Rocky Mountain meadows and barrier islands disappearing. Coral
reefs damaged. Droughts, floods, rising sea levels.
This disturbing vision of climate change - or at least its
potential - would not be a surprise coming from global-warming
activists. But as a warning from the Bush administration, it clearly
In a report to the United Nations, the Environmental Protection
Agency says that man-made greenhouse gases in the US will increase
43 percent between 2000 and 2020. And while acknowledging some
scientific uncertainties, the EPA says that the recent warming trend
"is real and has been particularly strong within the past 20 years
... due mostly to human activities."
This report from government agencies (the White House Council on
Environmental Quality, the State Department, and others were
involved as well) puts President Bush in something of a double bind.
From the start, and in line with energy and oil interests that
are among his biggest supporters, the president has expressed
skepticism about the scientific basis for reported climate change.
He has resisted mandated cuts in carbon dioxide emissions (the main
greenhouse gas). And he has refused to sign on to the Kyoto
Protocol, the 1997 international agreement setting goals and
deadlines for industrial nations to reduce their impact on climate.
For now, he dismisses the 268-page EPA document as a "report put
out by the bureaucracy," even though it comes nearly a year and a
half into his own administration. This may serve to mollify some on
the political right who are upset at the Bush administration's EPA
report on global warming. But it's also given his environmental
critics added political ammunition.
"Having admitted the extent of the problem and identified the
cause, a policy of inaction becomes impossible to defend," says
David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's
The president and administration insist that Bush's proposals
indicate plenty of action on climate change, and will meet whatever
global-warming challenges exist.
This includes the recently announced "Clear Skies" initiative,
which reduces sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury emitted
by power plants (although less than existing laws would require). As
for carbon dioxide, the president's plan calls for voluntary steps
leading to less "carbon intensity" (the amount of CO2 per unit of
economic output), although the amount of CO2 released into the
atmosphere would continue to grow, assuming continued economic