This morning’s New York Times points out the, uh, mild flaws in the Administration’s “attempts” at curbing global warming…
The Fat Bush Theory
George W. Bush says we’re on track to meet the nation’s goals for curbing global warming.
I see some hands waving out there. Didn’t know we had any goals for curbing global warming? Where were you in 2002 when the president put us on the road toward reducing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent by 2012?
Bush held a press conference in the Rose Garden this week to give us a warming progress report or, in his words, “share some views on this important issue.” He almost always refers to global warming as an environmental “issue.” As The Times’s Andrew Revkin noted on his blog, Dot Earth, most people talk about environmental problems. But perhaps the White House regards that as overly alarmist.
“I’m pleased to say that we remain on track to meet this goal,” the president said, in a tone that sounded rather belligerent considering this was supposed to be good news.
Let’s back up here. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had trouble getting my head around goals that involve reducing the rate at which something is growing. To appreciate the administration’s efforts on the, um, issue, let’s try to imagine it in terms other than greenhouse gas emissions. (As the president noted: “Climate change involves complicated science.”)
Suppose that two years after taking office, George W. Bush discovered that because of the stress of his job, he had gained 40 pounds and was tipping the scales at 220.
The real-world Bush would immediately barricade himself in the White House gym, refusing all human contact or nourishment until the issue was resolved. But imagine that he regarded getting fat as seriously as he regards melting glaciers, rising oceans and drought and starvation around the planet. In that case, he would set a serious, management-type goal — of, say, an 18 percent reduction in the rate at which he was gaining weight, to be reached within the next decade.
Cut to the Rose Garden in 2008 where partial victory is declared. “Over the past seven years, my administration has taken a rational, balanced approach to these serious challenges,” the 332-pound chief executive announces. He delivers this good news sitting down.
“I can’t put my arms down!”
2012: Bush hits his final goal and 400 pounds at approximately the same time.
I hope now you can appreciate just how useful the Bush global-warming initiative is. But the president isn’t satisfied with merely delivering on his promises. In his Rose Garden address, he upped the ante, vowing to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions entirely by 2025.
Let us forget, for a second, that this is a man who’s only going to be in office for nine months of the 17 years in question. Furthermore, let us skip lightly over the fact that Bush did not give any hints whatsoever as to how this goal is supposed to be reached except to say that “the wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts.”
Since the president never suggests actual behavior changes on the part of American citizens, that leaves us with what? More efficient refrigerators?
Lots of things! There is, for instance, the ambitious new fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon by 2020; we sure do have a lot to look forward to in the future, people. There’s new federal spending on biofuels. Much of this is for ethanol, which has the unfortunate side effect of creating more greenhouse gases than it eliminates, and, of course, helping to create a planetary crisis over rising food costs. But nothing’s perfect.
The president’s real focus seemed to be on fighting the strategies for global warming that he doesn’t like: the Kyoto Protocol, court challenges and legislation pending in Congress. Almost all of them, interestingly, were referred to as “problems.”
Instead of Kyoto, the administration is pushing for “a new process” in which the countries that do most of the polluting will get together and work on a climate agreement. That process was in fact chugging along this very week at a gathering in Paris, where Bush’s speech was greeted with a round of excited reviews. Germany’s environment minister, for instance, dubbed it “losership instead of leadership.”
The Europeans have a perfect right to look down on the United States since they’ve set much more ambitious targets for reducing global warming. While they do not appear to be likely to meet any of them, it’s the thought that counts.
If the Bush strategy seems a little … little, go back to our metaphor. Imagine it’s 2025, and you’ve got a 486-pound ex-president being wheeled in to accept the congratulations of the world on his excellent physical fitness program. Really, that’s big.