In the battle over what to do about global warming, alarmists are trouncing deniers.
Those unflattering labels emerged in the uncivil controversy that has raged over how humanity should respond to observed warming.
One side accuses the other of fomenting undue alarm. The other side responds by diagnosing the opposition as smitten by denial.
Right or wrong, the alarmists have prevailed. The Kyoto Treaty has entered into force. And Democrats promise to make something like Kyoto part of their energy initiatives in the US Congress.
It does no good to ask whether humans can meaningfully influence global average temperature. The effort will be made, very likely with the hitherto reluctant US participating in some fashion.
It might as well be done properly, then. It won't be if governments address climate phenomena by manipulating markets and dictating behavior.
Europe continues along that discredited course. The European Commission on Jan. 10 proposed that European Union members cut emissions of greenhouse gases by 20% from 1990 levels by 2020 and by 30% if an international agreement takes effect to pursue the more aggressive target.
As part of the European effort, the EC wants to improve energy efficiency by 20% and raise the market share of renewable energy sources to 20% by 2020.
It won't work. Fuel use mandates by governments never do. They raise costs, distort markets, and breed unintended consequences.
For that matter, official targets for greenhouse-gas emission cuts have been no twinkling triumph. Kyoto followed that approach, calling for comparatively modest 8-10% emissions cuts from 1990 levels by 2012. Emissions from Kyoto signatories are now slightly below the target only because of plunges in the 1990s from so-called economies in transition�formerly Soviet countries whose economies collapsed and are now modernizing. Emissions are rising for the other group of Kyoto participants.
If 8-10% cuts by 2012 look unachievable, why stretch the target? If emissions mandates are failing, why press the approach?
European leaders say they want to lead the world on this issue. Costly government intrusions, destined to fail, are no way to go about it.
(Online Jan. 12, 2007; author's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)