President Bush rejected an international treaty outlining limits on greenhouse gases, leaving other industrialized nations to address the looming problem without the help of the United States, the world's fattest gas hog.
But somehow, that wasn't enough. Not only does the president refuse to help other nations address what they — and the emerging scientific consensus — see as a dire worldwide threat. Bush also wants to keep them from taking action as mild as getting together and issuing a report.
Last weekend in Buenos Aires, a U.N.-brokered conference addressed the Kyoto protocol on global warming. The Kyoto pact, signed by 132 countries (but not the United States), goes into effect on Feb. 16. The protocol requires signatory nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to below 1990 levels by 2012.
The meeting in Argentina was designed to help signatory nations assess their progress in reducing the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases known to trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere. The increase in such gases has coincided with a gradual rise in world temperatures.
Global warming is a scientifically verifiable fact. The human contribution to that trend has been questioned. But more and more data show that human-generated greenhouse gases are, in fact, helping to change the world's climate. And we ignore these trends at our peril.
Just last month, for instance, researchers commissioned by the United States and seven other nations released the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment. The report, based on the work of 300 scientists, noted that the Arctic is experiencing "some of the most rapid and severe climate change on Earth." Ice caps are receding, threatening the environment of the Arctic and elsewhere.
"Strong near-term action to reduce emissions is required in order to alter the future path of human-induced warming," the report concluded.
Yet last week in Buenos Aires, Paula Dobriansky, U.S. undersecretary of state for global affairs, reflected no such alarm. "Science tells us that we cannot say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided."
Meanwhile, Dobriansky repeated the Bush administration's pledge to reduce "greenhouse-gas intensity," which is per-capita emissions divided by the gross domestic product. Reducing the greenhouse "intensity" does not reduce actual emissions. On the contrary, the United States will emit more greenhouse gases under the Bush plan that it would have emitted by simply enforcing the Clean Air Act.
Once again, the president proposes to do one thing (increase emissions) while pretending to do the opposite (reduce greenhouse "intensity").
In Buenos Aires, the president added injury to this insult. The meeting ended with only a meek, weak vow among nations to start informal discussions on global warming. Members of the European Union, which produces a small fraction of the per-capita emissions of the United States, had hoped that U.N. members could arrange seminars and produce reports on global warming.
But the United States insisted that "there shall be no written or oral report" from any international seminar organized under the U.N. Convention on Climate Change.
This is another hallmark tactic of the president. It's not just that the Bush team sets the world's agenda; it also stifles dissenting views.
© 2004 Daily Camera