Earth extremists

President Bush last week attempted to make the best of a bad political situation with a speech on “global warming” that satisfied few of his critics and upset many of his friends.

Word on the street before the president spoke was that he was going to go much further than he did in adopting Al Gore’s view of the world. There were reports of infighting within the administration, for example, on whether the speech would include a “cap-and-trade” scheme such as that being proposed not just by the Gore camp but by some Senate Republicans.

What the president did do was cede the basic argument to the global warming crowd and try to stake out what the administration must hope will be perceived as a more “reasonable” approach to dealing with the problem than that proposed by those who believe the sky is falling.

From a purely political standpoint, Bush seemed to be accepting the view that the public has made up its mind on the general question and that Republicans and Democrats will henceforth be judged on what they intend to do about solving it. While scientists who actually study such things may continue to wonder whether the earth is getting warmer and, more importantly, whether whatever climate change is taking place is caused by man or sunspots, the political community is certain that catastrophe waits just around the corner and that whatever happens will be our fault.

Thus, while Al Gore’s movie was rife with foolish errors and outright fantasy, he got a Nobel Prize while his detractors were being labeled “Global Warming Deniers” who should be ignored, ostracized or perhaps even declared “criminals” in the mad rush to save the Earth.

Gore himself, who has made a mega-fortune jetting around the world as the Paul Revere of the global warming crowd, has himself suggested that the only people who disagree with him are crackpots, crooks and agents of giant corporations that will profit from the destruction of the planet on which we live. The scientific credentials of those who raise questions are dismissed and their arguments are ignored in a hail of personal attacks the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent years.

Many of the scientists who attended a recent New York conference sponsored by the well-regarded Heartland Institute, an Illinois-based conservative think tank, that demonstrated fairly conclusively that the so-called scientific consensus on the question is no consensus at all have since been attacked in the media for daring to disagree with the alarmists. They should have expected no less.

Contributors to The Competitive Enterprise Institute, another group critical of rushing to judgment on climate change, have been threatened with a congressional investigation for supporting such a group.

Interestingly, Heartland received dozens of letters from grade-school students in California filled with hate for sponsoring the conference. The letters were part of a classroom project instigated by teachers who, having already indoctrinated their charges, are now mobilizing them in the war on those with whom they disagree. Heartland and others can expect more of the same as the California Public Utilities Commission recently authorized a surcharge on everyone’s electric bill to fund a $600 million “state think tank” to fight the good fight against global warming — an effort that will include increased “educational” efforts of the sort now going on in the schools of California and many other states.

All of this has convinced many in the White House, and in political circles generally, that the science no longer matters. Global warming may or may not exist, and if it does, the proposals to deal with it may or may not be reasonable, but politically something drastic will have to be done to assuage the fear that unless we act now, it’ll be too late for all of us.

In the Senate, John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) pal Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Virginia Republican John Warner are sponsoring legislation that will, if passed, cost this country an estimated 4 million jobs and reduce per capita income by as much as $7,000. This is a high price to pay to keep away a boogeyman that may not exist, and to the president’s credit, he wants to avoid paying that price.

So to Bush’s credit, he refused to join Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and John McCain on the slippery slope to economic disaster, but he may have made it more likely that before they are done they’ll end up helping Al Gore destroy millions of jobs and reduce the standard of living of every American.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.