Turning up the Heat

The whole aim of practical politics,” wrote H.L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be [...]

November 1 1998 by Sally C. Pipes


The whole aim of practical politics,” wrote H.L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety), by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

Global warming-now known as “climate change”-is just such a hobgoblin.

That statist activists would promote “climate change” is predictable. That professional bureaucrats, UNcrats, and technocrats would promote it makes sense as well, since addressing this so-called problem means putting private activities and decision-making under government control. But as we enter deeper into the public debate over whether to sign and ratify the Kyoto agreement (an international contraption that would commit the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse emissions to 7 percent under 1990 levels by 2008-2012), the U.S. government is engaging in foul play.

The Clinton administration, through the Environmental Protection Agency, is creating a propaganda infrastructure, cultivating constituencies dependent on the success of the Kyoto treaty the old fashioned way-by making it in their economic interests.

It’s inexcusable for the federal government to use taxpayer money to propagandize us. Yet this is exactly what the EPA is doing, according to a recent study by Jim Sheehan of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). EPA grants to non-profits for educational activity totaled more than $14 million. Grants to states for various education efforts came to nearly $600,000 and universities cashed in for $12.6 million. Most surprising, however, is our EPA’s generosity towards foreign governments. The EPA transferred $5 million of largesse from the American taxpayer to foreign governments.

Overall, the EPA reportedly doled out more than $30 million in greenhouse grants. The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy was awarded $103,000 from the EPA to “facilitate effective communication regarding climate change initiatives.”

The EPA awarded the International Institute for Energy Conservation (IIEC) $490,000 to “build support for climate action within [third-world countries] by informing domestic audiences of the benefits of energy efficiency.” This money accounts for roughly 10 percent of the IIEC’s annual budget. According to the group’s treasurer, 28 percent of the grant went toward general overhead and administrative expenses.

Consider the climate-change enthusiasts’ most vexing problem, that most economic studies sensibly suggest that the cut in energy consumption required to meet Kyoto’s goals will negatively affect economic growth. Solution: Dump $450,000 into the American Council for an Energy Economy (ACEEE), a DC-based group dedicated to promoting energy efficiency, which has produced studies that claim reducing energy consumption can actually increase GDP growth. “If we are intelligent about the policies and measures used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” says ACEEE’s Howard Geller, “we can achieve substantial reductions in the U.S. with a net economic gain.” Geller claims the EPA money has mostly gone toward energy efficiency programs, not the studies.

The government isn’t the only self-interested participant in the debate. Corporate America, too, is active in the global-warming public policy debate. And it should be, since the massive regulation any binding international agreement would be felt throughout the American economy, even if some well-positioned industry segments benefit from the necessary retrofitting.

In December of 1996, for example, CEOs from 126 of America‘s largest firms sent a letter to the White House urging it to take a measured approach to global warming, one based on both sound economics and sound science. In June of 1997, the CEOs of America’s Big Three automakers sent the White House a letter with a similar message.

The Global Climate Coalition, the leading business lobby, has actively opposed Kyotoon the Hill. The Global Climate Information Project, a broadbased coalition of union, big- and small-business, and agriculture, has spent roughly $13 million on television and print ads opposing the Kyoto treaty.

But global warming skeptics are treated in the media as self-interested pleaders. In a private meeting, a prominent national journalist recently declared that debate over global warming is pretty much settled and that the only people arguing otherwise can be traced to industry funding. It was pointed out in response that the only funding skeptics can hope to receive, since government grant-makers have a bias for the warming hypothesis, is from private sources.

It would be nice if the media and the general public-applied the same skepticism to bureaucrats, both domestic and international.


Sally C. Pipes is president of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, a San Francisco-based think tank that analyzes national economic and social problems and proposes free-market solutions.