Alexander's Column

Mr. Smith goes to Turtle Bay

Mark Alexander · Jul. 27, 2001

In the news this week, the Cold War may be over, but the “Hot Air” War continues to heat up!

Monday, in Bonn, Germany, 178 nations at the UN Climate Change Conference agreed to amend the Kyoto Protocol to restrict greenhouse gases, resurrecting the treaty – after the Bush administration had, quite wisely, rejected the “fatally flawed” measure last spring.

The revised agreement provides for emissions credit trading and emissions allowance adjustments for “sinks” in the form of forests and farmland that absorb carbon dioxide, yielding an estimated 1.8% reduction in atmospheric release of greenhouse gases. “It’s huge,” exulted Natural Resources Defense Council’s David Doniger. “It has a clear compliance structure that has all the right incentives to make countries comply.” In other words, it significantly advances the cause of global governance, even with U.S. nonparticipation. (They are trying to keep this thing on a ventilator long enough to give Albert Gore something to run on in ‘04.)

Of course, the Leftmedia were apoplectic. The New York Times headline blared, “U.S. Only Looks On,” while the Washington Post lamented, “U.S. Left Out of Warming Treaty.”

Extremist environmentalists (“eco-nuts” as they are known around our editorial shop) are also aptly called “watermelons” – green on the outside, red on the inside. Freedom fighters assembled under the able leadership of President Ronald Reagan defeated the major forces of overt world Communism a few years back. The new struggle, against collectivism masquerading as planetary salvation, may be in some ways more challenging.

In shades of nuclear freezeniks, and cities declaring themselves “nuclear-free zones,” Seattle Mayor Paul Schell announced his city will comply with the Kyoto agreement: “We are sending a message to the federal administration that it is time to act, just like the rest of the world.” The city plans to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets by reducing carbon dioxide emissions 7% from 1990 levels, mainly by relying on new sources of wind power and existing hydroelectric dams, which already lower the area’s carbon-based energy usage.

In news of other flawed global agreements deserving resistance, the U.S. delegation to the UN Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons held firm, defending against an attempted end run around our Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantee of individual citizens’ right to keep and bear arms.

“The U.S. has been especially intransigent on the question of regulating civilian possession of guns,” complained Rebecca Peters of the pro-gun control Open Society Institute. “This makes no sense at all. Guns are regulated in the U.S. It is not as though this is an infringement of U.S. law. …It’s not insignificant that the first document referred by the U.S. representative on day one was a letter from Attorney General John Ashcroft to the NRA. He didn’t refer to the UN charter or the universal declaration of human rights. It was a private letter to the number one lobby group on Capitol Hill.”

One U.S. conference delegate, and friend of The Federalist, Georgia’s Rep. Bob Barr stated, “The Bush administration’s refusal to allow the United Nations to trample on the Constitutional rights of American citizens reflects a new and welcome respect for the Second Amendment after eight years of the Clinton administration. If this conference had been held just one year ago, the U.S. delegation would have caved, and the UN would have gained unprecedented power over the way America would be allowed to conduct its foreign affairs.”

Rounding out the hat trick, Mr. Bush’s administration rejected a UN draft agreement, seven years in negotiations, to implement the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention. Speaking of the flaws fatal to this germ warfare pact, the U.S. chief negotiator, Donald Mahley, said, “In our assessment, the draft protocol would put national security and confidential business information at risk.”

Traveling in Europe after the G-8 summit, Mr. Bush continued pondering the position his administration will take on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, despite clear explanation of the stakes at issue from Pope John Paul II, during a meeting at Castel Gondolfo. Mr. Bush commented, “I do care about the opinions of people, particularly someone as profound as the Holy Father.” But the president also said, “It’s the need to balance value and respect for life with the promise of science and the hope of saving life,” by way of explaining his continuing irresolution on the issue.

Sorry, Mr. President, but this isn’t a question properly likened to a teeter-totter “balance,” because the “promise of science and the hope of saving life” are only grounded once “value and respect for life” are fully honored. As commentator Robert Novak pointed out, “If the president is considering only the ethical test (as some close advisers insist he is), he could and should have decided the issue long ago – without the need to be surprised by a lecture from the pope.” Expect Mr. Bush’s decision next month – once Congress is safely out of town and unavailable for immediate comment.