- For the Bush administration, global warming and climate
change have so far been the great unmentionables, topics that interfered
with the march towards the promised land of the perfect free market.
- Many say that the discovery by scientists that there
is an unequivocal link between man-made greenhouse gases and a dramatic
heating of the Earth's oceans, as reported to the American Association
for the Advancement of Science, is unlikely to change that. "There's
a denial of the science by the upper levels [of the administration],"
a spokesman for the Sierra Club said.
- For "upper levels" read the President and vice-president.
Their links with energy companies are well known and oil, coal and other
natural resources companies have been prime contributors to campaign coffers.
- In her book It's My Party Too, Christine Whitman, who
resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003, wrote
of the "obsession" of many in the energy industry and the Republican
party "with doing away with environmental regulation". But there
is also an ingrained and profoundly American opposition to the notions
that climate change is harmful, that humans cause it, and that humans can
do much about it.
- A typical exponent of that school is Fred Singer, founder
of the think-tank the Science and Environmental Policy Project. Since 1979,
he says, the global climate has - if anything - cooled slightly, and what
warming that exists is primarily an urban heat effect. "Climate keeps
changing all the time," he says. "The fact that climate changes
is not in itself a threat, because, obviously, in the past human beings
have adapted to all kinds of climate changes."
- This approach is music to the ears of many American economic
and business theorists. To accept that climate control is caused by humans
and harmful means that humans must change their ways. That in turn implies
more regulation, anathema to Bush's administration.
- That philosophy overlaps with another American economic
tenet; the free market, left to its devices, can solve every problem. Natural
economic forces, of price and supply and demand, will induce humans to
change their ways.
- But attitudes may be starting to change. While the White
House has done next to nothing to tackle emissions, states such as California
are taking matters into their own hands. And on Capitol Hill, the Democratic
senator Joe Lieberman and his Republican colleague John McCain are pushing
to tighten emissions controls. It is likely to fail again but support is
- Even at the White House, optimists detect subtle signs
of change. Maybe it is the disaster movie The Day after Tomorrow, perhaps
it has been irrefutable evidence that change is already happening, in especially
sensitive areas such as the shrinking polar icecaps.
- "We care about the climate," Mr Bush said this
week, on the eve of his trip to Europe where global warming will be a major
issue. Stephen Hadley, the White House national security adviser, says
the US is already "doing a lot with Europe" on climate change
research, to make a contribution "in a positive direction".
- Undoubtedly, those are in part sops to Europeans who
still regard the 43rd President as "the toxic Texan". Whether
US officials will accept the science linking the planet's warming to human
activities is quite another matter.
- ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.