It's not just income taxes that might trash the dreams of Joe the Plumber.
Ready or not, Joe and the rest of us are also about to get mugged by the commissars of climate change. On this, I've got a bipartisan beef, since both John McCain and Barack Obama have bought into the panicked Al Gore storyline that the earth has a man-made "fever." Both candidates are promising to meet it with dramatic and costly new forms of government control.
This comes even as Europe, after its fling with the Kyoto treaty, is backing off from grand pledges to cut carbon dioxide emissions, having decided that the whole thing is too expensive. But United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls climate change the "defining issue of our time," and the U.N. early last year announced that scientific "consensus" had been reached: The climate is in crisis, and it's man-made. At the U.N. this has morphed into calls for wealthy countries to choke their own productivity and compensate the rest of the world for the weather.
So the plan now is that America, along with its bailouts and other burdens, will sacrifice to the global climate gods. Nevermind that an emissions cap-and-trade bill died in the Senate in June, sunk by the titanic price tag and regulatory overload it would have entailed. America's top politicians, not entirely averse to finding ever-new ways to control and plunder the electorate, are still chugging the climate-change Kool-Aid. Once this starts, where does it stop? Carbon is the basis of life itself; carbon dioxide is exhaled with every breath. Regulating and taxing such matters is a road map to state meddling in every aspect of daily life.
And is the alarm even justified? U.N. proclamations to the contrary, there are numerous dissenting scientists. Among the dissenters is MIT professor of atmospheric sciences Richard Lindzen. In a recent, richly documented paper, he warns that the huge shift over the past half century toward government funding of scientific research has "led to extreme vulnerability to political manipulation." He argues that today's climate "consensus" is much more a product of politics than of science. Big government begets a push toward more of the same. Grants, prizes and jobs go chiefly to those who produce what eco-activists and U.N.-o-crats want to hear.
Who are these folks setting the climate agenda?
Most Americans have never heard of Yvo de Boer, and certainly never voted for him. De Boer is a Dutchman, appointed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2006 to head the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
De Boer is not a scientist; his bio says he has a "technical degree in social work." Before joining the UNFCCC in the 1990s, he worked in the Dutch ministry of housing. These days, de Boer jets around the world presiding over conferences--such as last year's two-week climate summit at a Bali beach resort--aimed at creating a global "climate change regime." This regime rests on schemes for massive international wealth transfers, with multilateral bureaucracies calculating who owes, who pays and who gets special breaks--while related arms of these proliferating outfits crank out reports in which "science" is invoked to justify the entire set-up.
But didn't the Nobel Peace Prize go last year to Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for their eco-warnings? Yes. And the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by a committee of five Norwegian politicians, appointed by the Norwegian parliament. They may be nice people, but their judgment seems an odd basis for sweeping new controls on the U.S. economy.
As for the U.N.'s Nobel-winning IPCC--it is a joint enterprise of two other U.N. outfits, both shot through with back-scratching politics. One is the Nairobi-based U.N. Environment Program, whose director, Achim Steiner, a German, was appointed by Kofi Annan in 2006, just after serving on a panel that awarded a $500,000 environmental prize to Annan, for his personal use (which Annan surrendered only after that potential conflict of interest emerged in the press).
The other parent of the IPCC is the World Meteorological Organization, based in Geneva. The president of the WMO's executive council is an envoy of Russia, Alexander Bedritsky; his No. 2 man, First Vice President Ali Mohammad Noorian, has been at the WMO since 1981 as the permanent representative of Iran.
Among world leaders, there is almost no one left with the courage and vision to challenge any of this. A rare exception is Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who in the 1980s struggled to free his country from Soviet domination and is now sounding the alarm about the growing global tyranny of climate edicts. Last year he published a short book,Blue Planet in Green Shackles. In the subtitle of this book, he asks: "Which is endangered: climate or freedom?"
It's a pity that in America, a country built on free speech and free markets, neither presidential candidate seems willing to take a cue from Klaus. By now, the real question on climate is: Which candidate, once elected, is most likely to back off the campaign promises enough to leave America free to breathe?
Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.com.