President Bush Rejects Climate Change Report

By Cat Lazaroff

WASHINGTON, DC, June 5, 2002 (ENS) - The White House is distancing itself from the Bush administration's first report to admit that humans are causing climate changes. The report from the Environmental Protection Agency, while acknowledging that human activities lead to global warming, argues that it is better to adapt to the changes than to try and stop them.

In "Climate Action Report 2002," the third formal U.S. communication to the United Nations under the Framework Convention on Climate Change the EPA wrote, "Greenhouse gases are accumulating in Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperature and subsurface ocean temperature to rise."


President George W. Bush called the EPA report a product of a "bureaucracy." (Photo courtesy The White House)
Conservation groups hailed the report as representing a shift in the Bush administration's attitude toward scientific studies showing that the burning of fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas and coal is creating a blanket of heat trapping gasses around the planet.

But on Tuesday, a day after news agencies gave widespread coverage to the new report, President George W. Bush dismissed the report as having been "put out by the bureaucracy."

"I do not support the Kyoto treaty," Bush said, reiterating the position he has held since his election. "The Kyoto treaty would severely damage the United States economy, and I don't accept that. I accept the alternative we put out, that we can grow our economy and, at the same time, through technologies, improve our environment."

Later the same day, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer added that the president believes that there is "considerable uncertainty relating to the science of climate change."

"This report submitted to the United Nations also recognizes that any 'definitive prediction of potential outcomes is not yet feasible' and that, 'one of the weakest links in our knowledge is the connection between global and regional predictions of climate change'," Fleischer added.

Shasta Reservoir

Changing snowfall patterns could reduce the amount of runoff water from spring thaws available to fill reservoirs like Shasta Lake, behind the Shasta Dam in California. (Photo courtesy National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA))
The EPA report warns that total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are expected to increase by 43 percent between 2000 and 2020, despite Bush administration programs to encourage voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the use of technology to store or sequester excess carbon dioxide (CO2).

This rise in emissions will disrupt rain and snowfall patterns, reducing fresh water supplies in reservoirs fed by melting snow, the EPA report projects. Dangerous heat waves will strike with increasing frequency in urban centers, and coastal wetlands, homes and businesses may be inundated by rising sea levels.

Some natural habitats could disappear completely, the report warns.

"A few ecosystems, such as alpine meadows in the Rocky Mountains and some barrier islands, are likely to disappear entirely in some areas," states the report. "Other ecosystems, such as southeastern forests, are likely to experience major species shifts or break up into a mosaic of grasslands, woodlands and forests."


Coastal wetlands like the Florida Everglades could vanish due to rising sea levels, the EPA says. (Photo courtesy Florida International University College of Engineering)
Some of these changes have already begun, the EPA says, and little can be done to stop them. "Natural ecosystems appear to be the most vulnerable to climate change because generally little can be done to help them adapt," the report says.

"Some of the goods and services lost through the disappearance or fragmentation of natural ecosystems are likely to be costly or impossible to replace," adds the report.

Despite this dire prognosis, the EPA report does not recommend that the U.S. adopt the emissions reductions required by the Kyoto Protocol, which President Bush abandoned last year. In fact, the EPA argues that many of the projected effects of global warming in the United States could be positive.

The EPA predicts that global warming will likely increase agricultural productivity in many regions by boosting rainfall in regions that grow cotton, citrus fruit, sorghum and soybeans.

"Based on studies to date, unless there is inadequate or poorly distributed precipitation, the net effects of climate change on the agricultural segments of the U.S. economy over the 21st century are generally projected to be positive," the report concludes.


Low lying areas like Jupiter Beach, Florida face flooding as sea levels rise. (Photo by Marge Beaver, courtesy NOAA)
The EPA recommends that humans work on adapting to climate changes that the report calls "inevitable," rather than spending money and other resources in futile attempts to prevent the global warming caused by decades of greenhouse gas emissions.

"Because of the momentum in the climate system and natural climate variability, adapting to a changing climate is inevitable," the EPA says. "The question is whether we adapt poorly or well."

Among the suggested tactics to help humans adapt to global warming are "increased availability of air conditioning" to reduce the health impacts of heat waves.

Other nations are prepared to take more proactive actions to reduce the impact of global warming. On Tuesday, Japan ratified the Kyoto Protocol, following close on the heels of Friday's ratification by the 15 members of the European Union. Russia has said it will ratify the pact "as soon as possible."


High elevation alpine meadows like this one in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, could disappear as the U.S. climate warms. (Photo courtesy High Meadows Ranch)
The United States is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide (CO2), the major heat trapping gas released by burning fossil fuels and the main cause of global warming. The European Union, Russia and Japan round out the top four CO2 emitters.

For the protocol to become legally binding, it must be ratified by at least 55 countries and by industrialized nations that emitted at least 55 percent of the world's CO2 in 1990. If Russia ratifies the protocol, it could take effect before the end of the year.

The countries that ratify the Kyoto Protocol commit to reducing their emissions of carbon dioxide to an average of 5.2 percent below 1990 levels during the five year period 2008 to 2012.

Because President Bush has withdrawn U.S. support for the agreement, the United States would not be bound by the protocol's required emissions reductions.