President Bush's Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change, set to begin today, is nothing more than fig leaf diplomacy. The president called for this meeting last June before the G-8 Summit as part of his effort to block the G-8 nations' call for a 50 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2050. His Major Economies Meeting proposal made it easier to stop the endorsement of real reductions at the G-8 Summit because he could hide behind this offer for more talks.
The Major Economies Meeting is unlikely to produce anything but more hot air and carbon dioxide pollution. When the meeting was announced in June, Bush administration officials said that it would address greenhouse gas reduction "aspirations" rather than binding reductions. This is nothing more than fait- based pollution control -- let's hope other nations reduce pollution.
Last week the Administration reportedly told meeting participants that every issue was on the table except for concrete greenhouse gas reductions and an international "cap and trade" system to accomplish this goal. That's like a doctor telling a patient that he will treat a serious disease with everything except surgery and medicine.
The administration may also use sleight of hand over the next two days by proposing to reduce "emission intensity" that would lower the rate of greenhouse gas emissions or energy use on a per capita or per dollar of Gross Domestic Product basis. Such a proposal will do little to slow global warming. It is the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and not the rate that we add to the problem, which will determine our future.
The administration may use the meeting to remind the world that China and India must also agree to reduce their fast growing contributions to global warming. While emissions from both countries continue to increase, the United States has contributed more of the total atmospheric load of carbon dioxide -- 29 percent -- than any other nation. China contributed only 8 percent and India emitted slightly more than 2percent. Since the U.S. is responsible for a major part of the problem, it has a responsibility to undertake a major part of the clean up. Once its reductions are underway, the U.S. can work with these two nations to help them reduce their pollution.
While the Bush administration stalls, our allies in the European Union remain committed to at least a 20 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2020. Great Britain plans to reduce its global warming pollution by over 23 percent in 2010 compared to 1990. Germany may adopt a 40 percent reduction by 2020. Even China has one-third more efficient fuel motor vehicle standards than the U.S.2
During the Bush Administration's six plus years of obstruction, U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have increased by over 168 million metric tons -- equivalent to adding 26 million new cars. It would have been higher if not for unseasonably mild weather in 2006. Meanwhile, the planet moves closer to a human made catastrophe of biblical proportion.
Our allies' pleas for action add to the voices of many big corporations such as Dow, Shell, General Electric, and General Motors. These and other Fortune 500 companies are part of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and endorsed a 60 percent to 80 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2050. Scientists believe that these are the reductions necessary to stave off the worst impacts of global warming. Unfortunately, these appeals from President Bush's foreign and corporate allies continue to fall on his deaf ears.
States are trying to fill the leadership vacuum. California adopted standards to reduce CO2 emissions via an increase in fuel economy. Fourteen other states plan to adopt California's standard, though the Bush Administration has yet to approve California's two year old request to do so.
Two dozen states adopted renewable electricity standards that would require their utilities to provide more power from clean alternative technologies, such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that these standards will reduce annual greenhouse gas pollution by 108 million metric tons by 2020 -- equivalent to removing over 17 million cars from the road.
Congressional leaders also took charge while President Bush was A. W. O. L.-- Absent With Out Leadership. Significant CO2 reductions are possible if Congress's final energy bill combines the best energy efficiency and renewable energy measures for vehicles, power plants, buildings, and appliances. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that such a bill could reduce global warming pollution by nearly 20percent by 2030 compared to business and usual.
Evidence mounts that global warming is here and already disrupting Earth and its inhabitants. As the Bush administration fiddles with the Major Economies Meeting, temperatures rise, glaciers melt, forests burn, and hurricanes blow. Similar to the Iraq war, the Bush administration may run out the clock on this looming global warming disaster and leave it to his successor to clean up the mess. Hopefully, there will still be time.
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