Thursday :: Mar 6, 2008

On Which Planet?


by Turkana

As reported by Think Progress, Bush on climate change:

Now, look, I understand stereotypes are hard to defeat. People get an image planted in their head, and sometimes it causes them not to listen to the facts. But America is in the lead when it comes to energy independence; we’re in the lead when it comes to new technologies; we’re in the lead when it comes to global climate change — and we’ll stay that way.

(h/t Plutonium Page)

A brief review...

A strong start

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.

A second term and a second chance

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.

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.

And there was 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, last summer:

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.

As Tim Dickinson wrote in 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.

Even our greatest national museum is now doing its part. From the Washington Post, in November:

Some government scientists have complained that officials at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History took steps to downplay global warming in a 2006 exhibit on the Arctic to avoid a political backlash, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

The museum's director, Cristián Samper, ordered last-minute changes to the exhibit's script to add "scientific uncertainty" about climate change, according to internal documents and correspondence.

Scientists at other agencies collaborating on the project expressed in e-mails their belief that Smithsonian officials acted to avoid criticism from congressional appropriators and global-warming skeptics in the Bush administration. But Samper said in an interview last week that "there was no political pressure -- not from me, not from anyone."

Samper put the project on hold for six months in the fall of 2005 and ordered that the exhibition undergo further review by higher-level officials in other government agencies. Samper also asked for changes in the script and the sequence of the exhibit's panels to move the discussion of recent climate change further back in the presentation, records also show. The exhibit opened in April 2006 and closed in November of that year.

One last effort: Bali

And then there was the Bali conference, at which the Bush Administration worked very hard to ensure nothing would be done.

In December, Spiegel Online reported that Bush was looking for allies who would help him scuttle any deal:

In recent official statements, Washington has indicated it might be looking for a compromise during negotiations in Bali for a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. But sources say the White House is discreetly searching for partners in Beijing and Dehli to derail the prospects for any binding agreements to curb emissions of greenhouse gases.

In the run-up to the Bali Climate Conference that opened Monday, the administration of US President George W. Bush established contact with representatives of the Chinese and Indian governments in an attempt to curb progress on climate protection initiatives, SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned from a source familiar with the White House's Bali strategy.

According to the source, Washington is hoping that the two greenhouse gas emitters will openly declare during the conference that they are unwilling to accept any binding limits on emissions of greenhouse gases -- at least not as long as the US is unwilling to do more or if the Western industrial nations do not provide them with more financial aid for climate protection initiatives. If successful, the US could use the tactic to prevent itself from becoming an isolated scapegoat if negotiations in Bali end in a stalemate.

"Bush's people don't want to make any real progress in the next two weeks," one Washington insider said. "But they also don't want to be severely criticized internationally again. So now the White House is seeking discreet ways of preventing binding limits on emissions."

And the Administration wasted little time in proving it. Also from Spiegel Online:

It sounds good -- at first. The US says it wants to be part of a climate treaty and looks forward to a new chapter in climate policy. But a closer look reveals that Washington continues to torpedo any concrete agreement.

The Man Who Should Be President was bluntly honest:

I am not an official of the United States and am not bound by the diplomatic niceties. So I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that.

Of course, in the end, a much-touted deal was made. As Spiegel Online reported:

The last-minute deal came on Saturday after the US delegation made a U-turn in a final negotiating session. The US had opposed a proposal by the G77 bloc, which represents developing countries, for rich nations to do more to help the developing world combat increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

That's it. The ostensible leader of the free world gave up its opposition to helping the developing world. Wow.

But, as the New York Times explained:

In all of this, the Bush administration did not, in the end, have to shift overall from its most staunchly defended goal, which was that it would only agree to a comprehensive new accord that maintained flexibility, allowing nations to agree on a rough goal for global emissions, but using any mix of means at the national level to get there.

So, the Bush Administration made the supreme sacrifice of agreeing to help developing countries, but they got to keep their number one goal: to do nothing.

The Times continued:

However the roadmap does not include the firm emission reduction targets which the European Union and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had been demanding, although it does state that emission cuts are necessary. Environmental groups and some delegates criticized the draft for not going further, describing it as a missed opportunity.

So, they agreed to say that emissions are bad. Not that they're going to mandate actually doing anything about it, but they're saying that they're bad. That's what was accomplished in Bali.

And:

Under the roadmap approved at the Bali summit, nations will hold a two-year series of talks to negotiate a new treaty which will succeed the Kyoto Protocol after it expires in 2012. According to the plan, the successor treaty will be adopted at a UN climate conference in Copenhagen in late 2009.

Oh, good. They'll hold more talks. Probably in similarly exotic paradise vacation spots. Great work!

The Guardian:

The Bali agreement will trigger two years of intense negotiations over how to prevent a likely 4C rise in global temperatures this century. The rise would threaten the food and water supplies of billions of people, and drive thousands of species to extinction.

Yep. Better talk about it for another two years. That's showing the leadership and the sense of urgency!

One of the last passages to be agreed, concerning targets for carbon reductions by rich countries, has in recent days proved the major obstacle to consensus.

In a move that was widely expected, Europe was reported tonight to have dropped its demands for a 25%-40% cut on 1990 levels by 2020, a proposal that was bitterly opposed by the US.

Bitterly opposed. Yes, Bush is in the lead. In making sure that nothing is done.

One small quote, tucked into this Reuters article, gets it right:

"At the end of the day, we got an extremely weak agreement," said Sunita Narain, head of the Centre for Science and the Environment in New Delhi. "It's obvious the U.S. is not learning to be alive to world opinion."

There is more. There is much more. Bush the leader. Or something.

Turkana :: 6:35 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!