Bush burned by climate report
By Henry Lamb
web posted June 10, 2002
Despite a flurry of media reports to the contrary, the Bush
administration's policy on climate change has not flip-flopped.
The media frenzy followed the release of a U.S. Climate
Assessment Report prepared for the U.N. Framework
Convention on Climate Change.
The massive report,
the third submitted by the U.S., is required periodically from
nations that ratified the Convention on Climate Change, even
though the U.S. has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol. There
is very little difference between this report, and previous reports
issued by the Clinton/Gore administration.
Most of the individuals who prepared the report are hold-overs
from the Clinton/Gore era, who are known proponents of the
global warming theory. It is also widely known that some of
Bush's high level appointments are also proponents of the theory,
even though Bush, himself, has expressed strong reservations.
Release of the report was not intended to be an announcement
of a change in policy; it was simply compliance with treaty
It was the media, fanned by a few environmental extremists, that
found statements in the report that differ from Bush's previous
statements on global warming, and announced a 180-degree flip-
flop on the issue.
Whether the inconsistent language in the report simply escaped
the notice of White House reviewers, or was deliberately
allowed, is, or should be, a major concern to George Bush. The
flap arising from the report's release has been costly.
Conservative supporters are appalled by reports that Bush has
flip-flopped on this important issue. Environmental extremists
ridicule the administration for not imposing mandatory emissions
reductions required by the Kyoto Protocol, after issuing a report
that subscribes to the theory that human activity is causing global
Yes, President Bush is preoccupied by a war on terrorism,
continuing violence in Israel, and the threat of a nuclear exchange
between India and Pakistan. But someone in his administration
should have a better handle on the information released to the
world in the President's name.
The draft report was released more than a year ago for public
comment. There was
plenty of comment. The report's dire predictions were
lambasted by scientists, and by others who challenged the
scientific basis for the report's conclusions.
The release of this report does not signal a dramatic change in
the President's global warming policy; it does, however, reveal
an unacceptable failure by the President's advisors, who allowed
the report to contain language that is inconsistent with the
President's position and policy.
The President is walking on an extremely thin political high-wire
on all environmental issues. On the one hand, environmental
extremists charge that he is trying to roll-back the "gains" made
during the Clinton/Gore administration. On the other hand, his
conservative base charges that he has not moved decisively to
undo the excessive restrictions imposed by his predecessors.
Public policies designed to appease everyone, satisfy no one.
Bush's global warming policy, as ill-defined as it may be, rejects
the unfounded, hyperbolic claims of catastrophic climate
calamity. His policy recognizes that the climate is changing, as it
has done throughout the history of the world. His policy favors
voluntary action, and adaptive, free-market alternatives, instead
of reactionary global government mandates.
This policy is expressed in the U.S. Climate Assessment Report
to the U.N., but media coverage has ignored, or minimized this
position, in order to exploit the inconsistent language which
suggests a policy flip-flop. Mr. Bush must realize that there are
hold-overs in his government who do not agree with his
environmental policy, and some who are eager to see him
replaced by a more environmentally-sensitive Democrat.
The American people, and the international community, deserve
a statement of policy on climate change, and environmental
issues, that is as clear as the Bush position on the International
Criminal Court, global taxation, or on international terrorism.
Bush's popularity arises from the character on which his policy
positions are founded, and the clarity with which they are
expressed. Confusion on climate change, land and resource use,
or any other social or environmental issues will only empower his
opponents and discourage his supporters.
What America, and the world needs, is strong leadership,
unaffected by media hype or extremists' propaganda. We have
seen glimpses of that leadership, but screw-ups, such as the
release of the Climate Report not only tarnish the President's
image, but also create doubt and suspicions about his ability to
control the people around him.
Mr. Bush, please fix this problem!
Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental
Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty
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