The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank not known as a particular favorite of enviros, issued a debate challenge to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change last week.

In a letter published as an ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, CEI Distinguished Fellow Jack Kemp, a one-time vice presidential candidate, congressman, football star, and all-around free-market guru, challenges the Pew Center to repudiate “alarmist ads” currently running about global warming and submit to a series of debates “to review the evidence for and against Kyoto in a more thoughtful fashion.”

Why the challenge? “The pro-Kyoto side has published a huge amount of stuff purporting to be scientific studies,” says CEI global warming policy director Myron Ebell. “But if you look very closely at them, they aren’t science. … We are being swamped by bumper sticker slogans and the kind of stuff you would normally find in the National Enquirer.

Them’s fightin’ words.

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In the interests of equal time, and to find out if there is any chance these debates might come off, we called up the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. We finally reached them after dialing our way around the 500 other Pew Centers, which left us wondering whether there should be a Pew Center for the Study of the Rapid Proliferation of Pew Centers. But we digress.

We finally reached the correct Pew Center, only to find out that the entire staff was on some junket in Germany (at the Fifth Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be exact). No one, not a single junior staffer, was available to rapidly respond to the CEI challenge with a ribald retort. We are still waiting for an answer.

Should there be debates? You be the judge. And we’d also like to start hearing more about these junkets, which appear to be among the great perks of working in the environmental world. We’d also like to be invited on some of them. Positive press guaranteed, provided the bar is open late.

Fee for Sprawl

Your columnist spent most of last week reporting on a 1999 election that was not exactly chock full o’ hot races of national import, but did provide some surprising results, particularly for Democrats who picked up a couple of traditionally Republican mayoral seats (Indianapolis, Ind., and Columbus, Ohio), stole back another southern governorship (Mississippi), and hung on by the skin of their teeth in Philadelphia.

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On the environmental front, the action was mainly on ballot measures across the country, particularly a huge slate of state and local open-space initiatives designed to combat suburban sprawl by having the state or local governments purchase land.

A Muckraker source, who chose to remain anonymous, provided what we think is the most comprehensive survey so far of what exactly was on the ballot around the country on Tuesday.

According to this analysis, open space ballot measures were considered in nine states, which together authorized close to $900 million in local spending to purchase land. These measures ranged from the very big (like $220 million in bond authority in Mecklenburg County, N.C.) to the very small (like a $950,000 tax diversion for public land purchase in Hatfield, Pa.).

A sampling of some ballot measures that passed:

  • Residents of Glendale, Ariz., voted for more than $100 million in bond authority to build parks and recreation areas and to purchase public land.
  • Voters in Agoura Hills, Calif., passed a measure requiring a two-thirds city council vote to change the designation of land presently classified as open space.
  • Voters in several Colorado counties passed new local sales taxes, or extended existing ones, with the proceeds going to buy up open space and prevent new development.

And some that failed:

  • Livermore, Calif., voters rejected a proposal that would have required developers to submit to a public vote plans to build housing projects of more that 20 units.
  • Residents of Arvada, Colo., gave the thumbs down to an initiative that would have limited the number of new houses built in the town each year to 350.
  • St. Paul, Minn., voters said no to a measure that would have limited billboards.

We could go on, but we won’t. Suffice it to say that slowing down the building of new mini-mall plots for more Starbucks, Targets, TGI Fridays, Olive Gardens, and Borders Books seems to be a pretty popular political pastime.

The Junk Man Still Cometh

We openly admit that we are providing free space for Environmental Working Group flak Mike Casey, who is not letting go of his crusade to have Cato Institute adjunct scholar Steven Milloy, a.k.a. the “Junk Man,” ripped from the Cato masthead because of his harsh postings about enviro scientist David Platt Rall after Rall’s death last month. (If you haven’t been following this breaking news story, now’s the time to catch up — read our columns from 10.18.99 and 10.26.99.)

There is a simple reason Casey gets Muckraker play — it’s because he gives Muckraker stuff to write about. You too could get your pet grievance aired in this space if only you’d bring it to our attention.

But again we digress. Casey is hot on the trail of a recent posting by Milloy that followed the death of Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.).

Milloy wrote: “Unfortunately, Sen. Chafee too often acted like a Democrat on environmental and regulatory issues. The good news is his replacement as committee chairman will be Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) who has shown courage in opposing the Kyoto protocol and the EPA air quality proposals.”

Now, this may not have been as incendiary as what Milloy had to say about Rall, but it did have another flaw. It was wrong. Or at least out of date.

Inhofe probably would have taken over the chair had Sen. Bob “Never-Mind-That-Party-Switch” Smith (R-N.H.) not come back into the GOP fold last week and reclaimed his right to head the powerful Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Not that it really matters to most enviros whether they have to deal with Smith or Inhofe, a choice the Sierra Club‘s Dan Weiss memorably referred to as “apocalypse soon as opposed to apocalypse now.”