October 2, 2005
Blair Takes Heat for Global Warming Remarks
By Debra Saunders

Whenever a political leader speaks the truth about the Kyoto global-warming treaty, the chattering classes treat him as if he were that upstart kid who said the emperor has no clothes. So pundits and politicians have derided British Prime Minister Tony Blair for saying he had been "changing his thinking" about the global-warming pact.

On the first day of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, a panel chaired by former President Bill Clinton held earlier this month, Blair, a longtime supporter of the global-warming pact, said of Kyoto: "We have got to start from brutal honesty about the politics of how we deal with it. The truth is, no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in light of a long-term environmental problem. What countries are prepared to do is to try to work together cooperatively to deal with this problem in a way that allows us to develop the science and technology in a beneficial way." Blair also said he didn't think world leaders would "start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto."

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The wonder is that the savvy Blair didn't come to his senses sooner about Kyoto. A British official, talking without attribution, as British officials do, told me Blair's "remarks were taken out of context, the British government remains firmly committed to the Kyoto protocol. The prime minister has consistently said we need to go beyond Kyoto." Europeans have been pushing a top-down regulatory approach. President Bush says science can come to the rescue. Blair prefers to walk in both worlds.

If Blair's remarks have been over-hyped, it's because they are on the money. Fact: Britain produces more carbon dioxide now than when Blair entered No. 10 Downing Street. The Brits are far more energy-conscious than gas-guzzling Americans. How? Brits are more likely to use public transit, London charges a congestion tax for cars in the downtown, there has been a national effort to eschew the use of coal -- and still the United Kingdom's greenhouse gases are up. That's what happens in a strong economy.

The government counters that, even though greenhouse gas emissions have increased, the United Kingdom is "on track" to meet its Kyoto goal of reducing emissions some 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. (When the treaty was negotiated, the United Kingdom's emissions measured at 5 percent below 1990 levels.) Meanwhile, it is clear that all but a handful of countries in Kyoto-treaty-loving Europe, which pledged a continental reduction of 8 percent below 1990 emissions, won't meet their Kyoto goals.

Here's another brutal, honest fact about Kyoto: Before then-Vice President Al Gore left for the global-warming conference in 1997, the Senate told the Clinton administration, via a 95-0 vote, not to agree to a treaty that exempted developing nations. Gore ignored the Senate, which ultimately would have to ratify the treaty. No wonder then that Clinton, who did not take the opportunity last week to disagree with Blair, never asked the Senate to vote on Kyoto ratification while he was in office.

Of course Clinton stayed mum. He said he supported Kyoto, which would have made America reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels. Lo and behold, emissions were 14 percent higher than the 1990 level when Clinton left office.

And while the left likes to fault Bush on Kyoto, even 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said, if elected, he would not ask the Senate to ratify Kyoto.

It should be noted that Kerry was one of the 95 senators who voted no before Gore left for the Kyoto conference. And be it noted that there are those who criticize Bush for not giving lip service to Kyoto, yet drive big SUVs. I do not write this to brand them as hypocrites -- but to point out that if the folks who believe global warming is a severe threat to the planet don't ride the bus, why would anyone else?

Last week, The New York Times reported that polar icecaps have shrunk to their smallest size in a century (not so very long, geologically speaking), and some scientists posit human-induced global-warming must be a factor. But wait. The Houston Chronicle reported this month that NASA has observed that polar icecaps are shrinking -- on Mars.

You can't blame SUVs for polar melting on Mars. The enviros say that scientists are on their side. That's easy to say, as the left ignores scientists who aren't. The fact is, this is a highly political issue, and even scientists who want to go strictly by the data get sucked into the political vortex. Pro or con, they can't help but become partisans.

So, see what happened when Blair finally got real on Kyoto? He spoke the truth -- not particularly forcefully, I might add -- and Our Betters in Europe dismissed him as Dubya's lapdog. After all, how dare he not fawn over the beautiful vestments on the emperor's nude body.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Debra Saunders

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