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Global climate change

 
  

Project: The Bush administration's environmental record

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March 27, 2001

       EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman tells reporters that the Bush administration has “no interest in implementing” the Kyoto Protocol. [BBC, 3/28/2001; Associated Press, 3/28/2001; Environmental News Network (EIN), 3/28/2001; CBS News, 3/28/2001; CNN, 3/29/2001] The treaty would require 39 industrialized nations to cut emissions of six greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride—to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The US would be required to reduce its emissions by about 7 percent. The protocol will not go into effect until it has been ratified by countries that were responsible for at least 55 percent of the world's carbon emissions in 1990. [BBC, 3/29/2001; BBC, 9/29/2001] The United States is the world's largest polluter and therefore its refusal to support the treaty represents a significant setback. In 1990, the US was responsible for 36.1% of greenhouse emissions. [BBC, 6/4/2004] The Bush administration complains that the treaty would harm US economic interests and that it unfairly puts too much of the burden on industrialized nations while not seeking to limit pollution from developing nations. [BBC, 3/29/2001]
People and organizations involved: Christine Todd Whitman, Bush administration
          

June 2001

       The National Research Council issues a report on global climate change that was commissioned by the White House. The opening paragraph of the document reads: “Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise. Temperatures are, in fact, rising. The changes observed over the last several decades are likely mostly due to human activities, but we cannot rule out that some significant part of these changes is also a reflection of natural variability. Human-induced warming and associated sea level rises are expected to continue through the 21st century. Secondary effects are suggested by computer model simulations and basic physical reasoning. These include increases in rainfall rates and increased susceptibility of semi-arid regions to drought. The impacts of these changes will be critically dependent on the magnitude of the warming and the rate with which it occurs.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003 Sources: Climate Change Science: An analysis of some key questions]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Research Council (NRC)
          

October 1, 2001

       The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world.... A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003 Sources: IPCC Third Assessment Report - Climate Change 2001, Climate Change 2001 Sythesis Report: summary of policymakers]
People and organizations involved: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
          

June 23, 2003

       The Bush administration releases its “Draft Report on the Environment,” which concludes that by many measures US air is cleaner, drinking water purer and public lands better protected than they had been thirty years ago. The document, commissioned in 2001 by the agency's administrator, Christie Whitman, is comprised of five sections: “Cleaner Air,” “Purer Water,” “Better Protected Land,” “Human Health,” and “Ecological conditions.” But it is later learned that many of its conclusions rest on questionable data. Moreover, the report leaves out essential information on global climate change and pollution sources. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d. Sources: 2003 Draft Report on the Environment] In its “Purer Water” section, the report claims that “94 percent of the [US] population served by community water systems [was] served by systems that met all health-based standards.” But on August 6, The Washington Post will reveal that on June 18 (see June 18, 2003), an internal inquiry had been launched over concerns that the source data was flawed. “Internal agency documents ... show that EPA audits for at least five years have suggested that the percentage of the population with safe drinking water is much lower—79 percent to 84 percent in 2002—putting an additional 30 million Americans at potential risk,” the newspaper will report. [The Washington Post, 8/6/2003] Another troubling feature of the report is that a section on global climate change was removed from the report prior to publication because EPA officials were unhappy with changes that had been demanded by the White House. Some time during the spring, administration officials had asked the agency to delete references to a 2001 report (see June 2001) concluding that human activities contribute to global warming and information from a 1999 study indicating that global temperatures had risen significantly over the previous decade compared with the last 1,000 years. “In its place, administration officials added a reference to a new study, partly financed by the American Petroleum Institute, questioning that conclusion,” the New York Times reports. Irritated with the White House's influence on the report, EPA staffers wrote in an April 29 confidential memo that it “no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change.” Unable to reach a compromise with the White House, the EPA elected to drop the entire section. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; CBS News, 6/19/2003; Associated Press, 6/20/2003] In place of a thorough discussion of the issue, the report only says: “The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.” [Boston Globe, 6/20/2003; The Guardian, 6/20/2003] The EPA's report also left out information on the potentially adverse effects that pesticides and industrial chemicals have on humans and wildlife. [New York Times, 6/19/2003; League of Conservation Voters, n.d.]
People and organizations involved: Environmental Protection Agency, Bush administration
          

December 2003

       The American Geophysical Union (AGU), representing over 41,000 scientists from 130 countries involved in the study of atmospheric and ocean sciences, solid-Earth sciences, hydrologic sciences, and space sciences, issue a statement titled, “Human Impacts on Climate.” The opening paragraph states: “Human activities are increasingly altering the Earth's climate. These effects add to natural influences that have been present over Earth's history. Scientific evidence strongly indicates that natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures observed during the second half of the 20th century....” [World Wildlife Fund, n.d. Sources: Human Impacts on Climate]
People and organizations involved: American Geophysical Union (AGU)
          

(June 3, 2004)

       A budget document from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research reveals that the Bush administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 would reduce the climate and global change research budget by $9.2 million, eliminating the federal government's $2 million abrupt climate change research program and cutting its paleoclimatology laboratory in half. It would also terminate $1.3 million in funding for postdoctoral programs and end research programs on the health and human aspects of climate change. [Ecological Society of America, 6/14/2004; Natural Resource Defense Council, 6/2004]
People and organizations involved: Bush administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
          


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