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Bush on Global Warming: Decider or Dissembler?

President Offers Weak Goal and No Plan to Address Global Warming

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WASHINGTON, DC – April 16, 2008 – President George W. Bush once famously declared: “I'm the decider, and I decide what's best.” But when it comes to environmental issues, especially global warming, Bush often sounds more like the dissembler than the decider.

Throughout his presidency, Bush’s so-called leadership on global climate change has lurched from outright stonewalling in the early years, when he refused to discuss or even acknowledge the issue, to misdirection and political sleight-of-hand. Today was no different.

Bush Offers Inadequate Goal, No Plan to Fight Global Warming
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden on the eve of an international meeting in Paris to consider new climate change strategies, the president set what he called a “realistic” national goal to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.

Unfortunately, the president offered no actual plan for achieving the new goal, instead calling on Congress to find some way to make it happen. More to the point, the goal itself falls far short of what many scientists believe must be done to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming, which is to reduce total greenhouse gas emissions at least 15-20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050, not simply to stop emissions from increasing.

Bush Highlights Technology as Global Warming Solution
Bush reiterated his belief that it is possible to protect the environment without hurting the economy, and said any new policies or legislation must strike that balance. Bush said advanced technology was the key to solving global warming and recommended incentives that would make it more cost-effective for businesses to adopt new clean-energy technology instead of sticking with old systems that emit more greenhouse gases. Again, he offered no plan for how to get the job done.

Highlights from President Bush’s address on global warming:

  • Bush praised his administration for increasing the use of wind and solar power and called for continuing investments in renewable energy and carbon sequestration, but he pointed to nuclear energy and coal—including so-called “clean coal”—as the keys to America’s “energy and economic security.”

  • The president said his administration has provided “billions of dollars for next generation nuclear energy technologies” and “in 2009 alone, the government and the private sector plan to dedicate nearly a billion dollars to clean coal research and development.”

  • Bush criticized U.S. courts for applying what he considers narrow and outdated laws to a broad issue such as global warming. Specifically, he said “the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate.” He took a slap at the U.S. Supreme Court decision that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

  • The president said stretching environment laws “beyond their original intent” could force the federal government to act like a local planning and zoning board and to regulate a wide range of small energy users and producers—from schools and stores to hospitals and apartment buildings—which he said would have “crippling effects on our entire economy.”

  • In discussing various vague strategies that might help fight global warming, the president rejected tax increases, tariffs, trade barriers, and regulations that might lead to higher costs for businesses. Instead, Bush recommended creation of an international clean technology fund “that will help finance low-emissions energy projects in the developing world” and called on all nations “to help spark a global clean energy revolution by agreeing immediately to eliminate trade barriers on clean energy goods and services.”
Bush Global Warming Goal Fails to Impress or Inspire
Many concerned observers were unimpressed with the president’s new strategy to address the problems of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

"Unfortunately, President Bush retains the mantle of the most anti-environmental president in history," said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters, in a telephone interview with The Guardian. Karpinski pointed out that Bush's 2000 presidential campaign promise to cap global warming pollution from power plants was never honored. "Since that time, all we've had is empty words but no serious action."

"This basically sounds like the same quarterback calling the same play," said Daniel J. Weiss, director of climate strategy at the Center for American Progress, in an interview with the Washington Post. "It's just another way of Bush saying no."

President Bush concluded his global warming address by saying: “The strategy I have laid out today shows faith in the ingenuity and enterprise of the American people—and that's a resource that will never run out. I'm confident that with sensible and balanced policies from Washington, American innovators and entrepreneurs will pioneer a new generation of technology that improves our environment, strengthens our economy, and continues to amaze the world.”

Let’s hope so, because the only amazing thing about the president’s new strategy for greenhouse gas emissions and global warming is its lack of any real effort to address such serious problems.

Read the full text of President Bush’s global warming address.

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