Mr Driessen is a senior fellow for the Atlas Economic Research Foundation of Fairfax, Virginia USA. He is also a policy analyst of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) in Washington DC.
Liberals never seem to run out of miracle cures for the "crises" that afflict our modern industrial world. A few years ago, it was Hillary Care. Now it's Climate Care.
Both of these ambitious Bigger Government programs are built upon what might be called the "Seven Cees": Urgency, Secrecy, Advocacy, Fallacy, Bureaucracy, Hypocrisy and Lunacy. They were the centrepiece of Hillary Clinton's infamous health care program, and now they are playing an insidious role in the raging debates over global warming.
Driven by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, international climate policy will take its next contentious steps this November at the Sixth Conference of the Parties (COP-6) in The Hague, Netherlands. Shortly before that - and just days before the presidential elections - the White House will release its final National Assessment of Climate Change (NACC), which it hopes will influence both the elections and COP-6 negotiations.
Urgency. More than 17,000 scientists (including hundreds of climate experts) have signed the Oregon Petition, saying they see "no convincing scientific evidence" that humans are disrupting the earth's climate. Satellite, weather balloon and non-urban ground data reveal no appreciable atmospheric warming since 1979, except in Alaska and Siberia, at night, in mid-winter. Almost all the 20th Century's warming occurred between 1900 and 1940, before "greenhouse gases" began rising noticeably.
Then where do these warnings of climate catastrophe come from? Computer models - which fail abysmally in their attempts to forecast atmospheric temperature trends and cannot even reproduce global temperatures for a year ago.
But Vice President Gore rages endlessly about a "climate catastrophe" and says "every means" must be used to halt global warming, even if it causes "a wrenching transformation of society." This dire threat demands that we rush the final NACC into print by November 1 and ratify the Kyoto Protocol immediately - even if it means completely ignoring the data.
Secrecy. Gone is America's proud tradition of open, robust, honest debate. The holy quest to save the world from a climate apocalypse justifies measures that would make even Watergate conspirators blush.
In the case of the NACC, the White House climate team illegally barred the public from some meetings and restricted access to scientific studies and draft reports. It ignored scathing comments by senior scientists, who said the report was "alarmist" and a "classic case" of how to "abuse climate models." Now the climate team is preparing its final report.
A single author altered the key document behind the Kyoto Protocol, secretly and after it had been approved by a U.N. panel of scientists. He deleted important conclusions, and inserted the hotly disputed claim that there is a "discernible human influence on global climate."
Advocacy. Once upon a time, the U.S. government supported science by hypothesis, experiment and rigorous peer-reviewed analysis. Today, scientists like Patrick Michaels and Fred Singer at the University of Virginia worry that climate change ideology and policy too often drive the science. Billions of dollars in research grants are available annually to scientists whose work tends to support government-approved conclusions. (No sceptics or realists need apply.) The work tends to generate conclusions, questions and concerns that ensure continued funding.
The peer-review process is controlled largely by scientists from the school of climate alarmism. Research results are often presented first in press releases calculated to grab front-page headlines. Scientists who still dare to offer politically incorrect views are pilloried as "a small band of revisionists." And many newspapers seem to adhere to activist author Ross Gelbspan's dictum that, "Not only do journalists not have a responsibility to report what global warming sceptics have to say. They have a responsibility NOT to report what the sceptics say."
So when the White House spun its alarmist 750-page draft National Assessment into a breathless, even more alarmist press release, a disaster-hungry news media devoured every claim of the climate change Cassandras - while paying scant attention to scores of scientists whose analyses were based on evidence and contradicted White House claims.
Fallacy. What really drives public and media consternation about global warming is countless fallacies (and deliberate misrepresentations) about what has happened to our climate in the past, what may be happening now, and what might happen in the future. It's like spending weeks in horror movies scripted by Al Gore and Stephen King, with special effects by the "hottest" climate models on the planet, and brilliant promotion by Environmental Armageddon Communications.
Frankenclime! "Man's machines have disrupted a climate that was constant for thousands of years."
Reality: When Norse colonists arrived in 980, Greenland was several degrees warmer along its coasts than today. Europe too basked in the Medieval Warm Period. But by 1300, the world had entered what historian James Burke calls the "frozen centuries."
Our planet began to warm again around 1850, and more noticeably between 1900 and 1940, before cooling slightly. An April 1975 Newsweek article claimed, "There are ominous signs" the Earth's climate is cooling, and scientists are "almost unanimous in the view that the trend will reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century." Wrong. We enjoyed two decades of bumper crops, and global cooling alarmists became global warming alarmists.
Mosquito! "Rising temperatures will result in outbreaks of tropical diseases."
Reality: Malaria and dengue fever outbreaks are due to the absence of vaccines, other health care measures and window screens - not to temperature. Wisconsin had malaria outbreaks in the 1880s, during an unusually cold period. And 2,000 people were infected by dengue in a Mexican border town in 1995, while Texas reported only seven cases.
Inundate! "Melting polar ice will cause sea levels to rise, flooding coastal areas."
Reality: Polar ice has been melting and sea levels rising at seven inches a century for thousands of years. This is likely to continue for centuries to come. Open water is common in the Arctic every year in late summer - the natural result of weeks in the 40s and 50s. And the ice in Greenland's interior regions is actually thickening, not shrinking.
Twister! "Global warming will bring more storms of greater intensity."
Reality: The number and severity of storms, hurricanes and tornadoes actually appears to be decreasing, and the worst tornado ever to hit the U.S. was the mile-wide tri-state twister. It lasted 3 hours, killed 700 people and levelled entire communities along its 220-mile path - in 1925.
Bureaucracy. Climate Care will require a huge U.S. and international bureaucracy, with the power to:
Measure and ensure compliance with Kyoto's stringent emission guidelines;
Track greenhouse gas emissions and their absorption by farmlands, grasslands, forests and oceans;
Administer complex, controversial emissions trading schemes;
Control international, national, regional, local and personal decisions about heating, cooling, transportation, recreation, business, industry and trade; and
Mete out penalties to any person, entity or nation that violates their decrees.
Many of our freedoms will be but a dim memory, as environmental activists in non-governmental organisations pressure environmental activists in the new bureaucracies, to raise energy taxes and further restrict our use of cars, lawn mowers, outdoor grills and anything else that emits "greenhouse gases." Under Kyoto, these bureaucrats will be even less accountable to people, courts and legislators.
Hypocrisy. Climate Care will exact an especially heavy toll on minorities and the elderly. It's as though, when environmental ideology knocks, liberal compassion takes a holiday, and the poor are transformed into inconvenient obstacles to utopian policy. Reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels, as required by the Kyoto treaty, would mean slashing America's use of fossil fuels by 30-40% from what they would otherwise be by that date. The effects would be disastrous.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Kyoto would likely drain more than $340 billion a year from the U.S. economy ($4,100 per family), double electricity prices, and cause the price per gallon to soar 65 cents for gasoline, 88 cents for diesel, and 90 cents for home heating oil. Obviously, this would harm low and fixed income families most of all.
The EIA also calculates that the Kyoto treaty could cost 3.2 million American jobs. An exhaustive study commissioned by a coalition of minority business groups concluded that 1.4 million of those lost jobs would be in our Black and Hispanic communities, and average annual family incomes in those communities would decline by $2,220 to $2,725 under Kyoto. Blacks and Hispanics in some states would be particularly hard hit, this study notes.
Because America's powerful economic engine also drives the majority of global trade, these disastrous consequences for the United States also spell disaster for developing nations that are heavily dependent on exports. Their poor will also suffer disproportionately.
Lunacy. The climate "problem" is illusory. Not only is the radical Kyoto Climate Care "solution" incredibly complex and disastrously expensive; it will do nothing to prevent global warming. Indeed, the National Centre for Atmospheric Research says even "perfect compliance" with the treaty would keep average global temperatures from rising only one half a degree less than they would by 2050 without a treaty.
Set Sail for the "Five Tees" There is but one way out of this morass. Eliminate the "Seven Cees," and implement policy based on the "Five Tees": Honesty, integrity, humility, humanity and accountability.
Honesty. Replace deception and misrepresentation with open, honourable, accurate statements and analyses.
Integrity. Restore integrity to our scientific, political and journalistic processes, to ensure open, robust debate.
Humility. Recognise that we don't have all the answers, that the sun and other natural forces have always affected our climate, and that hasty decisions bring the law of unintended consequences into play.
Humanity. Recognise that sound environmental stewardship involves caring for the Earth and its creatures, attending to the well-being of people, and ensuring that theoretical concerns or solutions do not injure people's lives, opportunities and livelihoods.
Accountability. Make bureaucrats, scientists, journalists, activists and politicians accountable for violating these principles and open meeting and freedom of information rules.