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Bush's Third Climate-Change Fake-Out

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By Dan Froomkin
Special to washingtonpost.com
Wednesday, April 16, 2008; 11:38 AM

Taking a brief break from all the papal pomp, President Bush today rolls out yet another wave of climate-change flim-flam.

It took so long for Bush to even acknowledge the human role in global warming that whenever he even mentions the topic, some people act like it's big news.

But in an era where a consensus has emerged that forceful action is required to save the planet, Bush's essentially empty words are not very different from silence. And to the extent that their intent is to subvert sincere attempts to find solutions, they're actually worse.

Bush's trick on climate change is to wait until others are about to embrace mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, then make a major speech about goals and process, without any specifics on measures or penalties.

His planned speech this afternoon recalls his two earlier attempts to muddy the debate and buy time.

I chronicled his first such effort in my June 1, 2006, column, Bush's Climate-Change Feint. In a clear move to derail European and U.N. plans for strict caps on emissions, Bush proposed a new round of international meetings that would take up most of the rest of his presidency. The purpose of the meetings, he said, would not be to write rules, but to establish what the White House, in breathtaking new euphemism, called "aspirational goals."

Andrew Gumbel of the Independent offered an instant "translation" of Bush's basic message: "In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll ratings. So now I have to look interested."

The BBC reported: "Mr Bush's statement has caught the media's attention, but - so far - lacks the detail needed to assess whether the proposal marks a change of heart in the White House over the need for globally binding emission targets."

In my Oct. 1, 2007, column, Bush's Climate Charade, I wrote about Bush's second effort, at a climate-change conference in Washington. While his speech superficially gave the appearance of favoring a global reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions, he once again embraced unspecific goals and voluntary compliance that left other nations and serious advocates unmoved.

Today's Speech

Dan Eggen writes in The Washington Post: "President Bush will endorse an 'intermediate goal' today for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but he will not put forward any specific legislation or proposal on how the goal should be met, White House officials said. . . .

"'The president will announce tomorrow an intermediate goal that will lead to a long-term goal' through ongoing negotiations on global climate change, said White House spokesman Tony Fratto. . . .

"In an afternoon address in the Rose Garden, Bush will also reiterate his long-standing opposition to mandatory emissions regulations without simultaneous agreements from large developing nations such as India and China, officials said. . . .


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