S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

US administration lags in climate change leadership

The Bush administration has been behind in efforts to safeguard people from the negative effects of global warming. It has dragged its feet, dismissed worldwide scientific findings and European Union leadership, and even lagged behind several individual states and U.S. business in calling for tightening green house gas emission standards. A newly "emboldened" Democratic congress, however, has begun to investigate this pattern.
House Committee hearings Monday revealed a White House pattern of opposition to scientists regarding climate change. C-SPAN (click: "House Hearing on Climate Change Reseach") carried the Full Oversight & Government Reform Committee (3/19/07) deliberation, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). Few Republicans attended, and those who did at times vigorously defended the administration. Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT) was more even-handed.
NASA scientist speaks out - "Hansen Attacks “Gagging” by White House" is the headline from the blog, Oil Change International. Dr. James Hansen pulled no punches as he defended his constitutional right to free speech about what his research on global warming revealed. To quote:
James Hansen, the Nasa scientist who first warned the US government about global warming, yesterday delivered a withering critique of the way the White House has “interfered” with climate scientists at the space agency.
In a detailed written testimony before the House of Representatives, Dr Hansen said that there had been creeping politicisation of climate change with the effect that the American public has been left confused about the science of global warming.
“Interference with communication of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career,” he says. “In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it has now”.
White House has used its blue pencil - A headline,"Material shows weakening of climate reports" from the (3/20/07) International Herald Tribune further explored what the House hearing revealed about the administration's long term efforts to cast doubt on the science of climate change. To quote from the article,
A House committee released documents Monday that showed hundreds of instances in which a White House official who was previously an oil industry lobbyist edited government climate reports to play up uncertainty of a human role in global warming or play down evidence of such a role.
. . . Democrats focused on fresh details that committee staff members had compiled showing how Cooney made hundreds of changes to government climate research plans and reports to Congress on climate that raised a sense of uncertainty about the science.
The documents "appear to portray a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of climate change," said a memorandum circulated by the Democrats under the committee chairman, Representative Henry Waxman of California.

Business: Set stricter standards - In an amazing turn of events, U.S. financiers are urging the administration to take a stronger leadership role in working with Congress and in setting stricter emission standards (see previous S/SW post, "EU Ahead of US on Climate Change.") Yesterday's headline reads,"US business lobbies for emissions cuts." To quote from a (3/19/07) Financial Times story,
Leading US financial investors joined some of the country’s largest ­companies on Monday and urged Capitol Hill to follow Europe by setting mandatory targets to reduce US carbon emissions.
. . . The group – Investors and Business for US Climate Action – includes the chief executives of Alcoa, BP America, DuPont, Sun Microsystems and PG&E Corp. It said Congress should also establish an economy-wide carbon price to stimulate the creation of a US cap-and-trade regime.
. . . Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives, recently said Congress would draft federal climate change legislation by July 4. However, last week John Dingell, the powerful chairman of the House energy committee, said the bill could take several months more to prepare. Tomorrow Mr Dingell’s committee will question Al Gore, the former vice-president. His documentary An Inconvenient Truth , which won two Oscars last month, has helped to turn US public opinion around on global warming over the past 12 months.
New Hampshire towns still leading the way - "Prediction: A binding carbon market in 7 years" is the (3/20/07) headline about by putting climate change on state and city agendas, as they did in 1983 with the issue of acid rain. The story comes from Environmental Economics, from which I quote,
. . . the Clean Air Act amendments of 1990 established the EPA's Acid Rain Program (the poster child for Cap'n Trade), S02 fell dramatically, regulation costs fell dramatically, cap-and-trade as innovative regulation become passe', cats slept with dogs, etc.
The European Union is ahead of the United States in calling for governmental leadership of energy policy - Germany holds the 2007 presidency of the EU, and Chancellor Angela Merkel is exercising strong leadership regarding the issues of global warming. Here is a recent headline that illustrates her current and upcoming initiatives: "EU agrees to bold deal on climate change." It comes from the (3/8/07) Financial Times in London. To quote,
European Union leaders clinched agreement on Friday on a bold long-term strategy for energy policy and climate change aimed at leading the world in the fight against global warming, diplomats said.
The deal setting binding targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energy sources, promoting energy efficiency and using biofuels laid down a challenge to the United States and other industrialised powers to follow suit.
. . . Although the deal will now be followed by difficult bargaining on how individual member states contribute to the overall target, it gives political ammunition to the EU to put pressure on the US to act as well. Ms Merkel will be raising the issue with President George W Bush when she hosts the Group of Eight summit on the German coast in June.

When "Pension funds argue in Washington for climate change regulations" (as the Hartford Courant story headlines today), people can assume that our current president might actually listen. But do not hold your breath that he will get out in front of the issue. He has been - and will likely remain - far behind, because of his ties with big oil, and because of willful ignorance about the subject of global warming. Notice I did not use the more politically correct term, "climate change."
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Kitchen Window Woman said...

What would we do without Henry Waxman? He seems to be everywhere at once. It seems also that hearings are everywhere and heads are starting to roll. I am so glad tosee the light of day break throug the Bush darkness. Maybe now we can hope a little.

Carol Gee said...

The congressman seems to be a kind of wonderful "nerd." But he is smart, tough and probably a huge workaholic.
I have little sympathy for all the discomfitted Republicans who have so little Minority grace.
Yes, KWW, I am hopeful and breathing easier. Thanks for your comment.