GEORGE BUSH gave a slap in the face to the world's efforts to combat climate change yesterday when he abandoned a campaign promise to regulate power station emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the "greenhouse gas" believed to cause global warming.
His decision, which gravely threatens the already weak US commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 climate change treaty, was lambasted by environmentalists in the US and across the world, who accused Mr Bush of betrayal and selling out to the energy industry.
The US is the biggest emitter of CO2, with just four per cent of the world's population producing nearly a quarter of the global total, and the President's move, while not directly linked to the protocol, will seriously affect the ability of the United States to meet the emissions reduction targets it promised under the treaty.
Mr Bush's move came as scientists found the first direct evidence that the greenhouse effect has become significantly stronger over the past 30 years, causing the global warming detected by climatologists. Greenhouse gases, such as CO2, now play a far greater role in trapping solar radiation - which would otherwise be reflected by the Earth back into space - than a generation ago, the study found.
US reluctance to meet its Kyoto commitments led to the collapse of talks on the protocol in The Hague in November. Negotiations are set to resume in July in Bonn, Germany, but the latest move will not inspire confidence that the USA will ever deliver on its promises.
"President Bush's decision sends a negative signal to the rest of the world about US willingness to curb pollution," said Tony Juniper, of Friends of the Earth International. "If the world is to avoid a catastrophe it is essential for the US to take a lead in tackling the profligate use of fossil fuels."
Mr Bush's abandonment of a campaign promise to regulate power station's CO2 emissions was the first major U-turn of his presidency. The President said that new evidence indicated that the proposed controls would do more harm than good.
A former oil man who received generous campaign donations from the energy sector, Mr Bush argued during the election that many of the curbs imposed by the Clinton Administration were too onerous.
Furious environmental campaigners concluded that Mr Bush had been nobbled by the energy industry and its many well-funded Republican supporters in Congress.
"We're extremely distressed to read this. It sounds like Bush is bowing to heavy lobbying pressure from business interests and making a complete U-turn on a campaign promise he made," said Allen Mattison, of the Sierra Club environmental pressure group. …