Yes, globe is warming, even if Bush denies it
As the world's sole superpower, the United States has tremendous influence. Beyond military might, it can shape issues from trade to terrorism to the environment. That's why future generations, say 100 years from now, might ask: So why didn't it get serious about global warming when it had the chance?
The Bush administration's mantra on climate change is this: The science is not yet in to prove a link between man's gas-and-coal guzzling habits and rising global temperatures that are causing glaciers to shrink, polar ice caps to melt and seas to rise.
Yet, as USA TODAY's Dan Vergano reported Monday, not only is the science in, it is also overwhelming. Last week, the National Academy of Sciences and 10 other leading world bodies said there is "significant global warming" that requires urgent action.
Another report last week further undercut claims of bad science: The New York Times disclosed that former oil industry lobbyist Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, altered global warming reports to downplay links between emissions and climate change.
Cooney resigned, for what the White House insisted were unrelated reasons. President Bush repeated that the science is unclear.
Talk about the modern-day equivalent of the flat-Earth brigade. Taking action won't come cheap, but by denying the problem exists, Bush misses significant opportunities: Economic impact. The USA is the leading emitter of greenhouse gases, more than one quarter of the world total. Logically, the administration says mandatory caps on carbon emissions would hurt the U.S. economy the most, driving up the cost of energy. How much is anybody's guess and depends on the approach. Today's opposing view estimates a global treaty would cost a family of four $2,700 a year. Obviously a significant sum.
But there also are compensating benefits. Most nations in the developed world are already putting mandatory caps on emissions and providing "green" incentives. Because many U.S. corporations operate overseas, they are having to comply anyway.
In addition, major companies such as General Electric and Duke Energy are championing stronger government intervention. They crave an international uniformity of standards and general direction that they think is inevitable.
International goodwill. In 2001, the administration walked away from a global treaty the Kyoto Protocol that, after years of difficult negotiations, committed developed nations to reductions and caps on carbon emissions. The treaty was flawed because it didn't involve rapidly industrializing countries such as China and India. But by quitting, the United States alienated allies and reduced its own influence.
Now, some states, notably California, are introducing mandatory caps. The U.S. Senate might try to include measures this week in a pending energy bill.
Next month, leaders of industrialized nations are meeting in Scotland. Britain is making global warming a central issue. If Bush joined in, he would do the planet, and future generations, a great favor.