The hubris of it all: Bush on climate

The hubris of it all: Bush on climate

I know I’m a little late to the party, but I just got around to reading Vanity Fair’s oral history of the Bush administration. It’s outrageous on many levels, but to me the most infuriating thing was to read about how Bush’s people, in particular Cheney, made a deliberate point of ignoring climate change during the eight years they were in power. Instead, they chose to promote the traditional carbon-spewing energy industry. 

Tragic priorities at work.

A few choice excerpts from the comments of Rick Plitz, a former senior associate in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program:

"Christine Todd Whitman, the E.P.A. administrator, was one of several people in the Cabinet, along with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who strongly supported a proactive position on climate change. And she was, I think, in Europe telling European governments that the U.S. position was to regulate carbon dioxide. And when she got back home, she had an interaction with the president in which she was very brusquely told that that was off the table. The turning point, essentially, was that Cheney grabbed hold of this issue and took down the whole notion of regulating CO2."

"At the beginning of the Bush administration, Ari Patrinos, a very senior science official who had run the Department of Energy’s climate-change research program for many years, and a half-dozen high-ranking federal science officials were brought together and told to explain the science and help develop policy options for a proactive climate-change policy for the administration. They moved into an office downtown, and they worked very hard and were briefing at the Cabinet level, in the White House. Cheney was there, Colin Powell was there, Commerce Secretary [Don] Evans was there. They were making the case on climate change….And one day they were told: Take it down, pack it up, go back to your offices—we don’t need you anymore."

"To me, the central climate-science scandal of the Bush administration was the suppression of the National Assessment of Cilmate Change Impacts report. In the 1997-2000 time frame, the [Clinton] White House had directed the Global Change Research Program to develop a scientifically based assessment of the implications of climate change for the United States. It was a vulnerability assessment: If these projected warming models are correct, what’s going to happen? And over a period of several years a team made up of eminent scientists and other experts produced a major report. To this day, it remains the most comprehensive effort to understand the implications of global warming for the United States….And the [Bush] administration killed that study. They directed federal agencies not to make any reference to the existence of it in ay further reports. Through a series of deletions it was completely excised from all program reports from 2002 onward."

There you have it. The people driving the bus steered us toward the cliff, and eight years elapsed during which something positive could have been done. What do you think: Am I right to say that Bush’s most lasting legacy—forget Iraq, forget New Orleans—will be those lost eight years?

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