Monday :: Dec 10, 2007

Bush and Climate Change: A Catalogue of Failure


by Turkana

It should come as no surprise that the Bush Administration and China are undermining the Bali climate conference, by opposing caps on greenhouse gas emissions; Spiegel Online had reported, a week ago, that Bush was already quietly looking for partners to help him scuttle any deal. It should therefore, also come as no surprise that Bush has now given us something new to celebrate. More international recognition of our status as world leaders. Our Cheerleader-in-Chief must be so proud!

As Spiegel Online reports:

Traditionally, environmentalists have reserved the majority of their climate-related bile for those countries belching the most greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But with the world gathered in Bali this week (more...) to figure out a way to combat climate change, the annual Climate Change Performance Index, released on Friday, once again reminds us that other factors should be taken into account.

When government policy and long-term trends are considered, Germany rises all the way to second place on the list, which ranked the biggest emissions offenders in the industrialized world -- meanwhile, weak policies in the US are only enough to lift it from last place to second-to-last.

Second worst in the world at addressing climate change! This, according to Germanwatch, which used data from the International Energy Agency to evaluate "the climate-protection performance of 56 industrialized nations that account for 90 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions."

Sweden's the best. The only industrialized nation worse than the U.S. is Saudi Arabia.

A country's commitment to combating climate change is assessed on a weighted scale that considers emissions (50 percent of a country's score), the upward or downward trend of total emissions (30 percent), and the strength of its governmental climate policies (20 percent).

This is a ranking the Bush Administration has worked hard to help our nation attain. Bush clearly wants to do everything in his power to make global warming worse. A short list of his administration's efforts:

Just two months into his first term, CBS News reported:

The White House said Wednesday that President Bush would not implement the climate treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, but would seek an alternative that would "include the world" in the effort to reduce pollution.

That April, Business Week reminded that:

In mid-March, George W. Bush made a stunning reversal of a campaign pledge to limit emissions of carbon dioxide, a culprit in global warming--and immediately found himself on the hot seat. Predictably, environmental groups are mobilizing to flood the White House with letters demanding that Bush stick to his promise. Bush may pay little attention to them, but in the weeks to come he will face pressure from others who will be much tougher to ignore.

It will come from European leaders, CEOs who favor action on global warming, and members of his own party in Congress.

But, of course, he did ignore them. And his alternative "strategy" was play-acting. The honor system. As New Scientist reported, in February 2002:

George W Bush unveiled the details of his alternative strategy for halting global warming in an address to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday.

He made no promises to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, but instead set a national target of reducing by 18 per cent the amount of greenhouse gases the country produces for every unit of GDP.

Targets without promises. Toothless. Worthless. And he continued to deny the very existence of human-caused global warming. From CBS News, in June 2003:

President Bush dismissed on Tuesday a report put out by his administration warning that human activities are behind climate change that is having significant effects on the environment.

The report released by the Environmental Protection Agency was a surprising endorsement of what many scientists and weather experts have long argued — that human activities such as oil refining, power plants and automobile emissions are important causes of global warming.

But it suggests nothing beyond voluntary action by industry for dealing with the so-called "greenhouse" gases, the program Bush advocated in rejecting a treaty negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 calling for mandatory reduction of those gases by industrial nations.

"I read the report put out by the bureaucracy," Mr. Bush said dismissively when asked about the EPA report, adding that he still opposes the Kyoto treaty.

How clever and snide: "the bureaucracy." Those damn bureaucrats just don't have the special understanding that the Decider has.

By the late stages of the 2004 presidential campaign, Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski was writing:

Don't expect President Bush to discuss global warming -- the world's most serious environmental problem -- on the campaign trail in the next eight weeks. The former oilman from Texas doesn't dare alienate his friends in the fossil fuel and auto industries, prime purveyors of global warming. Bush still refuses to admit that burning Chevron with Techron in our Jeep Grand Cherokees, not to mention megatons of coal in our power plants, has brought us 19 of the 20 hottest years on record since 1980.

"You're talking about a president who says that the jury is out on evolution, so what possible evidence would you need to muster to prove the existence of global warming?" says Robert F. Kennedy Jr., author of the new book "Crimes Against Nature." "We've got polar ice caps melting, glaciers disappearing all over the world, ocean levels rising, coral reefs dying. But these people are flat-earthers."

In fact, Bush's see-no-evil, hear-no-evil stance on global warming is so intractable that even when his own administration's scientists weigh in on the issue, he simply won't hear of it.

Because he doesn't want to hear. As Think Progress noted, in March 2006:

During a speech today, President Bush said “First of all, the globe is warming. The fundamental debate — is it manmade or natural?” Actually, that’s no longer a debate, at least among the overwhelming majority of scientists.

Yes, those annoying scientists. There's only one way to deal with scientists who disagree with the party line. From the New York Times, in June 2005:

A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.

The dozens of changes, while sometimes as subtle as the insertion of the phrase "significant and fundamental" before the word "uncertainties," tend to produce an air of doubt about findings that most climate experts say are robust.

And there's also this, as the Boston Globe reported, in June 2006:

NASA is canceling or delaying a number of satellites designed to give scientists critical information on the earth's changing climate and environment.

The space agency has shelved a $200 million satellite mission headed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor that was designed to measure soil moisture -- a key factor in helping scientists understand the impact of global warming and predict droughts and floods. The Deep Space Climate Observatory, intended to observe climate factors such as solar radiation, ozone, clouds, and water vapor more comprehensively than existing satellites, also has been canceled.

And in its 2007 budget, NASA proposes significant delays in a global precipitation measuring mission to help with weather predictions, as well as the launch of a satellite designed to increase the timeliness and accuracy of severe weather forecasts and improve climate models.

The changes come as NASA prioritizes its budget to pay for completion of the International Space Station and the return of astronauts to the moon by 2020 -- a goal set by President Bush that promises a more distant and arguably less practical scientific payoff. Ultimately, scientists say, the delays and cancellations could make hurricane predictions less accurate, create gaps in long-term monitoring of weather, and result in less clarity about the earth's hydrological systems, which play an integral part in climate change.

And then, there's the politics. When the Times of London reported on the new United Nations' IPCC climate report, in April of this year, this was what they had to say about the Bush Administration's role:

The report's accompanying summary was agreed this morning after experts and officials wrapped up a week of talks in Brussels with a marathon 24-hour negotiating session. Delegates said that the United States, China and Saudi Arabia provoked charges of political interference by objecting to the scientists' tough wording.

Some scientists even vowed never to take part in the process again. “The authors lost,” said one, who did not want to be named because the process is confidential. “A lot of authors are not going to engage in the IPCC process anymore. I have had it with them.”

And then, just weeks later, the Guardian reported that Bush was also undermining G-8 efforts to address global warming:

The US has rejected any prospect of a deal on climate change at the G8 summit in Germany next month, according to a leaked document.

Despite Tony Blair's declaration on Thursday that Washington would sign up to "at least the beginnings" of action to cut carbon emissions, a note attached to a draft document circulated by Germany says the US is "fundamentally opposed" to the proposals.

The note, written in red ink, says the deal "runs counter to our overall position and crosses multiple 'red lines' in terms of what we simply cannot agree to".

And, of course, the Associated Press reported, just last month:

The Bush administration is drastically scaling back efforts to measure global warming from space, just as the president tries to convince the world the U.S. is ready to take the lead in reducing greenhouse gases,

A confidential report to the White House, obtained by The Associated Press, warns that U.S. scientists will soon lose much of their ability to monitor warming from space using a costly and problem-plagued satellite initiative begun more than a decade ago.

In September, Bush was again infuriating world leaders, when he undermined his own faux climate conference. The Guardian reported:

George Bush was castigated by European diplomats and found himself isolated yesterday after a special conference on climate change ended without any progress.

European ministers, diplomats and officials attending the Washington conference were scathing, particularly in private, over Mr Bush's failure once again to commit to binding action on climate change.

The issue, as usual, was mandatory emissions caps. Even our closest ally, Britain, was infuriated.

The conference, attended by more than 20 countries, including China, India, Britain, France and Germany, broke up with the US isolated, according to non-Americans attending. One of those present said even China and India, two of the biggest polluters, accepted that the voluntary approach proposed by the US was untenable and favoured binding measures, even though they disagreed with the Europeans over how this would be achieved.

A senior European diplomat attending the conference, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the meeting confirmed European suspicions that it had been intended by Mr Bush as a spoiler for a major UN conference on climate change in Bali in December.

And, in October, the Associated Press reported:

The White House severely edited congressional testimony given Tuesday by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the impact of climate change on health, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks, according to two sources familiar with the documents.

Corporate media critics deride us for our unapologetic animosity towards the Bush Administration. They disingenuously ask why we are so angry. There are many reasons, but this, alone, is more than enough. As Tim Dickinson wrote in a recent issue of Rolling Stone:

Earlier this year, the world's top climate scientists released a definitive report on global warming. It is now "unequivocal," they concluded, that the planet is heating up. Humans are directly responsible for the planetary heat wave, and only by taking immediate action can the world avert a climate catastrophe. Megadroughts, raging wildfires, decimated forests, dengue fever, legions of Katrinas - unless humans act now to curb our climate-warming pollution, warned the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, "we are in deep trouble."

You would think, in the wake of such stark and conclusive findings, that the White House would at least offer some small gesture to signal its concern about the impending crisis. It's not every day, after all, that the leading scientists from 120 nations come together and agree that the entire planet is about to go to hell. But the Bush administration has never felt bound by the reality-based nature of science - especially when it comes from international experts. So after the report became public in February, Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to offer his own, competing assessment of global warming.

"We're going to see a big debate on it going forward," Cheney told ABC News, about "the extent to which it is part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man." What we know today, he added, is "not enough to just sort of run out and try to slap together some policy that's going to 'solve' the problem."...

Cheney's statements were the latest move in the Bush administration's ongoing strategy to block federal action on global warming. It is no secret that industry-connected appointees within the White House have worked actively to distort the findings of federal climate scientists, playing down the threat of climate change. But a new investigation by Rolling Stone reveals that those distortions were sanctioned at the highest levels of our government, in a policy formulated by the vice president, implemented by the White House Council on Environmental Quality and enforced by none other than Karl Rove. An examination of thousands of pages of internal documents that the White House has been forced to relinquish under the Freedom of Information Act - as well as interviews with more than a dozen current and former administration scientists and climate-policy officials - confirms that the White House has implemented an industry-formulated disinformation campaign designed to actively mislead the American public on global warming and to forestall limits on climate polluters.

There is more. There is much more. There is not, however, much more time.

Turkana :: 11:24 AM :: Comments (9) :: Digg It!