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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bush's Global Warming 'Solution'

President Bush has decided to do something about climate change. That's the good news. The bad news is that what he's decided to do is talk about it. At a summit on climate change last week, Bush addressed the world's top polluting nations. The idea was to come up with something to replace the Kyoto protocols, which expire in 2012.

Bush's plan can be boiled down to one point, "Do whatever the hell you want."

His idea is to set what he calls a "long-term goal" -- a pretty vague target -- for reducing carbon emissions. And even this soft target is too restrictive for him. He's not going to tell anyone how to run their country -- a new development for the leader of the neocon administration.

"This new approach must involve all the world's largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions, including developed and developing nations," Bush said. "We will set a long-term goal for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem. And by setting this goal, we commit ourselves to doing something about it."

Bush's plan is to let each nation "design its own separate strategies for making progress toward achieving this long-term goal." That'd be that undefined long-term goal. He might as well have said, "We'll get it done by later."

People who give a damn are less than impressed. "President Bush's climate meeting today achieved nothing. The president had nothing new to say on the two biggest issues on the agenda: what global emissions reductions must be achieved by mid-century, and what the United States is willing to do to meet that goal," said the Union of Concerned Scientists' Alden Meyer on friday, "It's like inviting people to a dinner party and putting no food on the table." Others made more damning comparisons.

"This is akin to convening a meeting of top slave owners to talk about ending the slave trade -- at some unspecified future time and with the least inconvenience to themselves," Saleemul Huq, one of the members of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said.

Bush's own bad idea for America's energy future includes "working to reduce barriers to new nuclear power plants in the country without compromising safety." The problem here is that, despite industry hype, nuclear power won't do a damned thing to reduce greenhouse gases. The nuclear industry spends a lot of time concentrating on the fact that there's almost zero emissions at the point of generation -- i.e., the plant -- and neglect to tell you how that "clean" fuel is made.

Mining and refining uranium is an extremely dirty process. For every 1,000 tons of uranium mined, you get only 50 tons of useable ore. That makes mining and refining a 95% inefficient process. The unuseable ore -- i.e., 95% of the uranium mined -- winds up piled in toxic slag heaps. All the drilling and digging and driving is gas powered and 95% of that gas burning accomplishes nothing. And this "clean" energy source creates waste that remains toxic for 10,000 to 250,000 years. So much for what Bush calls "the one existing source of energy that can generate massive amounts of electricity without causing any air pollution or greenhouse gas emissions." That statement is only true if you ignore the fact that you don't pull refined uranium out of your butt.

For the record, you don't.

Bush's "do whatever the hell you want" solution took a hit shortly after his big summit. The Washington Post published a story on the EPA under Bush sunday. It wasn't good news. If we use the US as a model and a leader in this new approach to climate change, then it's absolutely, positively, 100% guaranteed to fail.

The Environmental Protection Agency's pursuit of criminal cases against polluters has dropped off sharply during the Bush administration, with the number of prosecutions, new investigations and total convictions all down by more than a third, according to Justice Department and EPA data.

The number of civil lawsuits filed against defendants who refuse to settle environmental cases was down nearly 70 percent between fiscal years 2002 and 2006, compared with a four-year period in the late 1990s, according to those same statistics.

Critics of the agency say its flagging efforts have emboldened polluters to flout U.S. environmental laws, threatening progress in cleaning the air, protecting wildlife, eliminating hazardous materials, and countless other endeavors overseen by the EPA.

So we're not even enforcing the laws we have and we want other nations to follow our lead? How's that going to work? WaPo quotes Eric Schaeffer, the former EPA director for the Office of Civil Enforcement as saying, "I don't think this is a problem with agents in the field. They're capable of doing the work. They lack the political support they used to be able to count on, especially in the White House." Schaeffer resigned in 2002, to protest the EPA's lack of enforcement.

It shouldn't surprise anyone that the White House plan to combat climate change is "do whatever the hell you want." After all, that was Bush's plan for Texas. That worked out great. In 2000, PBS reported, "Environmentalists point to the fact that during Bush's tenure, Texas has achieved the dubious distinction, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, of having the dirtiest air in America, of ranking 47th in water quality, and having the seventh-highest rate of release of toxic industrial byproducts onto its land."

Bush pushed a "voluntary emissions program," which was a "predictable failure." Being voluntary, most polluters opted out and did whatever the hell they wanted. Far from getting a handle on pollution, Bush gave polluters free reign.

As I said, the good news is that Bush has decided to do something about climate change. The bad news is that what he's decided to do is talk about it. The time for talk is quickly passing and there's no reason to believe that George W. Bush is willing to do anything more.


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1 comment:

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