TCS Daily


Gore's Grossing

By Ken Adelman - April 30, 2002 12:00 AM

When former Vice President Al Gore takes pen to paper - or computer to email - he seemingly can't avoid engaging in hyperbole.

Thus, it is no surprise the man who wrote that we live in "a dysfunctional civilization" in Earth in the Balance would claim in a column to The New York Times April 21 that the administration that replaced his was in the pocket of special interests.

But as the Danish mathematician, Bjorn Lomborg, pointed out in The Skeptical Environmentalist, to characterize as "dysfunctional" a civilization that has produced "more leisure time, greater security, fewer accidents, more education, more amenities, higher incomes, fewer starving, more food and healthier and longer life," is "quite simply immoral."

And to complain, as Gore did in hiscolumn that "Exxon Mobil has been allowed to veto the United States government's selection of who will head the prestigious scientific panel that monitor's global warming" is pure nonsense.

There were sound reasons for the United States to join 75 other nations in removing Watson as director of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As the respected Dr. Patrick Michaels, professor of meteorology at the University of Virginia, noted, Watson had claimed an ozone hole was about to open up north. This supplied then-Sen. Gore with the line that there was an "ozone hole over Kennebunkport." It was a good line, but without any evidence for the claim.

Nonetheless, Dr. Watson took a top scientific job with the Clinton-Gore team, and used it to criticize Republicans in Congress and to make points on global warming to fit his views and the Clinton-Gore politics. For instance, a year ago in January, Watson summarized a government climate change report by claiming that the data presented a scenario predicting warming of nearly 11 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. As Dr. Michaels and others pointed out, that information never underwent peer review.

Vice President Gore remains upset about the Kyoto Protocol, which Gore negotiated and signed in 1997. This is understandable.

For the remaining three years in office, his partner President Clinton never submitted the Kyoto Protocol to the U.S. Senate for approval. Clinton realized that America could not economically afford the Protocol Gore negotiated. The Clinton-Gore's Energy Department found Kyoto would lead to $400 billion a year in lost output.

If they did not realize these costs by themselves, the Senate informed them so by voting 95-0 to oppose the Protocol as written, since it excluded major polluting nations.

Gore tries to throw Enron on the back of the current administration. But it was Enron Board Chairman Kenneth Lay who sold Clinton-Gore on Kyoto's cap and trade system. Gore, Clinton, and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin met with Lay on Aug. 7, 1997 to go over goals and procedures for the Kyoto session.

The corporate smoking memo here was not that from an ExxonMobil adviser to oppose Dr. Watson, but the Enron internal memo saying Kyoto "would do more to promote Enron's business than almost any other regulatory initiative." Gore succeeded, at least in this.

It was especially unbecoming for Vice President Gore in his Times column to trash Watson's replacement, an Indian, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri as a foot dragger. After all, this eminent economist and energy expert won the votes of Asia and Africa - not known to walk lockstep with the wishes of the George W. Bush administration. Such developing nations have the most to lose from an ineptly handled and implemented climate change plan.

Dr. Watson at least showed more respect than Gore, claiming that "Dr. Pachauri has the integrity" to do the job. If only the former vice president could learn to accept his setbacks - including the election of President George W. Bush - as graciously, the tenor of political debate might rise a little higher.
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