Bush Climate Report Shows U.S. Greenhouse Gases Skyrocketing

WASHINGTON, DC, March 5, 2007 (ENS) - The United States will emit about 20 percent more greenhouse gases by 2020 than it did in 2000, according to a draft report that the Bush administration was scheduled to submit to the United Nations a year ago.

The internal administration report, which was obtained by the Associated Press, estimates that U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas will rise from 7.7 billion tons in 2000 to 9.2 billion tons in 2020 - an increase of 19.5 percent.

The growth in emissions was expected, but highlights how out of touch the Bush administration is with world opinion and the efforts of other countries to curb climate change.

power plant

The coal-fired Dave Johnston power plant in Wyoming burns subbituminous coal. (Photo courtesy Greg Goebel)
The White House Council on Environmental Quality, CEQ, which is responsible for the draft report, says that how much the administration can do to cut emissions beyond merely slowing the rate of increase will become clear "as the science justifies."

The report forecasts increasing droughts and "a distinct reduction" in the spring snowpack covering the northwestern states, which supplies most of the region's drinking water.

The United States currently is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases - responsible for about one-quarter of the world's emisssions.

When President George W. Bush took office in 2001, one of his first acts was to repudiate the Kyoto Protocol signed by President Bill Clinton, and it has never been sent to the U.S. Senate for ratification.

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A cornfield damaged by drought in central Nebraska. (Photo 2003 University of Nebraska Board of Regents.)
The protocol, an amendment to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, requires most industrialized countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by the end of 2012.

The latest projections from pre-2004 EU Member States (EU-15) show that greenhouse gas emissions could be brought down to eight percent below 1990 levels by 2010. An October report by the European Environment Agency, EEA, shows that "if all existing and planned domestic policy measures are implemented and Kyoto mechanisms as well as carbon sinks are used, the EU-15 will reach its Kyoto Protocol target."

The next 10 new EU member states also are on track to achieve their individual Kyoto targets, despite rising emissions, largely due to economic restructuring in the 1990s, says the EEA. The two most recent EU member states were not part of the block last October when the report was produced.

President Bush has said that abiding by the Kyoto Protocol would hurt the U.S. economy. He has argued that voluntary emissions reductions and better technology such as clean coal, nuclear power, and energy efficiency would do the job of limiting global warming.

U.S. scientists, businesses and environmental groups say that if irreversible global warming is to be avoided, binding targets even more stringent than those of the Kyoto Protocol should be set.

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Measuring the snowpack on Oregon's Mt. Hood, 2003. The CEQ draft report predicts less snow in the Pacific Northwest as the climate warms. (Photo courtesy OSU)
On April 14 campaigners will be demonstrating in cities across the United Sttates to call for 80 percent cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The CEQ says its final version of the report will "show that the president's portfolio of actions and his financial commitment to addressing climate change are working."

The draft U.S. report comes one month after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, issued their strongest warning to date - finding that global warming is occurring, that humans are "very likely" responsible, and that warming is expected to continue for centuries, even if greenhouse gas emissions are curbed at once.

Average global temperatures could rise by over six degree Celsius (11 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, the panel said.

The IPCC report was endorsed by 113 governments, including the United States.

The U.S. states are taking the initiative from the federal government with four regional programs to curb reenhouse gas emissions. California has led the field by aiming to cut its emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and to meet the target of 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

A variety of bipartisan legislation establishing controls on greenhouse gas emissions and cap-and-trade plans for the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide are making their way through the Democrat-controlled Congress.

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, has said the administration stands firm on its belief that regulating carbon emissions would undermine the U.S. economy.

Connaughton

James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (Photo courtesy National Association of Manufacturers)
"We still have very strong reservations about an overarching, one-size-fits-all mandate about carbon," he said in November. Connaughton said most bills in Congress aimed at cutting emissions of carbon dioxide probably would raise energy prices.

A CEQ spokesperson blamed the delay in submitting the report to the United Nations on an "extensive interagency review process."

The Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science warned at its annual meeting in February that, "Delaying action to address climate change will increase the environmental and societal consequences as well as the costs. The longer we wait to tackle climate change, the harder and more expensive the task will be," the scientists said.