Writing in Salon Andrew Leonard said that president Bush looked pretty darned annoyed throughout his speech today outlining his “principals” (I am unable to find any reports that actually call it a plan) to halt the growth in carbon emissions by 2025 (reminds of a song from my youth, but that’s another story). Leonard reports that at one point in his speech Bush looked up from his prepared remarks, a look of consternation on his face, and pronounced that his administration is “doing a lot to protect this environment”.
Sure George, whatever you say.
Which is the problem Bush faces – credibility. If you believe the president when he says that, then as Leonard says in his Salon article, “your faith in human nature is to be applauded”.
Unfortunately for many of us, all we have to go on is his record, and it is one of resolute opposition to real action. While it is true that he has come around in his rhetoric, acknowledging that climate change is a problem, somewhat urgent, and that human activity plays a significant role, he comes at it with a sense that he is kicking and screaming the whole way.
There is little in the way of real, rubber-meets-the-road, policy action – including his speech today. Emissions growth isn’t going to magically stop in 2025. Unless substantial reductions in CO2 begin soon – well, now, actually – then Bush can exhort the crowd all he wishes – it is still just talk from a lame-duck president. Left unchecked at current growth rates, carbon emissions will grow 12% over 2006 levels by 2025.
And talk of cap-and-trade? Fuggadaboudit. Though it is unclear what other mechanism would accomplish even president Bush’s vague outline of principals.
Here are the highlights:
- A call to halt GHG emissions growth by 2025.
- Do not raise taxes.
- Pursue nuclear energy.
- Pursue electricity generation from coal that does not release carbon (I guess that means “clean coal’).
- Eliminate trade barriers with other countries on clean energy technology.
- Encourage legislators to settle concerns over existing laws used to regulate climate change, such as the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Air Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act (like, are you listening, California?)
Any one of the three candidates that will end up in the White House next January espouse more aggressive action on climate change than even the new and environmentally conscious George Bush.
We’ve heard from this administration that “history will judge” his presidency. It is unlikely that history will find much to praise in George Bush’s environmental legacy.
His speech today, even while expressing some positive ideas, is too little, too late.