The Environmental Protection Agency released in June a report on global climate change that contradicts public statements on the subject made by President George W. Bush. The agency’s report claims to have found evidence that human activity is having a significant warming effect on the global climate.
The new position was staked out, with no fanfare or public statement, in a document titled Climate Action Report 2002, directed to the United Nations. The President distanced himself from the report after he came under heavy fire for his apparent flip-flop on the issue.
“I read the report put out by the bureaucracy,” Bush told reporters on June 4. “The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States’s economy, and I don’t accept that.” Presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer assured reporters the President still believes there is “considerable uncertainty” regarding the causes of global warming.
EPA at odds with Senate
The new EPA report is at odds with the U.S. Senate, which opted to reject the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 by a unanimous 95-0 vote. With the science of global warming uncertain and the U.S. destined to bear the brunt of future restrictions on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, the Senate demanded significant changes in the Protocol before it would consider ratification. Most notably, the Senate objected to the Protocol’s:
- failure to give nations credit for emissions-capturing forests and other carbon “sinks;”
- refusal to allow nations to trade emissions credits;
- designation of 1990 as the base year for emissions calculations;
- failure to apply to China, India, or other leading greenhouse gas emitters; and
- strict and legally binding enforcement provisions.
In March 2001, Bush notified Kyoto delegates the U.S. was withdrawing from the Protocol based on the above concerns, as well as concerns regarding the uncertain scientific case for global warming and the Protocol’s potentially devastating effects on the U.S. economy. Bush pledged the U.S. would undertake further research into global warming issues and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under a more flexible and economically rational framework.
As recently as February 2002, when the Bush administration announced a series of voluntary programs to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, the President publicly stood by the view, shared by many prominent atmospheric scientists, that science has failed to discover a link between human activity and global temperatures.
In the Climate Action Report, however, EPA paints a daunting panorama of environmental harms that will result from human-induced global warming. Temperatures rise between 5 and 9 degrees Fahrenheit in the twenty-first century. Sea levels rise, consuming coral reefs, barrier islands, and coastal wetlands. Water supplies dry up, as there is less snowpack to melt each spring. Rocky Mountain meadows disappear. Forest regions see wholesale shifts in species population and growth patterns. Droughts consistently afflict the western U.S. Tropical storms gain ferocity and inflict great flooding catastrophes on the East Coast.
Experts criticize report
Patrick Michaels, professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia, observed that the Bush report’s regional analysis on the future effects of global warming was taken from a faulty assessment previously put forward by the Clinton administration. The regional assessment, according to Michaels, “was based on two climate models that performed worse than a table of random numbers when applied to U.S. temperatures over the past 100 years.”
Instead of fictitious horror stories about disappearing Rocky Mountain meadows, the actual result of a carbon dioxide-enhanced world this past century has been highly desirable, Michaels points out. “Over the last century, life span has doubled and crop yields have quintupled. We’ve had unprecedented democratization of wealth. So how important is this issue really?”
“Here are the scientific facts,” added Sallie Baliunas, deputy director of Mount Wilson Observatory and an astrophysicist for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “The key layers of air, from one to five miles high, show no human-made global warming trend. Global warming at the surface is largely, if not entirely, natural. Therefore Kyoto-like greenhouse gas emission cuts will not affect surface warming.”
James K. Glassman, host of TechCentral Station, noted that even global warming alarmists admit the Earth has warmed at most a mere 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past century. While the theory of global warming is uncertain, observed Glassman, the real-life costs of cutting greenhouse gas emissions are undeniable. Such costs could easily run more than $300 billion a year, he noted.
“Now, as a result of the new report, which was sent to the United Nations,” stated Glassman, “the stage is set for an inevitable government-run program to cut carbon-dioxide emissions by cutting energy use. And cutting energy use means reducing the rate of economic growth. There is no other way.
“By accepting the basic premise of extreme environmentalists, the President will ultimately be forced to accept the major content of the same treaty that he rejected a little over a year ago as ‘fatally flawed’: the Kyoto Protocol, signed by then-Vice President Al Gore in 1997 but never ratified by the U.S. Senate, which instead rejected it before signing by a 95-0 vote.”
Greens also unhappy
As if taking their cue from Glassman, environmental activist groups criticized both the President’s earlier delay in accepting their global warming theory and his continuing failure to adopt the full range of their command-and-control solutions.
According to Debbie Boger, a spokesperson for the Sierra Club, it is “irresponsible for the Bush administration to issue this report saying that global warming will have serious consequences and then turn around and refuse to find a solution to it.”
“It’s significant to see an official publication of the Bush administration recognize how serious the global warming problem is,” added David Donniger, climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “but I don’t see any indication that the higher levels have absorbed what this means. … The government’s mouth speaks, and the ears don’t hear.”
“What the report is missing,” Donniger continued, “is any commitment from the U.S. to change its path of ever-growing emissions. One always hopes they’ll wake up and smell the carbon, but I don’t see any sign of it.”
Taking the base for granted?
While the President attempted to distance himself from the EPA report, many political analysts warned he may have irreversibly and unnecessarily alienated his political base.
“Bush’s base is becoming demoralized,” mused Glassman. “No, hard-core Republicans won’t vote for a Democrat for President, but if Bush gives up on principles, they won’t campaign hard for his re-election either. …
“Will environmentalists be won over by the President’s about-face on Kyoto? Hardly. In fact, after effectively silencing them with his strong stand, he has now energized them. Will voters on the fence be drawn to Bush now that he has flip-flopped on Kyoto? I doubt it. Bush’s greatest asset was his self-confidence, his strong advocacy of principle, his almost ingenuous belief (like Reagan) in doing the right thing. By going wobbly, he impresses no one.”
“He was better off running as an underdog. Back then all he knew was what he believed in. That’s the kind of President Americans want.”
“Whether it was sloppy language, a runaway EPA, or truly a change in position, you’d think the Administration would know better than to hand the green lobby such an easy target,” concluded the Wall Street Journal. “EPA boss Christie Whitman sure has a knack for blind-siding her boss.”
Summarized conservative radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, “What’s left of the conservative agenda that has not been offered up to Democrats? … George W. Algore, anyone?”