of leaping and then looking more carefully later, or agreeing on a leap no one will ever be willing to make, but of taking reasonable, practical steps while all the time aiming to learn more. The U.S. record here is far better than many others, whatever Gore says.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)