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New York Times blasts Clinton

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America's official stance on greenhouse gases -- which changed dramatically in December away from taking strong action to mitigate global warming -- is now under increasing attack. The New York Times, the country's newspaper of record, ran an opinion piece in March that slammed the Clinton Administration for its "meek" plan on coping with the dangers of global warming. Entitled "So Much Hot Air," the editorial was written from Brussels by Gregg Easterbrook, author of "A Moment on the Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism."

In the opinion piece Easterbrook criticises President Bill Clinton's White House for submitting a proposal to the United Nations recently that, although it included laudable long-term goals, would have no teeth until 2010, long after Clinton has left office and even after two terms of a President Al Gore. Indeed, the US is now officially opposed to any targets for emission reductions before the year 2010.

"If Vice President Gore really believed, as he once said, that the possibility of global warming is 'the worst crisis our country has ever faced,' why is the White House plan so meek?" Easterbrook asks. He commends two planks of the US initiative -- companies being allowed to buy greenhouse gas "credits" from other US companies and also being allowed to reap credits for helping reduce pollution in fast growing Third World countries such as China.

But it is a carbon tax that is really needed, along with the concomitant reduction of other corporate taxes, continued the piece. The author notes that 2000 economists, including six Nobel laureates, signed a statement in February calling for a carbon tax as part of a system of tradeable permits for greenhouse emissions.


A treaty signed by more than 150 countries at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 committed participants to reducing emissions. Two international summits later this year in Kyoto in Japan are supposedly to make the agreement legally binding. In February even UK environment minister John Gummer, a Conservative, blasted the new US stance as "devastating." He also called on the European Union to prod the US to take "some very brave steps."

A month earlier, in January, the Worldwatch Institute's annual "State of the World" stated that the world's governments were falling short of the goals agreed to at Rio. Carbon dioxide emissions per person in Europe are only about half that of people in the US -- and indeed they fell steadily in the early 1990s with the adoption in Europe of some efficiency laws and the removal of some subsidies for traditional sources of energy. The report is co-authored by Chris Flavin, environmental consultant to the American Wind Energy Association.

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