I keep hoping somebody somewhere is going to hold the Emperor’s feet to the fire, and I thought maybe the G-8 conference on global warming would be the place. Host Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and a fire-breather when it comes to the environment, started out pushing Bush harder – a lot harder – than our home-grown Bubble Boy is used to. She was dead-set on specific commitments: actual numbers attached to real targets with specific end-dates. No more of these vague “voluntary” agreements from the US – the biggest polluter on the planet – that leave corporations free to spew as much poison into the air as they feel like without consequences or any kind of realistic plan to reduce harmful emissions in, like, this century.
Alas, it was not to be. Bush wanted the spotlight moved away from the US and onto the next two biggest polluters, China and India, and he got what he wanted by making another vague promise to “enter negotiations” before – get this – 2009.
The United States agreed Thursday to “consider seriously” a European plan to combat global warming by cutting in half worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, averting a trans-Atlantic deadlock at a meeting here of the world’s richest industrial nations.
The compromise, worked out in tough negotiations between the United States and Germany, also endorses President Bush’s recent proposal to bring together the world’s largest emitting countries, including China and India, to set their own national goals for reducing emissions.
The agreement reached Thursday does not include a mandatory 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050, a key provision sought by Chancellor Angela Merkel, nor does it commit the United States or Russia to specific reductions.
Coming from the man who has made a million promises in the past 6 years and kept two of them – tax cuts and the permanent occupation of Iraq – this one is worth nothing. Less than nothing. Bush, complaining of a convenient tummy ache, wasn’t even there for the announcement.
Merkel, who apparently doesn’t know who she’s dealing with, trumpeted this as a “major victory”. It’s kind of sad that the rest of the world has to band together to exert enormous pressure on an American president just to get him to promise to talk about one of the greatest threats facing the entire globe, but that’s our Georgie. It’s kind of sweet – naive but sweet – that they seem to believe he’ll actually do it.
Which, I suppose, he might. After all, it doesn’t cost anything to talk and since he has no intention of ever under any conditions putting restrictions on corporate behaviour (the “free market”, you know), environmental or otherwise, he can use the “negotiations” to go after another target: China. You know, the last remaining Commies. Nothing like ignoring your own poison to complain about the poisons of an easy enemy.
A scientist, “one of the lead authors of the most recent scientific assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change”, thinks the Emperor has legitimately changed his mind (more naivete), not because of the science but because of the “political writing on the wall.”
[T]here has been a dramatic shift in US public opinion. The tactics of denial and presenting climate change as if it were a “debate” have begun to backfire.
This might have something to do with the accumulating scientific evidence, but it has far more to do with fossil fuels finally being seen as “dirty,” not so much because of their carbon content but more because they keep getting more expensive and force us into unnecessary, unpopular, and unending conflicts.
The shift in opinion also has to do with the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. Although neither was directly caused by climate change, each brought home very real sensations of exactly what catastrophic natural change might look and feel like.
Most people were already convinced that something was happening to the global climate, but they assumed that any change was in the very distant future. Now we talk about climate change as something that could happen within our own lifetimes. That, ultimately, is the biggest change of all. The phenomenal success of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” as well as the growing impatience for action within Congress are both manifestations of this shift in public perception.
Accurate as far as it goes but the underlying assumption is flawed. Bush has shown over and over that he doesn’t give a damn about “public opinion” and cares even less about “science”, which he has cheerfully had re-written whenever findings disproved his sophomoric, neoconservative/fundamentalist Xtian beliefs. If he doesn’t like a fact, he ignores it and invents one of his own.
We are all acting as if we’re blinded by wishful thinking. Merkel wanted to bring a victory back to Germany, so this sham is now a victory despite the fact that Bush has agreed to NOTHING but talk – no 2050, no 50% reduction, no specific steps to reduce the US’ industrial pollution levels. Not one. NOTHING. And Mr Najam wants to believe the pressure is mounting so significantly that Bush won’t be able to ignore the problem much longer without risking his presidency and the viability of his party.
Both are illusions.
By the simple act of being so stubborn, so unreasonable, so blind, and so scientifically ignorant that a mere promise to reconsider looks like a major policy reversal when it represents no such thing, the Emperor has managed to get the whole world to Back Off. Without having to agree to anything, he has just bought himself two years of peace and quiet on the global warming front, which was the point of this meaningless exercise.
As for risking his political credibility, that horse done left the gate a long time ago, Adil. He’s watching his party slide into obscurity and irrelevancy over the Second Gulf War with nary a twinge.
There will be NO change in environmental policy in the US until Bush is gone. Period. All wishful thinking to the contrary notwithstanding. Congress can’t pass a law they can make Bush enforce, so even if they were to unilaterally mandate corporate compliance with the Kyoto Treaty’s provisions and targets and get it past a Bush veto, the corporatocracy can feel free to ignore the law because the Bush Admin will make sure that if non-compliance costs them anything, it will be pocket-change they won’t even notice the loss of.
And so it goes.