Global Warming: Bush vs. Clinton on Kyoto

You may be surprised to learn that the Bush administration is in line with its predecessor in acknowledging that the problem of global warming exists.

From the fact sheet on President Clinton's India Trip, March 22, 2000: "There is broad scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions -- primarily in the form of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels -- are at least partly responsible for an increase in global temperatures over the last century."

From the fact sheet on President Bush and the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development, July 27, 2005: "We know the surface of the Earth is warmer and an increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity is contributing to the problem."

The Bush/Clinton consensus ends, of course, when it comes to doing something about the problem and especially when it comes to the Kyoto Protocol.

The United States shunned the Protocol within a couple months of Bush taking office. The administration's argument was primarily economic, that "it exempts developing nations around the world and it is not in the U.S.'s best economic interests," according to then-White House spokesman Ari Fleisher in March 2001.

The Analysis of the Kyoto Protocol (see page 13 of the pdf) provided by the White House in 2001 asserts:

The Kyoto Protocol risks significantly harming the U.S. and global economies. The Kyoto Protocol would require the United States to meet its target no matter what the cost, which could be substantial .... the U.S. economy could be transformed from one of strong growth to recession, with potentially significant repercussions for the global economy.

(The U.S. economy "transformed from one of strong growth to recession"?? Not under Bush's watch, it won't be!!! Oh, wait ....)

Yet that contention is very much in contrast with findings from the Clinton administration, such as those outlined in Meeting the Challenge of Climate Change at a Reasonable Cost, a White House fact sheet released on July 31, 1998:

The Administration's economic analysis of the Kyoto Protocol concludes that the costs of meeting our Kyoto target for reducing greenhouse gases should be modest; that taking action to address global warming amounts to an insurance policy against a serious threat; that there are significant opportunities for lost cost reductions both at home and abroad; and that the benefits of averting climate change could be very large.

The whole thing is really worth a read -- it's not long at all. In fact, check out both the State Department Web site on climate change that contains information from before January 20, 2001 (Bush's inauguration) and compare it to the current global warming page. I've found a few entertaining contrasts -- and I'm sure you'll find plenty, too. When you see an example of a glaring juxtaposition, or even a close similiarity, leave a comment here with details so we can all check it out.

By Emily Messner |  September 29, 2005; 9:08 AM ET  | Category:  Beltway Perspectives
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For those interested in comparing the Bush administration's approach with that of the Clinton administration, it is also useful to look at the EPA's compilation of globabl warming position papers, available at:

http://yosemite.epa.gov/oar/globalwarming.nsf/content/ResourceCenterPublicationsPositionPapers.html

Posted by: MIchael Casper | September 29, 2005 10:42 AM

We...Of course have known for over 50 years that the greenhouse gas effect existed, and that with population growth, etc. etc. Planet Earth is in trouble. Do you remember the volkswagon, and all of the cars that got over 30 miles per gallon in 1955. Well I do...and if we had stayed on that track onstead of the biggers better, and the "why should we worry...our gas is not as expensive in the US" attitude. We knew it then, and we are really hiding our head in the sand, if we don't know it now...DUH!

Posted by: Lyle V Sansom | September 29, 2005 11:47 AM

Why are we hoping to build more oil refineries and trying to get bills passed that will allow us to drill in Alaska (HELLO DETRIMENT !!)for more natural gas and oil? Why aren't we utilizing hybrid energy and the many inventions that are on the shelf that would help us out as a WORLD!! When will the American population realize that we are being snowed over with the "conflicting opinions" on the true reality of Global Warming (We can't be sure, so for now, keep on driven' those SUV's and leave that hybrid tech crap up to the Eastern world). Everyone complains when the gas prices are too high, but when will we begin to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? Wake Up, America! Stop with the Band-Aid mentality already. Let's start planning with the future in mind, or have we already decided that there is no future???

Posted by: Lee Ann | September 29, 2005 12:11 PM

Come on folks while I do like and fully support the expansion of hybrid car use I also understand that we need to drastically increase our own energy production and refining capabilities. Conservation alone will not cure our problem just as expanding our energy production will not. When we can get past the hatred for President Bush and capitalism then maybe we will look at the real solutions to our problems without trying to push one agenda over the other the real solution is in the middle.

Posted by: Mark Kleppin | September 29, 2005 12:26 PM

Some Americans wonder why the US is so disliked, if not hated by so many of it's fellow passengers on this planet.

One of the reasons is that the Bush administration's demonstration of a national selfishness and lack of solidarity that is simply appalling. It is demonstrated by the statement listed above about why it opposed the Kyoto protocol:

"it exempts developing nations around the world and it is not in the U.S.'s best economic interests,"

The USA is the world's greatest economy. It is also by far the world's largest polluter, and the most responsible for the global warning situation we are now facing. On the other hand, it is the one country most capable of dealing with any costs that might be generated by working to meet the Kyoto protocol.

Yet by choosing to oppose it, the administration has demonstrated an unwillingness to assume it's roles as the greatest economy, largest polluter and world leader. It is attempting to gain an unfair advantage over those countries who, while less competitive economically and less polluting, are willing to do their share to try to solve the problem.

Actions always speak louder than words. Especially when those seeing the actions don't receive the propagandistic double talk that the administration doles out to the unwary American people.

The rest of the world's population only see a selfish, dangerously aggressive nation that wants to get it's way all the time, and is not willing to do it's share of the dirty, hard work. It's no wonder the opinions about the USA have been brought to a historic low point by this administration.

Posted by: Ed in Spain | September 29, 2005 12:45 PM

The comment about getting past hating Bush and capitalism and begin looking for real solutions is kind of insulting since the writer doesn't bother presenting any solutions of his own. Few of my fellow Bush haters also hate capitalism. Capitalism often solves problems quicker by far than any government could, however, a lot of the major problems in the world, like the huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, are a result of uncontrolled capitalism. When it comes to protecting an environment we're not even close to understanding, and considering how frightening the consequences could be, why take a chance that this earth can shrug off the greenhouse gas emissions? Why take a chance that the current global warming is just a normal perturbation in our climate cycle? Do we really have a right to take such a huge gamble with our children's future?

Posted by: Trakker | September 29, 2005 01:07 PM

Last Sunday, my wife and I sat in the only art movie house in Norfolk, Va. to see a showing of "The Great Warming," a film made for the Canadian Discovery Network. Hopefully, it will show in this country soon. It even showed how clearly people were expecting "the big one" to hit New Orleans! It is a comforting, all-too-human, and flawed perspective to think that things that haven't happened, probably won't happen. Who thought that after the big Asian Tsunami, we would be next on Nature's hit list? There is nothing that spectacularly new in the film, but it's value is it shows there are relatively doable things to be done to prevent further degrading of our environment. The discussion afterwards--it was, alas, only a small crowd, aware that this is a conservative bastion of defense and religious interests--clearly led to political solutions to the problems. This nation took a giant step in 2001 away not only from environmentalism, but also from concern for the rights of women, minorities, working people and the poor and a need to be respected by the other nations of the world. We need a major pendullum swing back to put our ship of state on the right course. But, where are the leaders....?

Posted by: Dan | September 29, 2005 01:33 PM

Sadly, this commentary perpetuates the myth that Bush killed Kyoto. He didn't, or at least didn't have to. Shortly after it was signed in '95, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution 95-0 opposing it--Democrats and Republicans all. Their reasoning was much the same as Bush's: because it exempted "developing" countries like China and India, whose populations are enormous and whose environmental controls are practically nil, it would eviscerate our economy to little overall world benefit. That treaty was DOA.

A new treaty, one that would apply universal environmental and workplace standards is needed. Indeed, that would also go a long way toward ironing out our trade imbalance, by making our manufacturers much more competitive. Environmental measures that include only the West are pointless now. They will merely encourage further exportation of industry to nations outside the measure's scope, to net environmental detriment.

Posted by: Eric | September 29, 2005 01:44 PM

Eric's comment is the first realistic one on this page. I want every person who desires the radification of the Kyoto Treaty to stand in line and apologize to all the workers who will lose their jobs to China and India if it's ratified. Certain parties complain about outsourcing, yet push for a treaty that will increase the rate of outsourcing at an alarming level. Meanwhile, all of the outsourcing goes to countries with non-existant environmental policies or regulations. If you want to find out what this treaty is doing to signatory economies, look at the UK. Blair pretty much admitted that meeting Kyoto requirements will be impossible, something not covered in the US. With Europe as a whole having similar problems meeting compliance.

If the treaty included China and India you'd at least have a good point. The treaty still slows down global economic growth to combat an effect that is not completely understood. But at least it wouldn't put an even bigger black cloud over Asia than their is currently over LA.

Note, Clinton could have signed the treaty and fought with congress when he was in office but never did, he left it for Bush to dump. Granted, Bush could and should have done it more diplomatically, but what Clinton said, and then did are two very different things. Something that is very evident in this initiative.

Posted by: The dude | September 29, 2005 04:20 PM

In response to the last posters' comments, it is irresponsible and self-defeating for the U.S. to shrug off the Kyoto Accord merely because it excludes developing countries. Yes, that exemption is a huge flaw in the law, and one that will need to be addressed. But America needs to push for that change from within, not as a stubborn hold-out.

It is in America's interests to lead the world in developing cleaner technologies and sustainable environmental practices. This will not compromise our economic strength-- that is a phantom threat clung to by those afraid of change. Leading the Kyoto Accord movement will place us in the vanguard of an inevitable movement. It will provide an example to the developing world. While "business-friendly" conservatives carefully the consider the cost of action, have they considered the cost of inaction? Hurricane Rita just cost us $200 billion. And that is a tiny down-payment on the costs of global warming.

U.S. foot-dragging on this issue is merely the latest example of the short-sighted political pandering to which Congress is always prone, and which this administration has taken to new heights. Do Congress and the Bush Administration really think that waiting out the least environmentally aware nations before we act is in our interests? The casualties will include our long-term economic interests, our position of leadership in the world, and sustainability of our children's and grandchildren's world.

This is no longer an abstract debate. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the 30% erosion of the Polar cap's summer ice, make clear that the real consequnces have already begun.

Posted by: Scott Thach | September 29, 2005 04:20 PM

Unfortunately it is very difficult to arrive at a middle ground in our debates. It is usually all or nothing at each extreme of the issue. There is no doubt that global warming is a huge problem and we are already suffering the consequences; it is also true that we need to find ways to increase or at least maintain employment in the US and that an openly anti-business approach will be highly detrimental. Does this mean that nothing can be done? - NO.

The US has long been a leader in international issues and global warming has to be one of them. We need to acknowledge the problem and to devise real solutions that produce tangible results in the time frame required. If we can go to Iraq and try to fix whatever our administration decided was broken there, if we can tell the Arab world how they should change their society to meet our preferences for life style, why can't we take a leadership position on global warming? - The answer is simple: we have a pathetically incompetent administration whose overriding priority is to fill the pockets of the president's friends at any cost. Just look at the staggering level of nepotism that was revealed by the recent hurricane disasters. How can a government staffed this way come up with real answers to major problems?

The interesting thing is that most business leaders are not as short-sighted as their critics paint them. American enterprises are run very efficiently and a lot of the government bureaucrats that are giving us so many problems with their seemingly pro-business measures would never be hired by companies like GE, Microsoft or the like. I am sure that many business leaders would be glad to participate in an honest effort to find solutions to some of the major environmental problems like global warming. Unfortunately their advocates in government are doing all the wrong things on their behalf.

Posted by: Carlos Garcia | September 29, 2005 07:17 PM

Resuming trade with Cuba would go a long way toward pay back on the rebuilding of the region. Frieghters would be backed up the Mississippi River four or more miles by some estimates, to take advantage of the commerce. Industry and agriculture all along the Mississipi would benefit. At one time Cuba was the main destination from the port of New Orleans.

The country has exploited Louisiana's resources and riches for centuries and turned it into America's Nigeria. Louisiana is one of the richest states in the country when it comes to natural resources, but exploitation has made it one of the poorest. We saw the result of that exploitation on TV.

From Covington, LA
temporarily living in Brooklyn, NY with family.

Posted by: Leonard Joseph | September 29, 2005 08:27 PM

Please continue these reports, especially the compare/contrast format. I am very worried we have a catastrophe in the making; this subject must be continually addressed and simplified and made concrete for some who conceptualize that way. Please see article in sfgate.com today on Bush..what it takes to get his attention. Priceless. Madge Cline, MSW

Posted by: madge cline | September 29, 2005 11:03 PM

The United States of America was a country not so long ago that the world envied and looked at with awe. Whenever the America people have got behind a Governments vision great things have been achieved.If Global warming was made into a priority of the U.S Government and its people great inroads would be made towards reversing this incideous threat.
The world is ready for a great Green Government .
If the United States Government focussed on Global Warming rather than Global Warring than its respect would surely be restored.

Posted by: informed Australian | October 25, 2005 08:26 PM

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