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Apocalypse Not
June 12, 2001

The evidence is in, the jury is back, the verdict is plain: the earth is not in the balance, and the world will not end tomorrow. Regrets to Chancellor Schroeder and his merry mob.

Yesterday, while European agitators prepared to save the planet with protest signs, Mr. Bush launched a preemptive strike from the Rose Garden. Message to the malcontents: We're not turning out the lights. The President's rejection of the Kyoto Protocol stands. It is still "fatally flawed in fundamental ways." Full stop.

For all the EU histrionics, no European country except for Romania has ratified the treaty. They recognize as we do that assent by any industrialized nation would be economic suicide. Under the regime, we would reduce greenhouse gases to 7% below 1990 levels while super-polluters like China - which belches out 30% of the world's industrial emissions - would be exempt. And it wouldn't even work. According to Dr. Tom Wigley, a senior scientist at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, if we followed Kyoto's dictates to the letter -- thus killing our coal industry, cutting gas consumption by a third, and sending overall American productivity spiraling $400 billion -- our return would be a meager 0.13 degree drop by 2050.

So what of the dreaded culprit CO2? Last week the National Academy of Sciences released a report suggesting a relationship between global warming and human activity, but anyone who read past the first page (and we don't blame you if you didn't) will find no causal connection. Moreover, NAS panel member Richard Lindzen recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "We are not in a position to confidently attribute past climate change to carbon dioxide or to forecast what the climate will be in the future."

The U.N.'s latest scholarship on the subject is equally hazy. In their most recent report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change claimed a "discernable human impact on the climate system," but concluded, "it should be clear ... that current data and systems are inadequate for the complete description of climate change."

The report went on, "Warmer temperatures will lead to…prospects for more severe droughts and/or floods in some places and less severe droughts and/or floods in others." That would seem to cover all possibilities. Snowless winter in the Swiss Alps? Global warming. Record snowfall a decade later? Global warming. Most any aberrant weather pattern? You guessed it.

Comes the question: what next? Mr. Bush says his decision to ditch Kyoto "should not be read by our friends and allies as any abdication of responsibility." His compromise is a pricey plan with a nifty title - the U.S. Climate Change Research Initiative. We will round up the usual suspects, pay them well to suit up in white coats, furrow their brows, and probably issue another inconclusive report. Until then, our industries will chug on, European doomsayers will wring their hands, and forecasters will remain as inept at predicting next century's weather as next week's.

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