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Bush admits U.S. has big role in global warming

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

By Ann McFeatters, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- After the White House admitted badly handling its abrogation of the global warming treaty, President Bush yesterday conceded as he left for his first diplomatic trip to Europe that the United States is a major player in heating up the Earth.

Calling for more scientific research into how carbon dioxide emissions damage worldwide climate patterns, the president said: "Our country, the United States, is the world's largest emitter of man-made greenhouse gases; we account for almost 20 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse emissions. We also account for about one-quarter of the world's economic output. We recognize the responsibility to reduce our emissions."

Yet he pointed out that the statistic means 80 percent of those emissions come from other countries, such as India and China, which would have been exempted from the 1997 Kyoto Treaty, angering many in the United States.

The Small Business Survival Committee applauded Bush's speech as showing "real leadership," citing his condemnation of the treaty as "unrealistic," "arbitrary" and "not based on science."

Bush in recent days has sought to mollify European leaders regarding his administration's repudiation of the treaty as he prepared to meet with more than a dozen of them for the first time to discuss global warming and his plan to speed up implementation of a missile defense system, which many of those leaders also oppose. Bush is also likely to encounter protests throughout Europe over both issues.

The president's comments yesterday offered no new steps to immediately tackle global warming, and environmental groups were not pleased. As he spoke in the White House Rose Garden, Greenpeace environmental activists picketed outside.

David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, said: "President Bush says he takes global warming seriously, but he is stalling instead of acting to cut global warming pollution. The Bush energy plan, which calls for burning more fossil fuels, would actually accelerate global warming."

The National Wildlife Federation said Bush's call for more study is "akin to studying a speeding train while standing in its path."

White House chief of staff Andrew Card yesterday told reporters that the Kyoto treaty was "fatally flawed," but added, "We didn't do a good job" explaining why or calling for a new round of debate on global warming. While Bush was correct to say "the emperor has no clothes" regarding the Kyoto pact, "the timing was wrong because the stage was not set," Card said.

The pressure for Bush's remarks yesterday came from a report that a National Academy of Sciences task force recently released, which concluded that global warming is a genuine concern.

Bush said the report was a review of existing science, but that more research is still needed. "The academy's report tells us that we do not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had on warming," he said. "And finally, no one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided."

The Clinton administration insisted that the available research was conclusive that carbon dioxide emissions must be curtailed.

But Bush said more money is needed to study global warming and developing technologies to cut greenhouse gases, such as car exhaust and power plant emissions, that warm the earth by trapping infrared radiation. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has for years contended that $1.4 million annually to monitor carbon dioxide is not enough.Bush's call for more research likely means it will be years before another treaty of the scope of Kyoto accords comes close to global ratification.



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