The Self Made Pundit
Tuesday, December 03, 2002
THE STUDENT PRESIDENT: President Bush was a bit off the mark when he said he would be the education president.
It turns out that Bush is really the student president, given his tactic of “studying” problems – such as stem cell research – as a way of pretending to be concerned about problems without doing anything to upset his right wing backers.
The Self Made Pundit has already mocked Bush in our Nov. 13 post for using this tactic of calling for more research as a way of avoiding tackling the ever growing problem of global warming.
The cause for that derision was a New York Times report that Bush was recycling his father’s environmental plans and calling for four more years of research into the causes of global warming rather than taking more immediate steps to address this impending global catastrophe. The Self Made Pundit was outraged (though hardly surprised) that Bush was cynically calling for years of research as a way of feigning interest in the potentially disastrous problem of global warming while doing nothing to disturb his corporate backers.
Perhaps we were too harsh at that time in criticizing Bush for calling for four more years of research before taking action. After all, given the Bush administration’s ties to energy industries, the proposal could have been far worse. For example, the administration could have proposed studying the problem of global warming for another 10 years – not jut four – before taking any action.
Unfortunately, Bush too apparently realized that his environmental approach could have been far worse, and has decided to go for it. Bush is now calling for 10 years of research before taking any meaningful action on global warning. As The New York Times reports today:
On Tuesday, the Bush administration convenes a three-day meeting here to set its new agenda for research on climate change. But many climate experts who will attend say talking about more research will simply delay decisions that need to be made now to avert serious harm from global warming.
President Bush has called for a decade of research before anything beyond voluntary measures is used to stem tailpipe and smokestack emissions of heat-trapping gases that scientists say are contributing to global warming.
But many climate experts say the perennial need for more study can no longer justify further delays in emission cuts.
"Waiting 10 years to decide is itself a decision which may remove from the table certain options for stabilizing concentrations later," said Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences at Princeton.
For example, under today's rate of emissions growth, he and other experts say that certain losses are already probable, including dwindling of snow-dependent water supplies and global die-offs of vulnerable ecosystems like coral reefs, alpine meadows and certain coastal marshes.
If greenhouse gas concentrations double, climate experts expect substantial disruptions of ecosystems and water supplies, coastal damage as sea levels rise and intensified drought and downpour cycles. Even more calamitous surprises could lie in store, including disruptions in the Atlantic Ocean currents that help warm Europe.
The experts concede that they cannot say exactly what may happen, or when. Also, changes will probably occur slowly — sea levels rising by millimeters a year, say — so there will be no one event to prompt people to choose a fuel-saving hybrid car over a gas-guzzling S.U.V.
But the warming will have enormous momentum, they say. Unlike soot or sulfur pollution, which falls out of the atmosphere within days or weeks, molecules of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can circulate for a century or more.
Similarly, the toxic effects of the Bush administration’s cynically negligent inaction on global warming will continue to harm the environment for decades to come.