It's the Environment, Stupid

To really understand just how out of balance American environmental policy has gotten, you need only compare the current President Bush with his father. Bush the elder was no Green, but when he was running for president in 1988, shortly after the United States had gotten its first warnings from scientists about global warming, he declared he would "fight the greenhouse effect with the White House effect." As he was campaigning in 1992, he went to Rio de Janeiro for the Earth Summit (grudgingly, but he went) and there signed the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the precursor to the Kyoto accords. To top it off, he said the United States would by the year 2000 reduce its carbon emissions back to 1990 levels.

Now consider the son. Within weeks of taking office, he torpedoed the Kyoto treaty. And when his EPA prepared its periodic report to the U.N. on global warming, a document required by the convention his father had initialed in Rio, Bush sneeringly dismissed it as a product of "the bureaucracy." His new energy plan calls for increasing greenhouse gas emissions 43 percent over the next few decades.

And here's the weird part: When Bush the elder made his moves, global warming was still an infant science. He was reacting to a hotly debated hypothesis. By now, the science is as stone-cold solid as could be—it's the planet that's gotten hot, with nine of the 10 warmest years on record in the last decade. It's as if we'd gone to war to save Ethiopia from Mussolini in the '30s and then taken a pass on Pearl Harbor.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 2002
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