Global warming and related policy issues are becoming increasingly contentious in the United States, surfacing during this election year and promising to remain high profile in the years ahead.
For example, the just released National Assessment of Climate Change depicts frightening consequences for different regions of the country from a hypothetical warming trend that has little basis in fact.
The same issues enter into also controversies involving international trade agreements, questions of national sovereignty versus global governance, and ideological debates about the nature of future economic growth and development.
In his Hoover Essay in Public Policy Climate Policy—From Rio to Kyoto: A Political Issue for 2000—and Beyond, S. Fred Singer examines international climate policy and the damaging economic consequences of efforts to restrict and phase out the use of fossil fuels.
He discusses in some detail the inadequate science underlying the conclusions reached by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations advisory body. Using previously unpublished material, he documents how these conclusions were deliberately misinterpreted in 1996, and how this led to the Kyoto Protocol, which was approved in 1997.
The Protocol calls for industrialized nations to carry out, within one decade, drastic cuts in the emission of greenhouse cases that stem mainly from the burning of fossil fuels; its enactment, much desired by the White House, was rejected by unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate in 1997.
Singer also traces the motivations that led to the Kyoto Protocol. He concludes that U.S. domestic politics rather than science or economics will decide the fate of the Protocol; in particular, the presidential election of 2000 will determine whether the United States ultimately ratifies the Protocol, which would be essential for its global enactment. Conversely, informed debate about the Protocol can influence the outcome of the election.
S. Fred Singer is an atmospheric physicist and visiting Wesson Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He also is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and the president of the Fairfax-based Science & Environmental Policy Project, a non-profit policy institute. He was the first director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service (now part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration), deputy assistant administrator for policy of the Environmental Protection Agency, and, most recently, chief scientist of the U.S. Department of Transportation. He is the author of a number of books, including Global Climate Change (Paragon House, 1989), and Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming's Unfinished Debate (Independent Institute, 1997, 1999).