Thursday, June 07, 2007

A More Convenient Truth

The Bush II administration appears to be undergoing a volte-face on climate change policy as unexpected for its substance as for its suddenness. The first signs of thaw occurred in December, when the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service proposed listing the Polar Bear under the Endangered Species Act due to the melting of its arctic habitat. Soon after, Bush II alluded to climate change in his State of the Union address. Perhaps prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's remarkable 2007 decision, Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, on the Environmental Protection Agency's responsibilities to regulate carbon dioxide under the Clean Air Act, not to mention pressure not to be the only dog in the climate manger at this week's G8 Summit, Bush II committed the United States to the fight against global climate change a week ago, albeit outside the United Nations framework. Now, having been cajoled by his best European allies, Angela Merkel and Tony Blair, Bush II has agreed to a G8 Summit Declaration containing a rather robust consensus statement on the need for significant action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future, likely within the United Nations framework:

49. We are therefore committed to taking strong and early action to tackle climate change in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Taking into account the scientific knowledge as represented in the recent IPCC reports, global greenhouse gas emissions must stop rising, followed by substantial global emission reductions. In setting a global goal for emissions reductions in the process we have agreed today involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050. We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour.

Most remarkable are the commitments to (1) "strong and early stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations" and (2) "consider least a halving of global emissions by 2050."

These could become heady days for those who have long urged the United States government to admit and address the threats of global climate change, though words are obviously no substitute for action. Surprisingly, it appears that the climate change issue is far less of an inconvenient truth for Bush II than previously assumed.


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