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March 19, 2007

When the old gray lady says it's over, it's over.

The New York Times -- nearly a year late -- is finally recognizing the scientific reality regarding fears of a man-made climate catastrophe. On March 13, a landmark article stated "scientists argue that some of (former Vice President Al) Gore's central points are exaggerated and erroneous."

It appears we are all skeptics now.

It's about time the Times joined the growing chorus of scientists criticizing the alarmism. Even the United Nations, despite all the media hoopla, halved its estimates for sea level rise since 2001 and reduced man's impact on the climate by 25 percent in a recent report. A separate U.N. report last year found that emissions from cows do more to drive global warming than C02 from cars.

An increasing number of government leaders and scientists are finally realizing that much of the motivation behind the climate scare has nothing to do with science.

Recently, prominent French scientist Claude Allegre recanted his belief in man-made catastrophic global warming and now says promotion of the idea is motivated by money. (This coming from a French Socialist, no less.)

Other scientists have joined Allegre. One of Israel's top young astrophysicists, Nir Shaviv, recently reversed his opinion, declaring that the link between emissions and climate variability was nothing more than "circumstantial evidence." The United Kingdom's famed environmental activist David Bellamy also recently converted to skepticism. Meteorologist Reid Bryson has switched from a promoter of the 1970s global cooling scare to a global warming skeptic today.

New research by teams of international scientists is revealing that the sun has been a major driver of climate variability. Solar specialist Henrik Svensmark of the Danish National Space Center explained, "We have the highest solar activity we have had in at least 1,000 years."

The usual suspects will still insist that there is a "consensus" of scientists who agree with Gore. And yes, many governing boards and spokesmen of science institutions must toe the politically correct line of Gore-inspired science, but the rank-and-file scientists are now openly rebelling.

Just ask James Spann, a certified meteorologist with the American Meteorological Society. Spann, who has nearly 30 years of experience as a weather expert, said in January that he does "not know of a single TV meteorologist who buys into the man-made global warming hype." In February, a panel of meteorologists expressed unanimous climate skepticism, and one panelist estimated that 95 percent of his profession rejects global warming fears.

This shift follows a 2006 open letter by 60 prominent scientists to the Canadian prime minister stating, "If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary."

Leaders on Capitol Hill are also very late in recognizing this scientific awakening on climate variability.

There are more than half a dozen global warming proposals being floated about in both houses of Congress. They all have two things in common. The bills -- even if fully enacted -- would have a negligible impact on the climate. But the costs would be anything but negligible.

Don't take my word for it. The Washington Post in January clearly explained the hot air of Capitol Hill climate politics when it described a proposal by Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

"(Bingaman's) global warming bill aimed at getting bipartisan support in Congress could be implemented at modest economic cost but may do little to address the (climate) threat," the Post's Jan. 25 article stated.

The Post article continued by saying that under Sen. Bingaman's proposal, "Gasoline prices could be expected to increase by about 5 percent, electricity costs 4 percent."

Let me put this bluntly: Our political leaders in Washington are going to demand the American people make significant economic sacrifices by paying 4 percent more, 10 percent more or even higher for gasoline and home energy costs in order to "do something" to address the climate "crisis."

What do Americans get in return for this economic sacrifice?

They get real economic pain for no climate gain, and they get "solutions" that are purely symbolic. The American people may opt to shut down Washington, D.C., with a flood of phone calls, e-mails and faxes before they allow any of these "solutions" to become law.

Even the Kyoto Protocol -- a draconian international agreement -- would have a virtually undetectable impact on the climate, assuming full compliance and that its proponents were correct in their global warming predictions. But Kyoto would have a massive economic impact, imposing an estimated $300 billion tax -- 10 times larger than the previous biggest tax increase in U.S. history.

Europe and Canada are currently experiencing the utter failure of the Kyoto-style cap-and-trade approach. Thirteen of the EU-15 nations are failing to meet their emissions targets. Canada's environmental minister recently said that for his country to meet Kyoto's emission reduction target, it would suffer an economic collapse similar to the fall of the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, China is on track to surpass the United States as the world's largest emitter within the year.

Ironically, climate skeptics may owe Gore, Hollywood, liberal environmental groups and the mainstream media a big debt of gratitude. If it were not for the shrill, "sky is falling" rhetoric emitted by the elite jet-setters hyping this issue, the silent majority of scientific experts who reject alarmism might not have been stirred to action.

The real inconvenient truth is that global warming fearmongers have overplayed their hand and are now suffering a massive scientific and media backlash. America needs a rational science debate about climate variability. Achieving that goal now appears closer to reality.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) is the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.