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Global Warming

US government policies

Project: Climate Change and Global Warming
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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A White House team drafts a memo to John Bridgeland, President Bush’s domestic policy adviser, arguing that Bush should renege on his campaign promise to impose limits on power plant emissions of carbon dioxide. The memo cites a December 2000 Energy Department analysis which said that implementing CO2 restrictions would undermine the economy. The memo suggests that Bush acknowledge rising global temperatures, but state that “any specific policy proposals or approaches aimed at addressing global warming must await further scientific inquiry.” Not a single person on the team is a scientist. The recommendation ignores a March 7 memo written by climate experts at the Environmental Protection Agency urging the president to keep his pledge. In their memo, the EPA scientists said the Energy Department analysis was flawed. It noted that the study “was based on assumptions that do not apply” and “inflates the costs of achieving carbon dioxide reductions.” The White House team that recommends breaking the campaign pledge is made up of Cesar Conda, an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney; Andrew Lundquist, the White House energy policy director, who later becomes an energy lobbyist; Kyle E. McSlarrow, deputy secretary of energy and former chairman of Dan Quayle’s 2000 presidential campaign; Robert C. McNally Jr., an energy and economic analyst who later becomes an investment banker; Karen Knutson, a deputy on energy policy and former Republican Senate aide; and Marcus Peacock, an analyst on science and energy issues with the Office of Management and Budget. [New York Times, 10/19/2004]

Entity Tags: Cesar Conda, Karen Knutson, Andrew Lundquist, Kyle E. McSlarrow, Bush administration (43), Robert C. McNally Jr., Environmental Protection Agency, Marcus Peacock, John Bridgeland

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

EPA administrator Christie Todd Whitman tells reporters that the Bush administration has “no interest in implementing” the Kyoto Protocol. [BBC, 3/28/2001; Associated Press, 3/28/2001; Environmental News Network, 3/28/2001; CBS News, 3/28/2001; CNN, 3/29/2001] The treaty would require 39 industrialized nations to cut emissions of six greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride—to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the period 2008-2012. The US would be required to reduce its emissions by about 7 percent. The protocol will not go into effect until it has been ratified by countries that were responsible for at least 55 percent of the world’s carbon emissions in 1990. [BBC, 3/29/2001; BBC, 9/29/2001] The United States is the world’s largest polluter and therefore its refusal to support the treaty represents a significant setback. In 1990, the US was responsible for 36.1 percent of greenhouse emissions. [BBC, 6/4/2004] The Bush administration complains that the treaty would harm US economic interests and that it unfairly puts too much of the burden on industrialized nations while not seeking to limit pollution from developing nations. [BBC, 3/29/2001]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Christine Todd Whitman

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, US International Relations

Category Tags: Policies

President Bush unveils a plan to reduce the “intensity” of greenhouse gases by 18 percent. Greenhouse gas intensity is the ratio of emissions to economic output, meaning that global warming pollution would continue to grow, but at a slower pace. This target would be achieved through $4.6 billion in tax credits and incentives, spent over a five-year period, to encourage businesses and farmers to cut their emissions. For example, the plan would provide tax credits to businesses that use renewable energy sources. [CNN, 2/14/2006; New York Times, 2/14/2006] Critics of the plan say a voluntary program based on tax credits and incentives represents a weak alternative to the Kyoto Protocol’s mandatory reductions which would cut emissions well below their 1990 levels by 2010. “We’ve found that these voluntary programs just don’t work,” says Joseph Lieberman. [CNN, 2/14/2006] The New York Times notes, “The one thing the climate policy would not do is require anything of anybody.” [New York Times, 2/14/2006] The president also introduces a second plan aimed at curbing air pollution. The “Clear Skies Initiative” would require reductions of sulfur dioxide emissions by 73 percent, nitrogen oxides by 67 percent, and mercury by 69 percent, by 2018. But the plan includes no reductions for carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas. Companies would be able to purchase credits from other businesses that have reduced their emissions below required levels. Unlike the plan supported by environmentalists and many Democrats, Bush’s program would delay these reductions until 2010 or later. [CNN, 2/14/2006; New York Times, 2/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Joseph Lieberman, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

The Bush administration announces its 10-year “Climate Change Science Program Strategic Plan” which it says is aimed at reducing the “uncertainties” associated with the issue of global warming. Its goals include identifying “natural variability” in climate change; improving climate forecasting; improving methods for determining the risks of global warming; improving methods of measuring the effects of greenhouse gases; and obtaining a better understanding of the impact global warming might have on humans, wildlife, and plant communities. The task will be a collaborative effort shared among 13 different federal agencies that have been charged with producing no fewer than 21 reports over the next four years. Critics of the plan say it is an attempt to prevent anything meaningful from being done to address the human causes of global warming. They note that scientists and governments from more than 150 countries have already reached a consensus on the issue—that global warming is happening, that human activity is the dominant force behind it, and that action needs to be taken immediately, before it is too late. “We can’t wait until we have perfect knowledge on climate change,” says Michael MacCracken, an atmospheric scientist who led US efforts to determine the potential effects of global warming from 1993 to 2001. McCracken mocks the Bush administration’s presumed respect for certainty, noting that it “appears to have no uncertainty about the safety of genetically modified foods,” a technology that many experts have raised concerns about. [Associated Press, 7/23/2003; Inter Press Service, 7/25/2005]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Michael MacCracken

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

The Environmental Protection Agency rules that carbon dioxide, the leading cause of global warming, cannot be regulated as a pollutant. EPA General Counsel Robert Fabricant writes in his 12-page decision, “Because the [Clean Air Act] does not authorize regulation to address climate change, it follows that [carbon dioxide] and other [greenhouse gases], as such, are not air pollutants.” His ruling reverses the position taken by the Clinton administration in 1998. Eron Shosteck, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, is pleased with the decision. “Why would you regulate a pollutant that is an inert gas that is vital to plant photosynthesis and that people exhale when they breathe? That’s not a pollutant,” he says. Melissa Carey, a climate policy specialist for Environmental Defense, disagrees. “Refusing to call greenhouse-gas emissions a pollutant is like refusing to say that smoking causes lung cancer. The Earth is round. Elvis is dead. Climate change is happening.” [Knight Ridder, 8/29/2003]

Entity Tags: Robert E. Fabricant, Bush administration (43), Eron Shosteck, Melissa Carey, Environmental Protection Agency

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

A budget document from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)‘s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research reveals that the Bush administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2005 would reduce climate change research budget by $9.2 million, eliminating the federal government’s $2 million abrupt climate change research program and cutting its paleoclimatology laboratory in half. It would also terminate $1.3 million in funding for postdoctoral programs and end research programs on the health and human aspects of climate change. [ESA Policy News Update, 6/14/2004; Natural Resource Defense Council, 12/31/2005]

Entity Tags: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Bush administration (43)

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), officially implements a new NOAA-wide media policy. The new policy, written by NOAA Public Affairs Director Jordan St. John, government lawyers, and Commerce Department policymakers, gives the NOAA’s public affairs offices ultimate authority over all agency communications. [Raw Story, 10/4/2005; Union of Concern Scientists and Government Accountability Project, 1/30/2007, pp. 31 pdf file; Maassarani, 3/27/2007, pp. 10 pdf file] The media policy will become more restrictive after Hurricane Katrina (see September 29, 2005).

Entity Tags: Jordan St. John, Conrad C. Lautenbacher

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Media contact with scientists, Hurricane intensity

NASA quietly terminates the Deep Space Climate Observatory, a program that would have provided scientists with a way to continuously monitor Earth’s energy balance. According to Robert L. Park, a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, data obtained by the observatory would have helped scientists develop a better understanding of global warming. The observatory, named Triana, was the brainchild of former Vice President Al Gore. Its launch, scheduled for 2001, was put on hold by the Bush administration, which ridiculed the project as “Gore’s screen saver.” Gore had suggested that the program could stream video footage of the earth into classrooms so students could watch the earth’s weather systems live from space. NASA says it decided to terminate the project because of “competing priorities.” Launching the satellite would have cost only $100 million. [New York Times, 1/15/2006] In 2004, President Bush announced that one of his administration’s space priorities would be to begin a program that would send manned space flights to the moon by 2020, and eventually to Mars. (see January 11, 2004)

Entity Tags: Robert L. Park, Deep Space Climate Observatory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization

Dr. James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a top climate scientist, reveals that the Bush administration ordered NASA’s public affairs staff to review his lectures, papers, Web site postings, and interview requests after he gave a lecture calling for the reduction of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. “They feel their job is to be the censor of information going out to the public,” Hansen says, and he promises to ignore the restrictions. NASA denies trying to silence Hansen, saying the restrictions apply to all NASA officials, and adds that it is inappropriate for government scientists to make policy statements (see Between June 2003 and October 2003, (January 2006), and (Late January 2006)). [Savage, 2007, pp. 106] This is not the first time Hansen has gone public about government attempts to censor and muzzle him and his fellows (see October 2004, October 26, 2004, and February 10, 2006).

Entity Tags: Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Bush administration (43), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, James E. Hansen

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Whistleblowers, Political pressure on staff

NASA quietly changes its mission statement, from, “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers… as only NASA can,” to, “To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery, and aeronautics research.” NASA spokesman David E. Steitz says the change reflects President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars (see January 11, 2004). Some NASA scientists are angered by the change, which was implemented without consulting the agency’s 19,000 employees or giving them advance notice. According to NASA scientists, the phrase “understand and protect” played an important role in determining the agency’s research priorities. “Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions,” the New York Times reports. Philip B. Russell, a 25-year NASA veteran who is an atmospheric chemist at the Ames Research Center, says, “We refer to the mission statement in all our research proposals that go out for peer review, whenever we have strategy meetings. As civil servants, we’re paid to carry out NASA’s mission. When there was that very easy-to-understand statement that our job is to protect the planet, that made it much easier to justify this kind of work.” [New York Times, 7/22/2006]

Entity Tags: David E. Steitz, Philip B. Russell, National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Category Tags: Policies

In its 2007 budget request, NASA proposes canceling or delaying a number of significant earth science programs that scientists consider critical to understanding global climate change. The Plain Dealer reports that these cutbacks are being made “in order to pay for human spaceflight projects.” [Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 5/28/2006; Boston Globe, 6/9/2006] The Bush administration has pledged that the US will launch manned space flights to the moon by 2020, and eventually to Mars. (see January 11, 2004)

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

The National Academy of Sciences releases a study finding that NASA’s earth science budget has declined 30 percent since 2000. NASA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees a large portion of the government’s climate research, has been plagued with enormous cost overruns and schedule delays with its premier weather and climate mission. The report—two years in the making—warns that half of the scientific instruments on the country’s environmental satellites are expected to cease working by 2010. Among other recommendations, the study suggests that the government increase its spending on researching the potential impacts of climate change such as ice-sheet melting, sea-level changes, and extreme weather events; restore support for efforts to improve NASA’s “capability to observe natural hazards and environmental changes”; and fund other efforts that would improve weather forecasting. Co-chairs Berrien Moore III of the University of New Hampshire and Richard Anthes of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research tell the Washington Post that NASA needs about $500 million a year restored to NASA’s earth science program, “essentially a return to the budgets during the Clinton administration,” the Post notes. [Washington Post, 1/16/2007; National Academy of Science, 1/16/2007]

Entity Tags: National Academy of Sciences, Richard Anthes, Berrien Moore III

Category Tags: Policies

Jeremy Grantham, chairman of a Boston-based fund management company, in his quarterly letter to clients includes a commentary on the United States’ policy toward climate change, particularly that of the current administration. One of Grantham’s clients happens to be Vice President Dick Cheney. In his piece, titled “While America Slept, 1982-2006: A Rant on Oil Dependency, Global Warming, and a Love of Feel-Good Data,” Grantham writes, “Successive US administrations have taken little interest in either oil substitution or climate change and the current one has even seemed to have a vested interest in the idea that the science of climate change is uncertain.” Grantham embraces the conclusions of the latest IPCC report (see February 2, 2007), saying, “There is now nearly universal scientific agreement that fossil fuel use is causing a rise in global temperatures. The US is the only country in which environmental data is steadily attacked in a well-funded campaign of disinformation (funded mainly by one large oil company)” (see Between 1998 and 2005). If anyone is still sitting on the fence, he suggests considering Pascal’s Paradox—in other words, comparing the consequences of action vs. inaction if the IPCC’s conclusions are correct. Grantham, whose company manages $127 billion in assets, disputes the notion that going green would harm the US economy, noting that industrialized countries with better fuel efficiency have on average seen better economic growth than the US over the last 50 years. Instead of implementing a policy that would have increased fuel efficiency, the country’s “auto fleet fuel efficiency went backwards over 26 years by ingeniously offsetting substantial technological advances with equally substantial increases in weight,” he notes. “In contrast, the average Western European and Japanese cars increased efficiency by almost 50 percent.” He also writes that the US might have eliminated its oil dependency on the Middle East years ago had it simply implemented a “reasonable set of increased efficiencies.” If there were just 10 percent less cars on the road than there are today, and each one drove 10 percent fewer miles using vehicles that were 50 percent more efficient, US demand for oil would be 28 percent lower, he explains. If similar efficiency had been attained in other modes of transportation, the US would have been able to reduce its reliance on foreign oil by 38 percent completely eliminating its reliance on oil from Middle East, which currently accounts for only 28 percent of US oil imports. He also notes in his letter, which apparently was leaked to President Bush before publication, “Needless to say, our whole attitude and behavior in the Middle East would have been far different, and far less painful and costly. (Oil was clearly not the only issue, or perhaps even the biggest one in Iraq, but it is unlikely that US troops would have fought two wars had it been a non-oil country in, say, Africa or the Far East that was equally badly behaved.)” [Street, 2/5/2007; Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo, 2/5/2007]

Entity Tags: Jeremy Grantham, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

Four hours after the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)‘s report on global warming (see February 2, 2007) finding that greenhouse gases are “very likely” the main cause of rising global temperatures, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman says in a statement, “We are a small contributor to the overall, when you look at the rest of the world, so it’s really got to be a global solution.” The United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, is responsible for roughly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other country. [Associated Press, 2/2/2007]

Entity Tags: Samuel W. Bodman

Category Tags: Policies

The annual summit of the G-8 nations, an informal association of the Northern Hemisphere’s eight largest industrialized nations—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain, and the United States—concludes with what Vanity Fair will call “a tepid pledge to cut greenhouse gases by 50 percent by the year 2050.” President Bush lets his feelings about global warming and the US’s role in dealing with the issue show when, bidding farewell to his fellow heads of state, he says, “Goodbye from the world’s greatest polluter.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: US Environmental Record

Category Tags: Policies

At least 19 Congressional Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), say that the Obama administration’s “cap-and-trade” proposal would cost American families $3,128 apiece in extra taxes.
Misrepresenting an MIT Study - Boehner, McConnell, and their fellow Republicans base their claim on a 2007 MIT study. However, one of the study’s researchers, John Reilly, says that the Republicans are misreading it. According to Reilly, any tax burden on American families would not be felt until 2015, and the cost would be closer to $31 per person and $79 per year. The controversial claim originates in a Web posting by the House Republican Conference on March 24, which says: “The administration raises revenue for nationalized health care through a series of new taxes, including a light switch tax that would cost every American household $3,128 a year. What effect will this have on Americans struggling to pay their mortgages?” The St. Petersburg Times explains that the GOP’s “light switch tax” is a reference to President Obama’s proposal to tax power companies for carbon dioxide emissions, and allow companies to trade emissions credits among themselves. The program is called cap-and-trade. Republicans say the power companies would pass the tax on to electricity consumers, thus creating what they call a “light switch tax”—a term the Times calls misleading in and of itself. According to the MIT study, such a program would raise around $366 billion per year; Republicans divide that figure by the 117 million households in the US and get $3,128 in additional costs. Reilly says the Republicans are “just wrong. It’s wrong in so many ways it’s hard to begin.”
Corrected by Study's Author - And, Reilly says, he told House Republicans so when they contacted him on March 20. “I had explained why the estimate they had was probably incorrect and what they should do to correct it, but I think this wrong number was already floating around by that time.” Republicans also claim that the Obama administration intends to use cap-and-trade money to pay for what they call “nationalized health care,” a claim refuted by details of the program released by Obama officials. (House Republicans later amend this claim to say that the program will pay for “increased spending.”) The Times notes that Boehner rebuffs a second attempt by Reilly to correct the claim that the program will cost American households over $3,000 per year.
Further Falsehoods - Instead, nine other Republicans and the neoconservative Weekly Standard begin echoing the claim, with the Standard claiming that their figures show an annual cost of over $3,900 and accusing Reilly of “low-balling the cost of cap-and-trade by using some fuzzy logic.” Reilly says the Standard “just completely twisted the whole thing.… It’s false.” Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) takes the claim even further, saying that the huge annual tax would be levied on “every living American.” Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) restates the cost to $4,500 per family, and fellow House colleague Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) raises the rate to $4,560. Fox News correspondent Jim Angle reports Gregg’s claim without refutation or examination; on a later Fox broadcast, Gregg says, “every time you turn on your light switch, you’re going to be paying a tax.”
Denouncing the Lies - Reilly has written to Boehner and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming to denounce the GOP’s distortion of the MIT study. Democratic Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) accuses the Republicans of “using an intentional misrepresentation of the study,” and says: “One of the things I find most distressing is their repeated falsehood about somehow a $3,000 increase in taxes on the American people based on a research done by MIT. They talked about it four times again last night!… The fact is that in the budget we have an opportunity for people who want to be legislators not communicators to help us allocate how those benefits will be utilized.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2009; Think Progress, 4/1/2009; Think Progress, 4/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Judd Gregg, Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Obama administration, John Reilly, Jim Angle, Cynthia Lummis, Earl Blumenauer, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, House Republican Conference, John Boehner

Timeline Tags: Global Economic Crises

Category Tags: Policies, Politicization, Press releases, Studies-academic

During a Congressional hearing on the US’s response to global warming, Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) says global warming is nothing more than a natural phenomonon, and the only response people need to make is to get some “shade.” Barton says: “I believe that Earth’s climate is changing, but I think it’s changing for natural variation reasons. And I think mankind has been adopting, or adapting, to climate as long as man has walked the Earth. When it rains we find shelter. When it’s hot, we get shade. When it’s cold, we find a warm place to stay. Adaptation is the practical, affordable, utterly natural reflex response to nature when the planet is heating or cooling, as it always is.… Nature doesn’t seem to adjust to people as much as people adjust to nature. Adaptation to shifts in temperature is not that difficult.” Think Progress reporter Satyam Khanna notes that Barton is nicknamed “Smokey Joe” for “his efforts on behalf of big polluters,” and last year “stalled Congressional efforts to decrease power plant emissions.” [Think Progress, 3/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Satyam Khanna, Joe Barton

Category Tags: Policies, Communications with Congress, Causal factors

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