'Don't knock the weather," advised the late humorist Kin Hubbard. "Nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while."
Recently, weather has become more than small talk. The treaty on global climate change, just completed in Kyoto, Japan, has been agreed to by the United State along with a number of other industrialized countries. The agreement would radically change the way Americans live and work, all in the name of environmental protection.
The irony is that the data on which the treaty is based are highly suspect. Not only are evaluations of the earth's temperature mixed, but the computer models that interpret them are questionable. Put simply, the extent to which man-made emissions contribute to climate change has not been proven.
Scientists are divided, as well. A "disturbing corruption of the peer review process," said former National Academy of Sciences President Frederick Seitz, could "deceive policymakers and the public into believing that the scientific evidence shows human activities are causing global warming."
The relationship between human actions and the climate is being sharply debated. According to Science magazine writer Richard Kerr, "Many climate experts caution that it is not at all clear yet that human activities have begun to warm the planet - or how bad greenhouse warming will be when it arrives."
Yet, there is another dimension to the climate-change uproar too often missed: the substantial human cost of the Kyoto accord. In all the talk about computer modeling, Fahrenheit temperatures, and carbon reduction policies, the reality of human need is often the last thing considered.
Over the past two weeks, the US has agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level 7 percent below that in 1990 by the year 2012. The economic effects of this decision, including widespread job loss, will be at least as severe as the following scenarios, which were based on a program that capped emissions at 1990 levels.
In February of this year, the Argonne National Laboratory completed a study for the US Energy Department on the economic effects of America's binding acceptance of the likely Kyoto protocols. Among the study's findings of the impact of the treaty on US industry and American workers are these:
* A loss of 100,000 steel industry jobs and a 30 percent reduction in the number of steel producers;
* 20 percent to 30 percent of the basic chemical industry would move to developing nations within 15 or 20 years;
* All primary aluminum smelters would close by 2010;
* A 20 percent loss in the output of petroleum refineries;
* American paper production would be replaced by foreign-produced paper;
* A quarter to one-third of the American cement industry would shut down.
Another recent study is even more compelling. Wharton Econometric Forecasting Associates Inc. found that between 2001 and 2020, the loss per-household from the strictures of the Kyoto accord would be almost $30,000; the average hike in home energy costs would be about $600 a year.
Dr. Lawrence Horowitz of the DRI/McGraw Hill research firm has estimated that to meet the emissions goals of the Kyoto accord, our gross domestic product would go down by 4.2 percent annually, which represents a loss of $350 billion a year in reduced production of goods and services. This, in turn, would lead to an estimated job loss of 1.1 million annually - for I5 years.
America is preparing to inflict enormous damage on its people and economy in the name of dubious science. The new global climate change treaty isn't even "global" - it excludes such countries as China, India, South Korea, and Mexico, whose contribution to the pollution of the earth is growing most substantially.
The treaty won't work, and should be opposed by those who recognize that economic growth and a sound environmental must go hand in hand.
* Jerry J. Jasinowski is president of the National Association of Manufacturers.