Gore Rips Congress Over Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A riled-up Vice President Al Gore sharply criticized Congress's stance on the global warming issue today, protesting at a press conference what he called a "gag order" on the Administration's efforts to inform the public about the Kyoto climate treaty.

Flanked by climate scientists and charts chronicling this year's unusually hot temperatures, Gore blasted a House of Representatives panel for instructions to the Administration to stop talking about the Kyoto treaty, which calls for 38 industrialized nations, including the United States, to cut their greenhouse gas emissions early next century. The language, in a report accompanying the House appropriations bill funding the Environmental Protection Agency, directs EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality to "refrain from conducting education outreach or informational seminars on policies underlying the Kyoto Protocol until or unless" the Senate ratifies it. "The idea that Congress would impose a gag order on global warming is contrary to the best interests of the American people and violates the democratic principle of fair debate," Gore said.

The committee is not backing down. Calling the "gag order" description "a little extreme," spokesperson Elizabeth Morra says the committee is not against discussion of global warming in general. But it is opposed to using "taxpayer dollars and government time to promote the Kyoto treaty," she says. "It has to do with issue advocacy."

But in what is becoming a familiar refrain, Gore also reviewed the latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data showing that every month in 1998 so far has surpassed average global temperature records (Science, 12 June, p. 1684). Recent record-setting rains in the Midwest and northeast, drought that has led to fires in Florida, and 100-degree temperatures in Texas are consistent with predictions that global warming will bring more extreme weather events, Gore said. Although a single event can't be attributed to global warming, he said, "what we've seen has long since left the boundaries of the normal and the expected." Tom Karl of NOAA, who attended the briefing along with NOAA administrator James Baker, added that July temperatures are "quite likely" to be "the warmest ... of the last 600 years."

A package of research and tax-cut incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions recommended by the Administration--which has gotten a chilly reception so far in Congress--would "create jobs and help our economy," according to Gore. "People are sweltering out there," he said. "How long is it going to take before people in Congress get the message?"