Global Warming: A Climate Of Despair

Bush's hard line has stunned environmentalists, but with concerted action--and new technologies--it's not too late to cool down the greenhouse

  • Share
  • Read Later

The ambassadors from the 15-nation European Union got more than they bargained for when they invited National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to lunch two weeks ago. The gathering, a regular ritual in Washington, was held at the Swedish ambassador's residence, and as often happens, a representative of the White House was invited. This time Rice agreed to attend--good news for the Europeans, who had something they wanted to discuss.

With the U.S. still skeptical about the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to cut carbon dioxide emissions and curb global warming and the 83 other signatory nations still wrestling over the details, the E.U. was growing concerned that the pact might fall apart. In February, Environmental Protection Agency Director Christine Todd Whitman reassured E.U. leaders that global warming remained high on the new Administration's worry list. But in March, President George W. Bush announced he was abandoning his campaign pledge to curb CO2 emissions from power plants, having concluded that the gas shouldn't be regulated as a pollutant, particularly during a burgeoning energy crisis. If the President also backed away from Kyoto, as he threatened to do during the campaign, the accord could die.

"We wanted to pass on the message that we take this issue seriously," one of the officials told Rice over lunch.

The NSA chief responded directly. "Kyoto," she said, "is not acceptable to the Administration or Congress."

Did the White House agree that global warming was a looming crisis, the ambassadors wanted to know. Yes, Rice answered. But, she explained, "we will have to find new ways to deal with the problem. Kyoto is dead."

The reaction to Rice's private message at the ambassador's house was subdued, but when Whitman publicly confirmed that position last week, the global reaction was swift and furious. Governments condemned the President's stance as uninformed and even reckless, noting with outrage that the U.S. is home to 4% of the world's population but produces 25% of its greenhouse gases. French President Jacques Chirac called on all countries to implement Kyoto--never mind Washington. China's Foreign Ministry called U.S. actions "irresponsible."

Even the E.U., which is just starting to feel out its relationship with the President, hit Bush hard, firing off a letter to the White House warning that new talks were "urgently needed." E.U. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom went further, rattling the sword of global sanctions. "I don't think this is the time to threaten," she said, "but we must be clear about the political implications."

Bush got another earful from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder at the White House last Thursday. But the President stood firm. "Our economy has slowed down," he said. "We also have an energy crisis, and the idea of placing caps on CO2 does not make economic sense."

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7