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Global Warming: The Crisis Continues

On Tuesday, facing an American public that overwhelmingly believes the earth is warming and a new Congress resolved to curb this warming, President Bush devoted a whole half-sentence in his State of the Union Address to “the serious challenge of global climate change.”

On Tuesday, facing an American public that overwhelmingly believes the earth is warming and a new Congress resolved to curb this warming, President Bush devoted a whole half-sentence in his State of the Union Address to “the serious challenge of global climate change.” Bush’s sound bite set off a wave of accolades and positive media attention. But his boldest-sounding energy proposal—to replace 35 billion gallons of gasoline with “alternative” (rather than renewable) fuels by 2017—relies on coal-based fuel, a product that “could nearly double global warming pollution per gallon of fuel” compared to petroleum-based fuels we use today. This week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the main international scientific body assessing causes of climate change, will issue its “strongest statement yet linking emissions from burning fossil fuels to rising global temperatures.”

  • President Bush’s proposals will not seriously address the release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. The primary energy goal announced in last week’s State of the Union was to reduce U.S. gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next 10 years. The Washington Post notes the fine print: “Administration officials said that the goal is 20 percent below projected annual gasoline usage, not off today’s levels,” meaning “that carbon dioxide emissions from transportation fuels will drop only slightly from today’s levels.” Moreover, to meet this goal, the administration wants to revise the Renewable Fuel Standard to allow gasoline derived from coal to count against the standards. The problem is that refining and then burning a gallon of gasoline derived from coal would send nearly twice as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as a conventional gallon of gasoline and would thus be a disaster for global warming.
  • Congress has been taking the lead on addressing global warming. Tomorrow Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will hold her first global warming hearing as chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In the House Rep. Henry Waxman’s (D-CA) Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow investigating political interference in the work of government climate change scientists. Last week Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced a bold plan to create a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and to introduce energy legislation based on the committee’s recommendations by July 4.
  • The science continues to show that man-made causes are the primary contributor to global warming. A draft of the IPCC’s new report increases the odds of humans being the primary cause of post-1950 global warming from “likely” (66-90 percent) to “very likely.” (more than 90 percent). Continued global warming is predicted, leading to a “huge disruption to agriculture, more floods, heat waves, desertification and melting glaciers.” The impact will be catastrophic, “forcing hundreds of millions of people to flee their devastated homelands, particularly in tropical, low-lying areas, while creating waves of immigrants” — dubbed global warming refugees —“whose movements will strain the economies of even the most affluent countries.” Noting the consensus-based nature of the report, one British climate expert says, “The really chilling thing about the IPCC report is that it is the work of several thousand climate experts who have widely differing views about how greenhouse gases will have their effect. Some think they will have a major impact, others a lesser role. Each paragraph of this report was therefore argued over and scrutinized intensely. Only points that were considered indisputable survived this process. This is a very conservative document – that’s what makes it so scary.

Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.