White House Gas Emissions

06/07/2007 01:13 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

I give President Bush an "A" for his new global warming initiative -- an "A" for apathy. Admittedly, this is progress over the "A" he earned in his first term for being Adversarial-with-a-capital-"A" when it comes to climate change. He's a chip off the old blockhead; remember how Bush Sr. derisively nicknamed Al Gore "Ozone Man"? Junior picked up where Poppy left off on the campaign trail in 2000, gleefully mocking Gore's proposed tax breaks for solar panels, or, as he drawled out contemptuously in his faux-hayseed twang, "Foe-toe-vole-TAY-ICK panels."

As students go, Duh-bya's not what you'd call a quick study; in fact, he's fond of boasting about being a "C" student in college, and as Commander in Chief he's up to his neck in "C's": a "C" for cronyism, a "C" for corruption, a "C" for craven indifference to the Constitution, Katrina victims, and all us ink-stained wretches whose names don't end in "Inc." To be fair, the Blunderkind- in-a-Bubble has earned a "B" or two as well, most notably for belligerence and blind faith.

And yet, over the weekend, the beltway pundits gave Bush a pass on his bald, I mean, bold new proposal to meet with the rest of the world's greatest greenhouse gas emitters to advance his agenda of establishing voluntary, or "aspirational," goals to tackle the problems of greenhouse gas emissions, without imposing the stifling constraints of actual commitments.

Give me a "B" for baffled. The bar gets set ever lower while the sea levels rise. This administration's moved at a glacial pace when it comes to coping with climate change, to employ a slightly anachronistic adjective that now suggests rapidly melting ice caps more than slow moving bureaucrats.

"The world is on the verge of great breakthroughs that will help us become better stewards of the environment," President Bush announced as he unveiled his proposal-to-hold-meetings- to-craft-a-plan-to-formulate-an-agenda-to-set-goals-to...hey! It's getting really hot in here, could we, like, open a window or crank up the AC, or something?

Actually, we already have the tools we need to tackle this urgent problem NOW, according to Bill McKibben, who must be hoarse after hollering about our ever hotter planet for 20 twenty years, from his chilling, prophetic 1989 warning about global warming, The End of Nature a>, to his newest shout-out to sustainability, Deep Economy (note to Oprah--how about a plug for this book and a plug-in hybrid giveaway?)

What we haven't got, as McKibben noted in an article earlier this year for the Sierra Club, is a leader willing to call for serious conservation and a radical rethinking of our willfully wasteful way of life. Because that would require asking Americans to sacrifice, and that's just such a buzzkill. Much better to hitch our Hummers to a star in the far-off galaxy of Mañana:

"...Much of what passes for discussion about our energy woes is spent imagining some magic fuel that will save us. Solar power! Fusion power! Hydrogen power!

...The United States' current energy plan, assembled by Vice President Dick Cheney with the help of leading fossil-fuel executives, calls for postponing the future: more drilling, more refining, more combusting, more carbon. It's the policy equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting, "I can't hear you!" over and over again...

...In fact, it's pretty clear that what we need most at this point is not just some new technology...We need new attitudes and behaviors, not new lightbulbs and reactors."

How many Bushies does it take to change to fluorescent lightbulbs, anyway? No one knows,
because they're hellbent on wringing every last dirty drop of oil out of the soil before they'll be dragged kicking and screaming into a greener, cleaner future.

I share McKibben's conviction that we've got to tap into people power to curb our collective carbon footprint. Bush's free market free-for-all is just a way to stall, a perfect display of Whitehouse window dressing. Sunday's Independent offered a helpful translation of Bush's transparent attempt to head critics off at the impasse that's sure to come at this week's G8 summit in Germany:

In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it.

Translation: In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll ratings. So now I have to look interested.

The United States takes this issue seriously.

Translation: Al Gore takes this issue seriously, his movie was a hit, and it's causing me no end of grief.

By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term goal for reducing greenhouse gases.

Translation: By the end of next year, I'll be weeks away from the end of my presidency and this can be someone else's problem.

To develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that
produce the most greenhouse gases, including nations with rapidly growing economies such as India and China

Translation: We will look as busy as we can without doing anything.

The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany.

Translation: The new initiative will put the brakes on the much more robust proposal the Germans are putting forward. As long as dialogue continues, we won't have to abide by
any decisions."

Well, that's the Decider for you, taking decisive inaction.