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More Kyoto hypocrisy

Ever wonder why Bush single-handedly gets all the "blame" for rejecting the Kyoto accords, even when the U.S. Senate had rejected them with a vote of 95 to zilch during the Clinton Administration? Yeah, I kind of don't get that either.

But the hypocrisy doesn't end there, I'm afraid.

Considering Europeans' contempt for the United States and George Bush for not embracing the Kyoto Protocol, you'd expect that they would have made major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions -- the purpose of Kyoto. Well, not exactly. From 1990 (Kyoto's base year for measuring changes) to 2002, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, increased 16.4 percent, reports the International Energy Agency. The U.S. increase was 16.7 percent, and most of Europe hasn't done much better.

Here are some IEA estimates of the increases: France, 6.9 percent; Italy, 8.3 percent; Greece, 28.2 percent; Ireland, 40.3 percent; the Netherlands, 13.2 percent; Portugal, 59 percent; Spain, 46.9 percent. It's true that Germany (down 13.3 percent) and Britain (a 5.5 percent decline) have made big reductions. But their cuts had nothing to do with Kyoto. After reunification in 1990, Germany closed many inefficient coal-fired plants in eastern Germany; that was a huge one-time saving. In Britain, the government had earlier decided to shift electric utilities from coal (high CO2 emissions) to plentiful natural gas (lower CO2 emissions).

On their present courses, many European countries will miss their Kyoto targets for 2008-2012. To reduce emissions significantly, Europeans would have to suppress driving and electricity use; that would depress economic growth and fan popular discontent. It won't happen. Political leaders everywhere deplore global warming -- and then do little. Except for Eastern European nations, where dirty factories have been shuttered, few countries have cut emissions. Since 1990 Canada's emissions are up 23.6 percent; Japan's, 18.9 percent.

We shouldn't be surprised. The whole Kyoto process was a classic exercise in Clinton-era symbolism over substance. But your lip, appear concerned, but don't actually, you know, do anything. Even proponents of Kyoto admit that meeting the Kyoto targets will have little effect even if fully implemented (which of course they won't be), saving us a mere 0.15°C by 2100.

Yet if Kyoto fails to save the planet, there's no doubt that it will be entirely Smirky McHitlerChimp's doing. Nevermind that the European nations who preen and posture the most are failing abysmally to reach their targets, and nevermind that even if fully implemented, the Kyoto controls would amount to a drop in the bucket anyway. It's all Bush's fault.

So perhaps it's time for this administration to learn a lesson in pragmatic politics. Perhaps Bush should just sign the damn thing. He could do it in the Rose Garden, with representatives from the Sierra Club and Greenpeace looking on. He could speak grimly and earnestly about the future of our planet, and the legacy we leave behind for our children and grandchildren. Perhaps he could even cry.

Then, as soon as the last dolphin-hugger is escorted off the East Lawn, he could promptly get down to the business of ignoring it, like our more enlightened friends on the continent have done. But it wouldn't matter! He will have demonstrated that he "cares," and that he's a member of the "global community," not some renegade maverick isolationist cowboy.

Evidently that's more than enough to satisfy the Western Left. Pat them on their little heads, tell them you care deeply, and then ignore them. (Why they allow themselves to be condescended to in that way is another question, but one they will have to answer for themselves.) It works for Europe, it works for Democratic U.S. presidents, so Bush might as well put it to work for himself.