Bush breaks global-warming promise
By Sherry Wolf | April 13, 2001 | Page 17
WHO DO you trust more? George W. Bush or 2,500 of the world's leading scientists? If you're like most people who don't own an oil well or coal mine, you'd probably go with the scientists. They've concluded that governments must act now to halt global warming--caused by too much of some gases that trap heat in the earth's atmosphere.
The resulting increase in average temperatures could have devastating consequences. But Bush doesn't seem to care. His chums in the oil and energy industry donated $12.6 million to get him elected.
In exchange, Bush last month abandoned a campaign promise to impose a cap on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Bush tried to justify his reversal by whipping up fears about an energy shortage and potential job losses.
But there is no energy shortage. The rolling blackouts in California are the result of profiteering run amok from deregulation, not a lack of resources. Meanwhile, the oil giant Exxon-Mobil made record profits of $17.7 billion last year.
Nor is there any reason why capping greenhouse gas emissions and developing alternative energy sources should lead to job losses. On the contrary, tens of thousands of jobs would be created through the construction of mass transit systems that are clean, safe and accessible to all.
Cars emit carbon dioxide, which accounts for 63 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. But even maddening traffic jams and rising fuel costs won't get people to leave their cars at home until reliable mass transit is built. The government could transfer the $18 billion a year that currently goes toward subsidies for power companies to building a better transportation system.
A recent Time magazine/CNN news poll found that 75 percent of Americans are very concerned about drastic climate changes. Most want Bush to do something about reducing the emissions of gases that contribute to global warming, and 69 percent said the government gives in to big business when it comes to the environment. They're right.
The greed of the oil bosses lurks beneath Bush's desire to run a pipeline through untouched wilderness areas in Alaska--where less than a year's supply of oil for the U.S. lies. Even the overgrown size and poor fuel efficiency of most U.S. cars is the result of corporate greed. As Henry Ford II explained the industry's preference for big gas-guzzlers, "mini-cars make mini-profits."
Bush earned the contempt of governments around the world last month when he declared that the international treaty on global warming, negotiated in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, "is dead." The Kyoto treaty calls for very modest decreases in greenhouse gas emissions from the world's biggest polluters--only a 5 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2012.
The U.S., with only 4 percent of the world's population, is responsible for 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet Bush complains that Kyoto lets developing nations like India and China off the hook. This is nonsense.
If Bush applied his logic about tax cuts--those who pay the most taxes should get the biggest cuts--to global warming, then the U.S. would be responsible for the biggest reductions in emissions. But Dubya is conveniently inconsistent.
Bush has asked Vice President Dick Cheney to draw up an alternative to Kyoto. Among the suggestions that oil millionaire Cheney is throwing around is the expansion of nuclear power.
This "remedy" would be worse than the illness. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, "An accident at a U.S. nuclear power plant could kill more people than were killed by the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki."
There are real solutions that could be implemented today to halt global warming. State-of-the-art technology could be installed in all power stations to trap carbon dioxide emissions.
In addition to building a decent mass transit system, the billions wasted on tax breaks for utility companies could be spent to insulate office buildings and homes--conserving energy and reducing fuel bills. New homes and buildings could be constructed using renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. And auto companies could replace most cars, buses and trucks with fuel-cell vehicles that emit 70 percent less carbon dioxide and 99 percent less smog.
But the Bush administration and its corporate buddies aren't going to act unless they're forced to. We have to make the bosses pay to clean up the mess they created.
What are the causes of global warming?
GLOBAL WARMING refers to the rise in the earth's temperature resulting from an increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Energy from the sun warms the earth and its atmosphere.
Some of this energy is reflected back into space. But--like in a greenhouse--a part of the sun's heat is trapped by a delicate balance of carbon dioxide, methane and other gases which acts as an insulating layer. This natural phenomenon, known as the greenhouse effect, makes it possible for human beings, animals and plants to survive and flourish.
But if too much greenhouse gas is emitted into the atmosphere, then too much heat is trapped, and temperatures on the earth's surface and in the atmosphere rise. According to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the earth's temperature has risen by between 5 and 9 degrees since the last ice age 20,000 years ago.
But because of increased pollution, scientists estimate that temperatures will rise by between 3 and 10 degrees in the next 100 years. Such an unprecedented climatic change would lead to the spread of diseases like malaria to previously unaffected regions, to droughts and insect infestations and to flooding that would put coastal cities under water.