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Talking Points: Blocking Progress on Climate Change

Bush administration negotiators met this week in Germany in advance of next month's G8 summit of the world's richest nations.

As the threat of global climate crisis grows, the global mechanisms for averting disaster are being gutted. A new report published by the National Academy of Sciences found that from 2000 to 2004, global industry emitted roughly 7.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide, millions more than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had projected “under its most extreme scenario.” Meanwhile, the world’s only international pact mandating cuts in carbon emissions, the Kyoto Protocol, is set to expire in 2012. With this backdrop, Bush administration negotiators met this week in Germany in advance of next month’s G8 summit of the world’s richest nations. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has “been pushing hard to get the Group of 8 to take significant action on climate change,” setting bold new standards to take the place of Kyoto. Virtually alone in resisting her is President Bush. “In unusually harsh language,” Bush administration negotiators rejected Germany’s proposal, complaining that it “crosses multiple red lines in terms of what we simply cannot agree to.” (For more, read the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s global warming blog, Climate Progress.)

  • The Bush administration is blocking real action on climate change. Bush’s drive to hobble the G8 climate change declaration was first uncovered two weeks ago, when reports showed that the United States was seeking to eliminate a section in the G8 draft that included “a pledge to limit the global temperature rise this century to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as an agreement to reduce worldwide greenhouse gas emissions to 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.” Bush administration officials also tried to eliminate draft language that said, “We acknowledge that the U.N. climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change.” The administration is also blocking local progress on climate change, refusing to approve efforts by 12 states “to institute tougher standards for tailpipe emissions than U.S. regulations require.” In an op-ed last week, Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Jodi Rell (R-CT) charged that Bush’s resistance borders on malfeasance.” Also, recently more than 20 major U.S. corporations joined the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, agreeing to a 60 percent to 80 percent reduction by 2050, far beyond what even the G8 is calling for.
  • Climate change will drastically affect some of those least able to afford adaptations to its effects. Noting the focus on anti-poverty measures at recent G8 summits, the international development group Oxfam has issued a new report highlighting the “deep injustice in the impacts of climate change“: the poor nations least responsible for the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming will bear the brunt of its devastating impacts. For Africa that means dramatic reductions in agricultural productivity, hundreds of millions newly exposed to water shortages, a 5 percent to 10 percent loss in GDP in coastal countries, and an expanded range of malaria to exhaust already-deficient heath services. The World Bank estimates that 40 percent of development assistance and concessional financing — approximately $40 billion annually — is directed at activities that will be affected by climate change. Oxfam estimates that it will cost developing countries $50 billion a year to adapt to climate change.
  • Coal is not the key to the reducing global warming emissions. Meanwhile, even as congressional leaders draft legislation to reduce greenhouse gases, “a powerful roster of Democrats and Republicans is pushing to subsidize coal as the king of alternative fuels.” Prodded by “intense lobbying from the coal industry,” lawmakers from coal states are proposing that taxpayers spend billions of dollars to subsidize the coal industry’s production of liquid diesel fuel. This is a dangerously backwards idea. Coal-to-liquid fuels “produce almost twice the volume of greenhouse gases as ordinary diesel,” and the production process of such fuels “creates almost a ton of carbon dioxide for every barrel of liquid fuel.” Congressional supporters of coal-to-liquids argue that “coal-based fuels are more American than gasoline.” But the only responsible way to achieve American energy independence is to create policies that also reduce global warming. That can be done with low-carbon, alternative transportation fuels, including American-grown biofuels.