The scene opens in 1988 on a steamy day in Washington D.C. at hearings hosted by former senator-turned-eco-evangelist Al Gore. The day was selected and carefully staged on the basis of hottest summer records in the city.
As Gore’s Senate colleague character Timothy Wirth later tells a PBS interviewer, “We called the weather bureau and found out what historically was the hottest day of the summer. . . . so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it . . . we went in the night before and opened all the windows so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room.”
There could be no doubt that the recent summer heat was exceptional. Only about a decade earlier, three decades of cooling had led leading scientists and news agencies to trumpet an opposite concern. (Movie screen pans to the 1975 March cover of Science News depicted Manhattan being swallowed by an approaching glacier with a bold headline announcing “The Ice Age Cometh.”)
The hearing’s foregone conclusion regarding the cause for this sudden and dramatic climate change reversal launches its star witness to instant fame. James Hansen, who then heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, testifies, “Global warming has reached a level such that we can ascribe a high degree of confidence of cause and effect relationship between the [human] greenhouse effect and the observed warming.”
(Screen pans again to a June 30, 1989 Associated Press article headlined: “U.N. Official Predicts Disaster: Says Greenhouse Effect Could Wipe Some Nations Off Map.”)
But now, only about a decade later, the world and its polar bears face a new, even greater, crisis . . . a looming overheated Armageddon which the U.N. wastes no time blaming upon capitalistic excesses.
Their solution is to institute an international carbon “cap-and-trade” agreement — a Kyoto Protocol — which penalizes developed countries by forcing them to purchase CO2 emission credits from less developed countries. China and India, which emit huge and growing amounts of CO2, are given get-out-of-jail-free passes due to their developing country status.
Kyoto timing provides a dream opportunity for one particularly influential company.
During the early 1990s, Enron is diversifying its energy business to emphasize natural gas, a fuel that is facing difficult market competition with coal, a larger CO2 emitter. The company, already heavily leveraged, owns the largest natural gas pipeline that exists outside Russia . . . a colossal interstate network.
U.S. participation in Kyoto will create carbon-capping advantages which will dramatically tip the energy market playing field in Enron’s favor.
Pursuing enthusiastic help in Washington, Enron’s boss Ken Lay begins collaborating with now-Vice President Gore and his former Senate operative Timothy Wirth who is now undersecretary of state for global affairs in the Clinton-Gore administration. Together, they prepare a White House strategy to lobby Congress for Kyoto ratification.
Enron’s Kyoto lobbying efforts don’t end there. Between 1994 and 1996, the Enron Foundation finances an aggressive and successful global warming fear campaign which includes hostile attacks on scientific dissenters.
As an internal Enron memorandum states, Kyoto will “do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside the restructuring [of] the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.”
Flashing forward, after leaving the White House, now green hedge fund entrepreneur Gore and his partner David Blood, the former chief of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, take big stakes in the Chicago Climate Exchange. CCX is poised to make windfall profits selling CO2 trading offsets if the U.S. adopts cap-and-trade legislation.
Speaking before a 2007 Joint House Hearing of the Energy Science Committee, lobbiest Gore tells members, “As soon as carbon has a price, you’re going to see a wave [of investment] in it . . . There will be unchained investment.”
As a surprise ending to my movie finally reveals, this turns out to be the same snake oil tycoon who rakes in hundreds of $millions cashing in on man-made climate fright . . . the same greenhouse gasser who sells his Current TV cable network to Al Jazeera owned by the emir of oil-rich Qatar . . . the same hypocrite whose Nashville home annually consumes more than 20 times more electricity than the average American Household . . . and even the same sanctimonious jerk who has just released a “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” thriller to his earlier conveniently alarmist film.
Al’s buddy Timothy Wirth then goes on to serve as U.N. Foundation president, and later on its board. James Hansen finally retires from NASA after being arrested four times for noncompliance with police orders during green activist demonstrations. Ken Lay dies in his Aspen vacation home while facing prison following Enron’s titanic bankruptcy.
And meanwhile, satellites show no statistical global warming over nearly the past two decades.
Yeah, you’re probably right. Few would likely take such a fantastically implausible script seriously.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom” (2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2012).