Monday, June 11, 2007

Burning Bush's "Forward Step" is Just Hot Air

I have been in Rome. I knew Bush was as well - may have been the smell of tear gas in the streets.
My latest in last week's Tribune

It's a good job Tony Blair has stopped losing his teeth. It saves him the embarrassment of checking under the pillow to see what the tooth fairy left him. How naïve could he be to describe Bush's position on Climate Change as "a huge step forward"?

Well, as we have seen consistently, very. George W. Bush's "conversion" to global warming is typical of his administration, one tiny step forward for him and two giant steps backward for mankind.

For example in 2002, to cover his refusal to abide by the (already demonstrably inadequate) Kyoto protocols, he suggested an 18 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions "intensity" in the following ten years. It sounded good, and doubtless kept Yo-Blair off his back a bit, – but in reality, it meant that even if the "volunteers" among American companies lived up to it, actual emissions would rise 12 percent over the same period. These American corporations are the same ones who lobbied for years to keep lead in paint and petrol and asbestos in the buildings.

"Intensity" is the ratio of emissions to GDP, so total emissions would have been going up all through this period of economic growth. To show the President's sincerity, the following year, in 2003, the White House took the Environmental Protection Agency's draft report on the state of the environment and erased references to studies that implicated industrial pollution and vehicle exhaust in global warming.

Where the EPA had said ''Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment,'' the Bush edition emitted hot air – ''The complexity of the Earth system and the interconnections among its components make it a scientific challenge to document change, diagnose its causes, and develop useful projections of how natural variability and human actions may affect the global environment in the future. Because of these complexities and the potentially profound consequences of climate change and variability, climate change has become a capstone scientific and societal issue for this generation and the next, and perhaps even beyond.''

So did that alarm you, or send you to sleep? It is in fact the opposite tactic to WMDs in Iraq. Instead of taking a non-existent threat and talking it up, he took a serious danger, and buried it in polysyllables. And his "bold step forward" is no different. It is an exaggeration. It is a terminological inexactitude. It is a fib. It is a whopper. It is a distortion of reality. It is a total lie.

On global warming, Bush is under duelling constraints. His own conception of science would make phlogiston seem like state of the art. His party is bankrolled by companies that make gas-guzzling off-road vehicles and sell oil – and who show no flexibility at all in the face of international competition. They both only survive because of Federal tax breaks. In general American industry is like the CBI under Margaret Thatcher – its ideological fixations lead it to champion policies that lead to the bankruptcy of untold thousands of firms.

The President himself, despite calling upon the UN more than any of his predecessors for peacekeeping, cannot bring himself to admit that UN decisions have any validity. After all, some of them may go against Washington. So he does not want the blue fingerprints of the UN on anything. Not least because then they would be public, and provide yardsticks against actual performance.

However, despite the reticence of the American media, the news is beginning to sink into the American public. I mean, if you want a message from God, how many hurricanes hitting the Republican-voting former Confederate states do you want? In fact, even the Evangelicals are now accepting that just because the Earth is God's gift does not give you the right to crap on it just so Texaco can continue making big bucks.

So as in Darfur, the Bush answer is to express concern – but not do anything about it that would upset the guys who send the big cheques to the Republican Party.

So at this G8 summit, faced with the prospect, as at Kyoto, of the whole world meeting under the auspices of the United Nations and hammering out a deal that may, just conceivably, save the planet, Bush reverted to a previous tactic. Ignore the United Nations, which is global conspiracy against the UN, let us assemble a small band of nations with conservative governments, Japan, Canada, probably Australia, and make a vague general suggestion of being good.

The sickening thing is that Blair has accumulated enough brown-nose points enough that if he were to get up and denounce this pathetic evasion of a cause which, in all fairness, he has been banging the drum about since he took office, it would actually be noticed in the US and would have a political effect. But as during Iraq, where US politicians wonder why Blair did not ask for the occasional quids for his innumerable pro-quos, the Prime Minister talks about a big step forward.

And of course that leads to the embarrassing spectacle of the G8 meeting, where Angela Markel, the allegedly conservative Chancellor of Germany is prepared to confront Bush, while Tony Blair, vice-president of the Socialist International rushes to wipe the President's emission-smeared arse. A "huge step forward" forsooth!

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