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GLOBAL WARMING IN THE U.S. AND THE EU: AN


‘INCONVENIENT TRUTH’ OR A CONVENIENT FICTION?

INTRODUCTION

On February 2, 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fourth
Assessment Report (AR4), resurrecting anew the subject of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) in
diplomatic and scientific forums. This AR4 has sparked a new surge of international concern, asserting for
the first time that global warming is “unequivocal” and that the principal causes of the earth’s rising
temperatures since 1950 are “very likely” human-caused.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), said, “The
implications of global warming over the coming decades for our industrial economy, water supplies,
agriculture, biological diversity and even geopolitics are massive.” He then added that this new report
“should spur policymakers to get off the fence and put strong and effective policies in place to tackle
greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions.”

The IPCC and other climate researchers have echoed some of the fears expressed in the World Scientists’
Warning to Humanity, a document released fifteen years earlier. Said the document, “A great change in
our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our
global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.” Currently, certain organizations like
National Geographic have asked, “How will we cope with the changes we’ve already set into motion?”
National Geographic further warned, “While we struggle to figure it all out, the face of the Earth as we
know it—coasts, forests, farms and snow-capped mountains—hangs in the balance.”

In the scientific community, advocates of AGW theories are not necessarily the majority. Doomsday
warnings have been met with an equal amount of opposition from some of the world’s leading scientific
minds. For example, Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski, chairman of the Central Laboratory for the United Nations
Scientific Committee on the Effects of Radiological Protection in Warsaw, has scoffed at the idea of CO2
emissions unnaturally warming the earth’s climate. Writing in response to the IPCC’s AR4, which identified
GHGs as a principal culprit in rising temperatures, Dr. Jaworowski published a paper entitled “CO2: The
Greatest Scientific Scandal of Our Time.”

Dr. Nir Shaviv of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University similarly believes that GHGs are only secondary climate
drivers. In an interview with Canada’s National Post, he said, “Like many others, I was personally sure that
CO2 is the bad culprit in the story of global warming. But after carefully digging into the evidence, I
realized that things are far more complicated than the story sold to us by many climate scientists or the
stories regurgitated by the media. In fact, there is much more than meets the eye.” Dr. Shaviv has
suggested that solar activity is accountable for much of the earth’s climate change.

Worldwide, the media has taken a particular interest in the issue of global warming. One prominent
advocate of AGW theories was recently hailed by Time Magazine as an “environmental prophet” and, in
that same article’s headline, even likened to Jesus Christ. Such journalistically-questionable use of
religious rhetoric in reference to AGW, a scientific subject, has only complicated the issue for both
governments and the general public. Presently, legislators in the United States are divided over the issue,
but their colleagues in the European Union, in the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, have shown a united
interest in further reducing GHG emissions and combating the apparent threat of anthropogenic climate
change.

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THE UNITED STATES

AGW and Congress. “What we’re facing now is a crisis that is by far the most serious we’ve ever faced”
said Al Gore in his testimony before Congress. “Sometimes a nerdy science teacher, sometimes a
preacher, and sometimes a furious grandfather” during his remarks, Gore, the mind behind the Oscar-
winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth, proposed an immediate freeze on CO2 emissions. He
recommended that the U.S. begin “a program of sharp reductions to reach at least 90 percent reductions
by 2050.”

His recommendations—which included a halt to the construction of new coal-burning power plants,
tougher fuel economy standards for automobiles, taxes on carbon emissions, and a cap-and-trade
program similar to the one operating in the E.U. —polarized the congressional panel: Gore’s supporters
commended him for his “long passion and dedication to make the world understand that global warming
was real and that it had consequences.” His skeptics, conversely, questioned the scientific validity of Gore’s
evidence and expressed concern that implementing his recommendations would fiscally strain the
American public. Representative Joe Barton, former chair of the House energy committee, said that Gore’s
suggested program would provide “little benefit at a huge cost.”

Several weeks later, the Senate would hold one of its first full debates over AGW. The debate centered
around a bill that, if passed, would require the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the effects of climate
change on their water resource projects. “We’re making a statement here in the Senate to finally, once
and for all, recognize the reality of what is happening with respect to climate change,” said Senator John
Kerry, adding that climate change “must be factored into our public policy in almost everything we do.”
Although the Senate voted 51-42 in favor of the bill, it fell short of the 60 votes needed to reach the desk
of President George W. Bush.

AGW will likely remain a “hot” issue in Congress. Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate’s Committee on
Environment and Public Works, has included addressing global warming, which she labeled as “one of the
greatest environmental challenges facing our nation today,” as part of the committee’s official agenda. In
the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has set up a new committee, the Select Committee on Energy
Independence and Global Warming, to offer recommendations on how to cope with climate change.

AGW and the White House. Perhaps sensing the rising political concern on the issue, President George W.
Bush mentioned global warming in his 2007 State of the Union Address, citing AGW in the context of
national energy demands. “It’s in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply—the way forward
is through technology,” he said. “America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us
to live our lives less dependent on oil. And these technologies will help us be better stewards of the
environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.” [15]

Bush has outlined numerous programs to combat global warming directly and indirectly. His main goal
remains energy independence, though his programs seem equally calculated to improve the White House’s
“soft power,” both in his relations with the Democrat-dominated Congress and with other nations. Perhaps
to assuage diplomatic tensions caused by the U.S. refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol, the president has
pledged to cut U.S. GHG intensities 18 percent by 2012—the year Kyoto ends—and has proposed four
main strategies to promote a “realistic-growth oriented approach to climate change”:

Appropriating record funding for climate-related science, technology, and incentive programs. Since 2001,
in accordance with President Bush’s requests, Congress has allotted $35 billion for AGW research
programs. Between 2003 and 2006, more than $3 billion annually was committed to climate change
research—more than any other nation.
Establishing a broad range of domestic programs. These programs include Climate VISION and Climate
Leaders, the SmartWay Transportation Program, and the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative.
Providing international leadership. Since 2001, the U.S. has partnered with the E.U. and 20 other nations

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to “promote clean development, enhance energy security, and reduce harmful air pollution worldwide.”
Cooperating with the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (APP). In this partnership
with Australia, China, India, Japan, and South Korea, the U.S. has helped initiate “nearly 100 programs
and actions to substantially increase investment in promotion of energy security, reducing air pollution,
and confronting climate change in ways that foster economic growth and poverty reduction.”

Although President Bush recently agreed to discuss the implementation of a cap-and-trade emissions
program in the U.S., he has yet to enter a formal treaty to cut GHG levels. Perhaps because of the
president’s reluctance, six retired admirals and five retired generals have issued an ominous report that
describes AGW as a threat to national security. In the report, General Anthony Zinni wrote, “It’s not hard
to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.” He also
warned, “We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today,
and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And
that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll.”

As President Bush has hesitated to make global warming a high priority in international discussions,
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has assumed the role of environmental ambassador. Along with seven
other House members—only one of them a republican—she embarked on a journey to Greenland,
Belgium, and Germany, meeting with scientists and politicians to discuss AGW. Yet, although her view
differs from the president’s on the subject of global warming, she has made clear her desire to work with
the White House, not against it. “I want to keep the door completely open to working with the president
on the issue of energy independence and global warming,” she said. “There are plenty of areas where we
can find common ground.”

THE EUROPEAN UNION

The countries forming the E.U. have been taking measures to control their GHG output since the early
1990s. All fifteen members of the E.U. are signatories of the Kyoto Protocol, though their leaders have
recently spoken of a need for a “post-industrial revolution.” Unlike their colleagues in the United States,
policymakers in the European Union agree that AGW not only exists but that it must be faced. European
Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has named addressing climate change the EU’s top priority.

Rallying behind the IPCC, even quoting directly the AR4, the European Commission has stated, “The
warming of the climate system is unequivocal [...] Most of the warming that has occurred over the last 50
years is very likely to have been caused by human activities [... and] without further action to reduce
greenhouse gas emissions, the global average surface temperature is likely to rise by a further 1.8-4.0°C
this century. Even the lower end of this range would take the temperature increase since pre-industrial
times above 2°C, the threshold beyond which irreversible and possibly catastrophic changes become far
more likely.” They point to CO2 and other GHGs as the main causes of the earth’s changing climate. [24]
The current debate in the E.U., then, is not whether to act, but rather how to act.

One recent proposal is to increase competition in the energy sector while increasing funding for technology
and infrastructure, though nations like France and Germany have shown reluctance to loosen their grip on
their national energy companies. Nevertheless, at the 2007 Spring European Council, delegates ratified
the Energy Policy for Europe (EPE). The EPE has three main objectives:

Increasing security of supply


Ensuring the competitiveness of European economies and the availability of affordable energy
Promoting environmental sustainability and combating climate change.

Like the U.S., the E.U. is trying to resolve the dilemma between national energy demands and GHG
emissions; a decrease in GHG emissions could very well cause a spike in energy prices. Unlike the U.S.,
however, Europe must additionally face the challenge of drafting a climate change and energy policy that
will satisfy the differing industrialized and economic levels of its constituent countries. Indeed, the E.U.’s
blue flag flies over countries both rich and poor, both developed and developing, and consequently,
skeptics have questioned the wisdom of uniting under a single, umbrella policy on CO2 and other GHGs.
“In reality it would be nonsense to have a one-policy-fits-all approach,” said Christian Egenhofer, a senior

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research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies in Brussels.

Currently, Europe accounts for 14% of the world’s GHG emissions, and although their specific road to
controlling those emissions is yet unclear, the E.U. has set goals that are considerably more ambitious
than those of the U.S.: The E.U. plans to collectively reduce their GHG intensity 20 percent by 2020
(compared to 1990 emissions) and 60-80 percent by 2050. To help achieve these goals, Europe is seeking
to strengthen their relations with other nations that have heavy GHG outputs, such as the U.S. and China,
so a more universal effort can be made against global warming.

CONCLUSIONS

In the world of science, the debate over AGW has no apparent end in sight. Without question, the earth is
warming; eleven of the twelve hottest years on record occurred between 1995 and 2006. However,
whether these temperatures are caused by GHG emissions remains dubious. This debate over climate
change is currently deadlocked, and the U.S. legislature, at least for now, is deadlocked with them.

Yet, the AGW issue is far more than a scientific issue; it is also a bureaucratic one, even within the IPCC.
Lawrence Solomon, executive director of the Urban Renaissance Institute, wrote the following in a
newspaper column:

...consider Richard S. J. Tol, director of the Centre for Marine and Atmospheric Science at the Institute for
Environmental Studies at Vrije Universiteit, or Christopher Landsea of the Atlantic Oceanographic &
Meteorological Laboratory, or Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. These three—among the most cited
scientists in the world in the field of climate change—were universally acclaimed IPCC scientists until they
disagreed with the positions espoused by the IPCC leadership. These deniers may no longer have an
unqualified IPCC stamp of approval, but their academic credentials, record of scientific discoveries, and
scientific prizes remain for all to see.

With bureaucracy comes issues of purse-strings. A respected geophysicist and signatory of the World
Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, Dr. Claude Allegre has accused AGW’s “prophets of doom” of being
motivated by money. “The ecology of helpless protesting has become a very lucrative business for some
people,” he said.

Undoubtedly, the E.U. is aware of global warming skeptics, but Europe has decided to formulate their
policies with environmental caution in mind; their hearty endorsement of counter-AGW research and
legislation, coupled with the lobbying of ecological NGOs, has put pressure on nations like the U.S. to
follow the E.U.’s ambitious lead. If the earth’s changing climate does indeed have anthropogenic causes,
then reducing GHG emissions is an act of self-interest, even self-preservation. However, clamping down on
industry and pouring funds into global warming research, if not carefully monitored, would almost
certainly have negative repercussions, particularly in terms of economy.

Yet, even if global warming is not actually anthropogenic, the issue remains an important one in
international forums. The Kyoto Protocol and the war in Iraq deepened the differences between the U.S.
and the E.U., but crusading together against CO2 emissions could revamp their diplomatic ties. Whether
AGW is in reality an “inconvenient truth” or simply a convenient fiction, the U.S. will need to find a golden
mean between their industry and their international relations.

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