Yesterday, President Bush said:
There’s a debate over whether (global warming) is manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary to enable us to achieve a couple of big objectives — one, be good stewards of the environment; two, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil for economic reasons and for national security reasons.
I’ve heard him mention "getting beyond" that debate before, and it doesn’t make sense to me. This doesn’t seem like the kind of debate that can just be put aside. If it’s the case that human activity is driving rapid global warming, then obviously scaling back GHG emissions should be our first priority. If it’s the case that human activity isn’t driving global warming — that warming is part of a natural cycle — then reducing GHG emissions isn’t a priority at all.
I guess Bush is obliquely referring to "no regrets" climate policies — the kinds of things that reduce GHG emissions as a side product of another worthy goal (say, energy independence). Certainly there are many such policies. But I doubt they’ll get us all the way there.
If we’re playing Russian roulette with the climate, we need to stop. If the climate is simply warming up on its own, we need to hunker down and adapt (and pray). Those are two different courses, despite some overlap, and President Bush is eliding the difference for the same reason he does everything else — to gain advantage for corporate allies.
There is, in reality, no debate. It is the strong and near-unanimous conclusion of the scientific community that warming is anthropogenic. We cannot "get beyond that debate" until the American public realizes that one side of the debate won, conclusively, a long time ago.
Bush’s techno-boosterism and international trade boondoggles are not some kind of commonsense middle path. They’re a non-response to the greatest problem of our age.
(I wrote more on this question here.)