Sunday :: Dec 19, 2004

Bush Embarrasses America Again On Global Warming


by Steve

It should come as no surprise that at the recently-concluded UN conference on climate change, prospects for revitalizing international consensus on how to deal with the clearly emerging consequences of global warming crashed when the Bush Administration said that more study was needed. The rest of the industrialized world has left the US behind on this issue, and we no longer have any credibility but are now treated like the crazy uncle in the basement who must be tolerated because he has all the money.

As usual, the loony tunes, in-the-pocket-of-industry Bush Administration claims that there isnít enough scientific proof of global warming to act yet, even though their financial benefactors in the insurance industry would beg to differ.

The United States also stood virtually alone in challenging the scientific assumptions underlying the Kyoto Protocol. "Science tells us that we cannot say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided," Paula Dobriansky, under secretary of state for global affairs and the leader of the American delegation, said in her remarks to the conference.

At a side meeting organized by insurance companies, however, concerns were expressed about rapidly rising payments resulting from more severe and frequent hurricanes, heat waves and flooding. Representatives of major European reinsurance companies described 2004 as "the costliest year for the insurance industry worldwide" and warned that worse is likely to come.

Thomas Loster, a climate expert at the Munich Re insurance group, estimated that the cost of disasters will rise to as much as $95 billion annually, compared to an average of $70 billion over the past decade. Experts here acknowledge that extreme weather patterns have always existed, but maintain that their frequency and intensity has been increasing because of global warming.

And, as usual, in its latest execution of Luntz-speak, the Bushies now want to change the language again to make it less accurate and less threatening:

Those sharply different perceptions led to a clash even over what language should be used in discussing disaster relief. Bush administration emissaries opposed the use of the phrase "climate change," employed since the days of the first Bush administration, in favor of "climate variability," a much more nebulous term.

What was truly despicable, even for the Bush Administration however, was the position of the Saudis, and our apparent support for them. As if they were a crack dealer demanding damages to be paid to them for the rehabilitation of junkies, the Saudis with a straight face demanded that they be compensated for any reduction in the use of fossil fuels as a result of any new international global warming agreement.

Delegations and observer groups also criticized what they described as an effort led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the United States to hamper approval of so-called adaptation assistance. That term refers to payments that richer countries would make, mostly to poor, low-lying island countries to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

But the issue was complicated by Saudi Arabia's insistence that the aid include compensation to oil-producing countries for any fall in revenues that may result from the reduction in the use of carbon fuels. The European Union, which had announced its intention to provide $400 million a year to an assistance fund, strongly opposed any such provision.

Thatís what this issue internationally has devolved into, thanks to the Bush Administration. We fail to act in the face of scientific evidence after it is clear to the world that we are one of the leading polluters on the globe. Even the insurance industry is losing money and yet the Bushies wonít act. We insult everyoneís intelligence by spending more time on watering down the phrase than we do in acting on the threat itself. And then to cap it off, we allow the Saudis to scuttle any emerging consensus by employing a typical GOP victimology by demanding compensation for their planet-killing product, on top of the billions they have already extracted from poor countries for their oil.

Underused in the 2004 election, the environment will be a great issue to use against the GOP congressional candidates next year.

Steve :: 7:23 PM :: Comments (8) :: Digg It!