Bush out of touch on climate change

The G-8's climate change compromise shows that President Bush is out of step with the American public.

Published July 12, 2005 9:50PM (EDT)

The compromise by the G-8 nations last week in Gleneagles, Scotland -- to acknowledge that global warming is a threat but not to do anything substantive about it -- was the result of a successful effort by the Bush administration to water down the language of the resolution and forestall any measures to impose mandatory targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (Read the official Gleneagles Communiqui here.) It also ran contrary to American public opinion, as measured in a poll conducted in the weeks leading up to the summit.

According to the poll, conducted by The Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland, a vast majority of Americans want the Bush administration to go as far as European and other developed nations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to commit to emissions caps.

The poll also showed that American perception that there is a scientific consensus about global warming has finally cracked 50 percent, despite the propaganda of conservative think tanks and mainstream reporters who air it. The PIPA poll also made clear that when people believe there is scientific consensus, they are more likely to support strong measures to fight climate change -- which is exactly why, of course, the Republicans spend so much time making the case that there isn't any such consensus.

Given the lack of commitments in the communiqui, administration officials were understandably pleased with the outcome. Employing a new talking point that portrays climate change as one of several challenges relating to energy, Deputy National Security Advisor Faryar Shirzad praised the communiqui for underscoring that "the issue of climate change is a part of an interrelated set of challenges dealing with energy security, economic development and dealing with problems of pollution."

And the administration must also be pleased that there are people in American who hold themselves even further aloof from the American public and reality on the subject of climate change. You can find many of them on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Last week, columnist George Melloan called global warming a "concocted" threat and "politically convenient myth." He praised the president for ignoring the global warming "siren calls -- whose true purpose [is] to winkle more revenue out of taxpayers." On the same day, Melloan was forced to run a correction stating that he had "sharply understated casualties in Iraq" in his previous column trumpeting the Iraq war. We wonder what Melloan's "true purpose" is.

By Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney is a writer in San Francisco. He has a blog.

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