Bush stands by rejection of limits on gases blamed for global warming
November 6, 2004
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – President Bush is holding fast to his rejection of mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming, despite a fresh report from 300 scientists in the United States and seven other nations that shows Arctic temperatures are rising.
This week, a four-year study of the Arctic will document that the region is warming rapidly, affecting global climates.
Scientists project that industrial gases such as carbon dioxide will make the Arctic warmer still, which would raise the level of the seas and make the earth hotter. The world’s atmosphere now includes about 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide, compared with 280 parts per million in 1800, according to scientists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Kyoto international climate treaty last week, which puts it into effect early next year without U.S. participation. The treaty requires industrial nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases below 1990 levels.
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“President Bush strongly opposes any treaty or policy that would cause the loss of a single American job, let alone the nearly 5 million jobs Kyoto would have cost,” said James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Headed into his second term, Bush continues to believe he “made the right leadership choice” by repudiating the U.N.-sponsored pact negotiated in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, Connaughton said.
Former President Clinton’s vice president, Al Gore, negotiated the treaty for the United States and had a major role in its final form.
“Kyoto was a bad treaty for the United States,” said Mike Leavitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Leavitt added in an interview Friday that climate change is not an issue the administration dismisses. “I know that it is of importance to the president that we continue to make progress,” he said.
So far, Bush’s policy has amounted to spending a few billion dollars each year on research.
White House officials contend the drastic cuts in pollution that the treaty would have imposed on the United States would have cost nearly $400 billion and almost 5 million jobs. Many would have shifted to other countries that were not obligated to reduce their pollution levels, the Bush administration says.
Russia, by contrast, can increase its pollution substantially under the treaty with a positive rather than detrimental impact on its job market, the officials say.
From 1990 to 2002, U.S. greenhouse gases increased 13.1 percent while Russian greenhouse gases decreased 38.5 percent, partly because of shrinkage in its industrial base after the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the latest U.N. figures.
Global warming is a recurring theme that punctuated the start of Bush’s terms in office.
In March 2001 Bush broke his campaign promise to regulate carbon emissions and withdrew the United States from the Kyoto treaty, which seeks to slow global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Gore signed the treaty in 1997, but it never was ratified by the Republican-controlled Senate. Bush said it also should have included developing countries such as China and India, which are major polluters.
Achieving the treaty’s target will be difficult without participation by the United States, which accounted for 36 percent of the industrialized nations’ carbon dioxide emissions in 1990. Russia accounted for 17 percent.
Critics say Bush’s opposition is ironic because the treaty was modeled after the market-based U.S. program for cutting acid rain created in 1990 by Bush’s father and often pointed to by the current administration as a success story.
“Indeed, it would be very, very surprising if this instrument were not used by the people who invented it,” Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the Kenya-based U.N. Environment Program, said in an interview.
Annie Petsonk, a lawyer for New York-based Environmental Defense, a nonprofit group that says it is dedicated to protecting the environment, said the United States will be left isolated on the biggest environmental challenge of the century. She said the White House estimates of Kyoto’s costs do not appear to include the cost savings from trading pollution rights.
“For business, it’s quite serious because it means that the global carbon market is going to move, and U.S. companies are going to be left out of that market,” Petsonk said. She helped shape the Kyoto treaty and the first President Bush’s climate policy as a Justice Department lawyer.
By signing on to the treaty, industrialized nations commit themselves to cutting their collective emissions of carbon dioxide and five other greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.
The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is releasing a report this week that says there is strong evidence that climate change already has begun to affect ecosystems and wildlife in the United States and around the world.
Some animal species are already moving from one habitat to another to adapt to warmer temperatures, according to the Pew report, and future warming probably will exceed the ability of many species to migrate or adjust.
On the Net:
White House Council on Environmental Quality: http://www.whitehouse.gov/ceq
U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change: http://unfccc.int/2860.php