Inside the Capitol

Monday, December 12, 2005

12-14 Global Warming

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- Can humans affect the weather? U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman is preparing to take on the Bush administration over the question.
Bingaman was a keynote speaker last week at an international convention on global warming. The Montreal conference was the 11th in a series of meetings that began with the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement among most the world's major nations to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas we pour into the earth's lower atmosphere.
Many scientists believe that tailpipe and smokestack emissions are responsible for the period of global warming our planet is experiencing. The Bush administration doesn't agree that we are experiencing global warming and contends that humans don't have any effect on the weather anyway.
The United States has been the major stumbling block in reaching international accord on reducing pollution. President George Bush contends mandatory curbs would harm the economy, while exempting developing nations such as China and India.
Even with its exemptions, China still isn't willing to cooperate. But the major obstacle to progress of this international effort is the United State's refusal to participate. Bingaman says the general feeling in Montreal was that any serious greenhouse gas reductions will have to wait until 2009, when Bush leaves office.
Bingaman doesn't want to make that assumption. He is working on legislation to set modest limits on emissions. His proposal is based on work of the National Commission on Energy Policy, a group of environmentalists, academics and industry representatives that came together to try to find workable solutions to the issue.
The panel realizes there will be a cost to reducing greenhouse gas but is heartened by a federal Department of Energy analysis that concludes the economic effect of the limits would be less than half a percent reduction in Gross Domestic Product by 2025.
Bingaman feels confident he and others can craft legislation that will pass the U.S. Senate. But passing the House is another question. House members are much more likely to fall in line behind the president and back any position he takes. But Bingaman says this is the only path he sees open to him.
At least the debate may force both sides in this issue to take a more realistic look at the situation. Conditions may not be as bad as the global warming alarmists predict. Our world is warming, but are we causing it? Or might this just be a natural phenomenon that has been occurring since life began?
According to Dave Clary of Roswell, my resident expert on just about everything, the political hot air expended on this issue may be the real cause of global warming.
Simplistic arguments on either side do no one any good. Climate reflects a bewildering array of natural activities -- the drift of continents, the exchange of heat between the tropics and the polar regions by means of hurricanes and ocean currents, wobbles in the Earth's axis as it rotates and variables in solar radiation, to name a few.
That is why it is so difficult to comprehend. To say flatly that human activities can tilt all this in one direction is scientifically unsupportable because it is hard to detect positive evidence.
Carbon dioxide has been increasing in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, and especially the last half-century, but whether that is coincidence or cause and effect is hard to prove.
And yet there is no good argument for poisoning our air with our tailpipes and smokestacks, or butchering our tropical forests -- for health's sake, if not the climate's.
The Kyoto and Montreal protocols should be encouraged, if for no other reason than to reduce the ways we foul our own nests. The Bush administration is flat wrong on digging in its heels. To be on the safe side, it would be a good idea to clean up our act. And it wouldn't hurt us in our standing with the rest of the world.
WED, 12-14-056-00

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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