As the international "climate change" bureaucrats prepare to meet again in Durban, South Africa, NPR science correspondent Richard Harris (who makes the big bucks for nonprofit journalism) has filed several reports relying exclusively on left-wing climate panickers like Alden Meyer of the "Union of Concerned Scientists."
In addition to that, on Tuesday night's All Things Considered, Harris was followed by NPR substitute anchor Guy Raz lamenting to Obama climate negotiator Todd Stern that "we are the only major country in the world that is still debating whether or not climate change is real." That's apparently a serious embarrassment compromising our "leadership" role:
RAZ: Todd Stern, let me ask you about what you experience when you go to these climate conferences. Among other things, we are the only major country in the world that is still debating whether or not climate change is real. Do people ask you when you go to these conferences, you know, where is U.S. leadership on this issue?
STERN: I don't think they ask so much where U.S. leadership is because I think people have seen President Obama in action. But I think people are quite befuddled by what they see in the U.S., in terms of the level of skepticism and even denial of basic science. Global warming is happening, humans are clearly contributing factors, and we have to act to control it. I think most people understand that.
There has been, you know, a cottage industry of people who try to dispute those facts, which is not constructive. And I do think people around the world are confused by it.
In the entire interview before that, Raz tippy-toes around the obvious political fact that even liberal Democrats in the United States could not bring themselves to sign on to global agreements to sacrifice American energy usage while there are zero limits on "developing" countries like China and India.
Just before the Stern interview, anchor Melissa Block introduced the Harris report: "But first to a big question looming over this year's convention. What will become of the Kyoto climate treaty, negotiated back in 1997? It was supposed to be a first step toward more ambitious action on, but is now on the brink of irrelevance."
One might argue it hit the brink of irrelevance in 1998, when the Senate gave it a 95 to zero thumbs-down (too bad Vice President Al Gore had no chance to break a tie). Harris acknowledged that:
Even under the best of circumstances, the Kyoto protocol would have made a barely measurable dent in the amount of greenhouse gases flowing into the Earth's atmosphere. First, the United States decided not to ratify the treaty, so our emissions aren't covered by the pact. Then, China leapfrogged the U.S. to become the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide.
Harris relied only on experts like Jennifer Morgan of the leftist World Resources Institute, who said “We have very little space left in our atmosphere to be continuing to pollute before we cross certain thresholds where impacts will be inevitable. So, no matter what you're looking at, the current commitments are really quite inadequate.”
Harris also filed a completely one-sided report on Monday's Morning Edition. NPR anchor Steve Inskeep began by bashing Congress for inaction:
INSKEEP: Action on many major issues depends right now on Congress. That would be the Congress that longtime political analyst Norman Ornstein last summer scorned as the, quote, worst Congress ever. Its approval rating is 12 percent. It's politically divided, and facing an election year. For better or worse, Congress has not acted on promises to reduce the gases that cause global warming. Despite a presidential pledge to reduce emissions two years ago, the U.S. is spewing more carbon dioxide than ever into the atmosphere.
See how much of a supportive publicity effort for the Left (and against un-progressive America) Harris is providing here! NPR could stand for National Press Release:
HARRIS: In other words, the promise to cut emissions was contingent on Congress passing an aggressive cap-and-trade bill. But that 2,000-page bill went into the trash instead of onto the president's desk. The Great Recession briefly achieved what Congress didn't; national emissions fell for a short time. But no longer, says Kevin Kennedy at the World Resources Institute.
KEVIN KENNEDY: Starting in 2010 it looks like we're starting to see an up-tick again. And you would expect to see emissions continuing to increase in a business-as-usual case, out to 2020.
HARRIS: Kennedy says that the president's recently enacted fuel-efficiency standards for cars and light trucks will put a meaningful dent in our emissions. And rules about power plants, due out early next year, could also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. How much, of course, depends upon how stringent the rules are. States, especially California, have laws designed to lower their emissions in the coming decades.
KENNEDY: California represents an eighth of the U.S. economy, so that's a significant piece of the overall U.S. picture.
HARRIS: But even with all those state and federal actions taken together, the World Resources Institute figures that the nation can't achieve a 17 percent reduction in emissions by 2020. New federal laws would need to fill the gap, and Kennedy says prospects for that aren't good.
KENNEDY: Nowhere else in the world do you see a political debate about whether climate science is real, whether or not the climate is actually changing. That political climate makes it very difficult to move forward in a comprehensive way, and that is something that we need to address in this country.
HARRIS: Part of the problem is, even congressmen who accept the science of climate change are concerned that if the United States dramatically slashes its emissions, that could harm economic competitiveness. And by itself, U.S. action won't do much to slow global warming. Meaningful action requires an agreement that extends far beyond our national borders.
And that brings us back to the climate talks in South Africa. Alden Meyer, at the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the weak actions domestically mean the U.S. doesn't have much leverage in the international talks.
ALDEN MEYER: The U.S. is not able to show its partners how we are going to meet the 17 percent reduction that President Obama committed to. Also, we are struggling to come up with our fair share of the financing for developing country action on technology, on adaptation, on preserving forests. And so we're not bringing a lot to the table.
HARRIS: For years, Europe has taken the lead at the international talks. But the E.U. hasn't gotten others to follow. Scott Barrett, at Columbia University, holds out hope that things would be better if the United States led the way.
SCOTT BARRETT: If you look at lots of global issues in the past, where we've had success, we've also had U.S. leadership. On this issue, we've not had proper U.S. leadership.
HARRIS: The great challenge is to identify actions that every major player is willing to take, actions that can make a difference to the climate without upsetting economic competitiveness around the world. What's politically possible may not be as much as scientists say we need to accomplish, to stabilize the planet's atmosphere. But Barrett says we need to start somewhere.
BARRETT: I'm not unrealistic about what we're able to achieve, but I'm very confident we can achieve more than we have done so far - which is, basically, zero.
HARRIS: And, he adds, climate change is the hardest problem the world has ever tried to address collectively. Richard Harris, NPR News.