The Parrot and the Igloo Notes

An Exceptional Case

292   “Statesmen are only in exceptional cases”: Svante Arrhenius, Chemistry In Modern Life, Chapter XV, “Housekeeping With the Treasures of Nature,” D. Van Nostrand 1925. 267.


292   “Professor Revelle’s study”: Al Gore, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Houghton Mifflin, 1992. 6.


292   former student called former teacher: Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, Houghton Mifflin 1992. 6.


292   “would be just as shocked”: Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, Houghton Mifflin 1992. 6.


292   hiked the side of a Transantarctic Mountain: Al Gore, Earth in the Balance, Houghton Mifflin 1992. 21-2.


293   the best-selling environmental work: Dave McNeely, “Gore Stayed Out Of ‘92 Race To Care For Son, Senator Says,” Austin-American Statesman, April 15, 1992.


293   Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: Gore, in his introduction to the 1994 reissue of Silent Spring, notes, “In 1962, when Silent Spring was first published, ‘environment’ was not even an entry in the vocabulary of public policy.”

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring with an Introduction by Vice President Al Gore, Houghton Mifflin, 1994. 1.


293   “widely considered to be”: Robin Toner, “Reissue of Gore Book May Be a Two-Edged Sword,The New York Times, April 14, 2000.


293   Thirteen million dollars’ worth: John H. Cushman, “Intense Lobbying Against Global Warming Treaty,” The New York Times, December 7, 1997.


293   “a monster”: NPR, “Global Warming Issues,” All Things Considered, October 1, 1997.


293   “when my 13-year-old son”: Mark Helm, “Scandal Foils Environmental Pact,” The Times Union, November 1, 1988.


293      “These high levels of CO2”: Seth Schiesel, “Cyberviews of the Eco-Fatigued,” The New York Times, December 8, 1997.


293      a “fevered pitch”: John H. Cushman, “Intense Lobbying Against Global Warming Treaty,” The New York Times, December 7, 1997.


294      recalled trying “unsuccessfully”: Suzanne Goldenberg, “Exxon Knew of Climate Change in 1981, Email Says — But It Funded Deniers for 27 More Years,” The Guardian, July 9, 2015.

Which sounds, of course, exactly like any number of tobacco headlines.


294      “well-established and cannot be denied”: Andrew C. Revkin, “Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate,” The New York Times, April 23, 2009.


294      “It is as if a large chunk”: John H. Cushman, “Intense Lobbying Against Global Warming Treaty,” The New York Times, December 7, 1997.


294      “a protocol—any protocol—”: Jeremy K. Leggett, The Carbon War: Global Warming and the End of the Oil Era, Routledge 2001, 290.

Leggett adds, just so we can enjoy the snapshot, “The main American oil companies had their usual representatives. Brian Flannery was there for Exxon to play his scientific sceptic role, as was Fred Singer, batting for all fossil-fuel comers.”


295      do what you must: Sharon Begley, “Wake Up Call,” Newsweek, December 22, 1997.

According to the Times, this was treaty-saving.


When the international negotiations looked as if they were about to collapse, in part owing to American resistance, Gore suggested that he fly to Kyoto to demonstrate Washington’s commitment. David Sandalow, who worked on environmental affairs at the National Security Council, recalls a meeting with a dozen advisers “in which nobody recommended he go, with the range of opinion running from neutral to strongly against.” Gore went anyway. “His arrival was galvanizing,” Sandalow says.


James Traub, “Al Gore Has Big Plans,” The New York Times Magazine, May 20, 2007.

And why so treaty-saving? It goes all the way back to 1992, and the first George Bush, and the process’s start. For a simple reason.


The U.S. is the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases, so “a treaty without the U.S. would not be very useful,” says Bert Metz, an official of the Netherlands’ ministry of environment.


Rose Gutfield, “Earth Summitry: How Bush Achieved Global Warming Pact With Modest Goals — Talk of Skipping Rio Meeting Put Pressure on Nations Seeking Emissions Limits — The Europeans Come Around,” Wall Street Journal, March 27, 1992.

But pressure’s off. Since 2006 (“China overtakes U.S. in greenhouse gas emissions,” New York Times, June 20, 2007), China has been the planet’s emitting champ.

Here’s a key paragraph:


China produced 6,200 million tons of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and making cement last year, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said Tuesday on its Web site. That pushed it past the United States, which produced 5,800 million tons of the gas, the agency said.


As of 2019, China’s emissions were blowing past everybody. Emma Neuberger, “China’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Exceed Those of U.S. and Developed Countries Combined, Report Says,” CNBC, May 6, 2021.


China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of the U.S. and the developed world combined, according to a report published Thursday by research and consulting firm Rhodium Group.

The country’s emissions more than tripled during the past three decades, the report added.


295      its final day: Begley, “Wake Up Call,” Newsweek. You can feel the prose’s valedictory excitement:


Two days after Gore’s speech, on the day after the conference was scheduled to end — with the official interpreters gone, the heat turned off in the press gallery and negotiators groggy from staying up 48 hours straight — delegates from the 159 nations agreed to a pact that takes the first, historic steps toward legally binding reductions in the industrial gases that threaten to dramatically, and possibly disastrously, change the planet’s climate.


295      “I will now forward this”: Legett, The Carbon Wars, 317–321.


295      “We will kill this bill”: James Bennet, “Warm Globe, Hot Politics,” The New York Times, December 11, 1997.

“In the end, Bill Clinton and Al Gore could not walk away . . . It would have isolated the United States — which just refused to sign a treaty banning land mines — as the leading emitter of greenhouse gasses and the only industrial nation unwilling to address the problem jointly. And it would have been contrary, their aides said, to a belief shared by the President and Vice President that global warming presents grave dangers.”


295      an outraged Newt Gingrich: Dan Balz, “Defining the Kyoto Treaty Debate May Be Most Crucial Political Test,” Washington Post, December 14, 1997.

Begley, “Wake Up Call,” Newsweek.


295      65 percent of Americans: Alison Mitchell, “G.O.P. Hopes Climate Fight Echoes Health Care Outcome,” The New York Times, December 13, 1997.


296      “Now the administration”: James Bennet, “Warm Globe, Hot Politics,” The New York Times, December 11, 1997

      The Post saw the future in the treaty too. “What looms is a lengthy political debate over science and sovereignty, economics and the environment, and America’s role as a global leader.” Balz, “Defining the Kyoto Treaty Debate May Be Most Crucial Political Test,” Washington Post.


296      “brutal”: Editorial, “The Coming Fight Over Kyoto,” The New York Times, December 12, 1997.


296      “it will require a very disciplined”: “The Clinton Agenda: Preview of His Goals For the Coming Years,” The New York Times, December 7, 1997.


296      “an extraordinary level”: “The Coming Fight Over Kyoto,” New York Times.


The second fact is that Kyoto was merely the beginning of what is sure to be a brutal battle. Winning Senate approval means defeating the treaty’s well-financed opponents in business and labor, and that in turn will require an extraordinary level of Presidential energy.

Kyoto was the first test of President Clinton’s political will. He passed it. When an agreement seemed to be slipping away, he and Vice President Gore instructed their negotiators to agree to deeper cuts in American emissions of carbon dioxide and five other heat-trapping gases than Washington had originally proposed. That concession enabled the Administration to win support, in principle, for innovative financial mechanisms that it regards as essential to the success of the entire enterprise.

The President must now bring that same creativity and passion to the Senate struggle.


296      “leading the Senate”: Opinion, “Facing Up To Global Warming,” The New York Times, December 22, 1997.


296      “Blockbuster Report”: Ed Pilkington, “How the Drudge Report Ushered in the Age of Trump,” The Guardian, January 24, 2018.


If you’d like to read the original report, it’s on a dedicated site maintained by an Australian teacher:

Accessed 7-1-22.


296      the detective and a friend: Naftali Bendavid and Roger Simon, “Lewinsky Dress Revives Talk Of DNA Tests,” Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1998. Nancy Gibbs, “Tick, Tock, Tick . . . Talk,” Time, August 10, 1998. Andrew Morton, Monica’s Story, St. Martin’s Press, 1999. 179.


296      the warmest year in recorded history: William K. Stevens, “Earth Temperature in 1998 Is Reported at Record High,” The New York Times, December 18, 1998.

It held the record until 14 years into our own century. (“2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics,” read the Times headline.) Then 2016 took the title. Then 2020 tied the record. Now the seven warmest years in history are simply the seven most recent years.


NASA, “2020 Tied for Warmest Year on Record, NASA Analysis Shows,” January 14, 2021.

Accessed 7-1-22.


National Centers for Environmental Information, NOAA, “More Near-Record Warm Years Are On Horizon | NOAA study: Most of the years in next decade very likely to rank as Top 10 warmest years.”

Accessed 7-2-22.

The Parrot and the Igloo by David Lipsky