If you really believe that the planet is at the tipping point on global warming and the consequences will be fatal for people around the world, especially the poor, then all industrialized nations need to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. If the United States must sacrifice, so must China, which is fast emerging as the largest producer of industrial greenhouse gases on Earth.
Yet U.N. Secretary Ban ki-Moon, in a breakfast meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board Friday, suggested that industrialized nations -- read the United States -- have a "historical responsibility" to cut emissions, which are "almost to the saturation point," while China and India, two superpowers that were not bound to reduce emissions as part of the 1997 Kyoto global warming pact, "have their own positions."
As for the Democratic Congress, Ban said: "They have already begun moving. It's only the (Bush) administration" that has not. And, while he said he is not a scientist or economist: "The science is very clear. The economics is very clear."
I understand the social justice argument. America has produced more industrial greenhouse gases than any other nation, hence Americans should have to cut back more than other countries. But who knew in 1910 that global warming would be an issue?
"The few who did know about it thought it was a good thing," noted the Cato Institute's Pat Michaels. "And when global surface temperature declined from 1945 through the mid-1970s, the feeling was one of absolute alarm. The world was going to have a food crisis. The shipping lanes in the North Atlantic were cluttered with ice."
Remember global cooling? That's what the -- all bow -- scientists warned about 30 years ago. Now, bygone Americans are to blame for not foreseeing science's current end-of-the-world scenario, global warming.
Unlike Ban, I know many scientists who don't think the science is conclusive as to whether global warming is caused by man. But if the tipping point is near, you'd think Ban would talk as tough on China as he does with George W. Bush. According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, China's coal-fired plants are increasing their emissions annually by double the total emissions growth of all the world's industrialized economies combined. China's about to be Hertz, and Ban's focused on Avis.
"Given the emissions growth rate of China, if the United States drops its emissions 25 percent over the next 20 years, it simply won't be noticed," Cato's Michaels noted. "Everyone who's looked at this knows that." Everyone, perhaps except the U.N. secretary-general.
Greenhouse gases will have the same effect, whether they emanate from San Francisco or Shanghai. But politics, not science, keeps the focus on Bush, not Beijing.
You see, Bush had the audacity to refuse to support Kyoto. If he had been all lip service, like President Clinton -- if Bush had signed the treaty but not asked the Senate to ratify it, while U.S. greenhouse gas emissions rose to 14 percent higher than 1990 levels when he left office -- then the vaunted international community would approve.
Science is supposed to be about results, but global warming is about belief. President Clinton's good because he said he believed. If you say you believe, you don't have to deliver.
If global warming is facing the tipping point, then the United Nations should lean on China. Believers shouldn't put their politics -- United States a must, China a maybe -- before the planet.
If undeveloped countries will pay the biggest price for global warming, as Ban said, then that's more reason to make them curb their emissions -- not less.
If the economics are clear, as Ban said, he should not have to pressure countries and businesses, execs would be making the right changes without government pressure. And Ban would not have to ask the media for help, as he did Friday.
If results matter, Ban ought to be hectoring Democrats in Congress, who are about as likely as Bush to pass a carbon tax. But he's not.
And if results really were paramount, why aren't global warming advocates talking about the sacrifices necessary to meet their goal of 50 percent to 90 percent fewer emissions? Instead, they talk as if Americans can change their light bulbs, or drive a hybrid, not an SUV -- and that will do the trick.
It's as if they don't care about results, they only care if you believe.