A Global Warming Believer in Bush Cabinet
Thursday, June 1, 2006; 3:39 PM
WASHINGTON -- Henry Paulson may find the tightrope he'll be walking as President Bush's Treasury secretary will span a wider gulf than in his current twin jobs as chairman of Goldman Sachs and The Nature Conservancy.
Both the Wall Street powerhouse and the world's richest environmental group look at global warming as a dire threat requiring government-mandated reductions in carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
In fact, the president has rejected the Kyoto international global warming treaty that was negotiated during the Clinton administration. And that's the rub for staunch supporters of Bush's environmental policies.
"You do not want someone serving as a Cabinet officer who has a habit of indulging his environmental hobby at the expense of his financial responsibilities," said Tom Borelli of the Free Enterprise Action Fund, a mutual fund set up partly to debunk climate science that accepts the idea of global warming.
Steve McCormick, president of The Nature Conservancy, said Paulson won't shy from sharing his views on global warming in Bush's Cabinet.
"He is unhesitant in expressing his opinion when he thinks it's the right thing to do," McCormick said. "I'm sure that if there's an opportunity for Hank to provide his point of view on this issue, he will take advantage of it."
Paulson, nominated Tuesday by Bush to succeed John Snow at Treasury, took an early interest in nature. He was raised as a Christian Scientist on an Illinois farm, where he still keeps five acres and has let raccoons have the run of the house. Before college he wanted to become a forest or park ranger. Instead he opted for a business career, getting an MBA from Harvard.
He and his wife, Wendy, are both skilled birders. At their house in Illinois, they've raised birds, dogs, cats, raccoons, flying squirrels, lizards, snakes, mice, turtles, frogs and a tarantula.
"Environment is my passion," Paulson told Charlie Rose in a PBS interview in 2004.
At Goldman Sachs, he arranged for a handler with a leather glove to bring in captive-bred birds of prey to show off each year. The handler would come from The Peregrine Fund, another conservation group on which he serves on the board.
In New York, he often stops in Central Park, close to where the couple lives, to go bird-watching while on his way to work. Wendy Paulson volunteers as an environmental education teacher at public schools in Harlem. She also is board chairman of Rare, an international environmental nonprofit group.