George Will

Fervent. 1. Hot, burning, glowing, boiling. -- Oxford English Dictionary

WASHINGTON -- "Fervently" is how America will henceforth engage in talks on global warming. So said the president's climate change negotiator Sunday in Germany, at a U.N. conference on reducing carbon emissions. This vow was fervently applauded by conferees welcoming the end of what AP's news story called the Bush administration's "eight years of obdurate participation" in climate talks.

Reducing carbon emissions supposedly will reverse warming, if it resumes after the current period without warming, a period that began, according to statistics published by the World Meteorological Organization, 11 years ago. Regarding the reversing, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change has many ambitions, as outlined in a working group's 16-page "information note" to "facilitate discussions." For example:

"Tariffs can be lowered to grant special preference to climate-friendly goods, or they can be maintained at high levels to discourage trade in GHG (greenhouse gas)-intensive goods and services." The working group says protectionism "in the service of climate change objectives" might virtuously "shelter domestic producers of climate-friendly goods."

Furthermore, using "border carbon adjustment," a nation might virtuously "impose costs on imports equivalent to that (sic) faced by domestic producers" operating under a carbon tax. Or a nation with a cap-and-trade regime regulating carbon emissions by domestic manufacturers might require foreign manufacturers "to buy offsets at the border equal to that (sic) which the producer would have been forced to purchase had the good been produced domestically."

Cynics will see only potential for mischief by governments, including the U.S. government, using such measures to give a green patina to protectionism. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is having its own problems with one "climate-friendly good" that might not be. Last week The New York Times front page carried this headline: "The Bulb That Saved the Planet May Be a Little Less Than Billed."

The story recounted some Americans' misadventures with the new light bulbs that almost all Americans -- all but those who are filling their closets with supplies of today's incandescent bulbs -- will have to use after the phaseout of today's bulbs in 2014. (You missed that provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007?)


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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