Thoughts on Bush’s latest speech on climate change
The whole media world is in a frenzy, yet again, over a Bush speech on climate change. A new strategy! An effort to secure a legacy! Exciting new principles and goals! Even my own bosses are pressing me to come up with a thoughtful reaction.
I hate to be the party-pooper. But we’ve been here before. How many times does Lucy expect us to try to kick this football?
Here are the three things you need to know about Bush’s speech — the same three things you needed to know about his previous speeches on the subject:
- Bush’s speech is not meant to advance serious efforts to address climate change, but to thwart the efforts of others. This has been true of all three speeches he’s given — see Dan Froomkin on this. This time around, it’s meant to thwart Congressional Democrats, who show every sign of being on the verge of passing a carbon cap-and-trade bill.
- The targets Bush does announce would doom the planet. Last time around it was improving the "carbon intensity" of the economy — that is, releasing less CO2 per unit of GDP, even though total CO2 would continue rising. This time around, it’s "halting the growth" of U.S. emissions by 2025. By way of contrast, international folks are pushing for a peak in global emissions by 2020. If U.S. emissions keep rising until 2025 — and that’s what Bush is calling for, rising CO2 emissions for another 17 years — efforts to keep global CO2 levels below 450ppm, or even 550ppm, are futile, and unthinkable human misery lies on the horizon.
- The Republican Party will not accept even the weak initiatives Bush lays out. This piece in Roll Call ($ub. req’d) tells the story:
Years after President Bush torpedoed the Kyoto global warming treaty, he is expected to outline principles this afternoon for passing legislation to reduce carbon emissions, but it’s unclear how much support he will find among Congressional Republicans.
For those who care about the details, I’ll address specific parts of the speech beneath the fold.
In 2002, I announced our first step: to reduce America’s greenhouse gas intensity by 18 percent through 2012. I am pleased to say that we remain on track to meet this goal even as our economy has grown 17 percent.
Once more, from the top: greenhouse gas intensity has been improving in developed economy for decades. It happens automatically, through natural improvements in efficiency. The Bush administration has nothing to do with it. This is a vintage Bush scam.
So the United States has launched, and the G8 has embraced, a new process that brings together the countries responsible for most of the world’s emissions.
It is laughable to say the G8 has "embraced" Bush’s farcical Major Economies meetings (his previous attempt to thwart serious action). They have accepted it because they have no choice.
Today, I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
See above. Another way of putting this is: I am announcing that we will keep emitting more and more CO2 for the next 17 years. If the U.S. commits to this path, reaching the GHG targets scientists say are necessary for averting catastrophe will be impossible.
As part of this strategy, we worked with Congress to pass energy legislation that specifies a new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020, and requires fuel producers to supply at least 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2022.
The Bush administration fought this energy bill tooth and nail, and eventually succeeded in stripping the most ambitious elements out of it. Now it’s claiming credit. It is to puke.
By doing so, we will reduce emission levels in the power sector well below where they were projected to be when we first announced our climate strategy in 2002. There are a number of ways to achieve these reductions, but all responsible approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies.
Reports have it that Bush initially planned to announce a cap-and-trade proposal that would apply only to the power sector — a pathetically unambitious measure. But even that prompted revolt among Republicans, so it got stripped out, leaving the hopeless vagueness above.
Some courts are taking laws written more than 30 years ago to primarily address local and regional environmental effects, and applying them to global climate change. The Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act were never meant to regulate global climate change. For example, under a Supreme Court decision last year, the Clean Air Act could be applied to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles. … Decisions with such far-reaching impact should not be left to unelected regulators and judges.
Let’s be clear what’s happening here: the Bush administration is openly flipping a bird at the Supreme Court. Since the court’s decision, it has refused to develop regulations at EPA, per the court’s command. This is of a piece with this executive branch’s disregard for separation of powers.
Now watch this. In his principles for climate legislation, he says this:
The wrong way is to jeopardize our energy and economic security by abandoning nuclear power and our Nation’s huge reserves of coal. The right way is to promote more emission-free nuclear power and encourage the investments necessary to produce electricity from coal without releasing carbon into the air.
Then, a mere few paragraphs later, he says:
Second, the incentive should be technology-neutral because the government should not be picking winners and losers in this emerging market.
Got that? Me neither.
The "principles" amount to this: we should put no restraints on corporations; we should only offer them subsidies, er, "incentives." This is the latest in right-wing thinking on climate change.
Like I said, there’s nothing new in this speech. It’s meant to thwart real efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. It’s meant to gum up the international process. It’s meant to protect corporate contributors from regulatory constraints. It will doom the planet to out of control heating and untold misery.
It’s the same old thing: a farce. I really, really wish the media would stop treating it like anything else.
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