White House v. Climate Change
By Jeff Rickert
September 21, 2006 - 3:42pm ET
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Over the last several years, the world has grown increasingly frightened at the speed and severity of global warming. Amidst melting ice caps and intensified hurricane activity, nations ask how they can limit their greenhouse gas emissions. As the world’s greatest greenhouse gas emitter, the United States should also lead in strategy and financial commitment.
This was the hope for the Bush administration’s Climate Change Technology Program. Unfortunately their final strategic plan, released yesterday , is a deep disappointment. As Rep. Mike Honda points out, in an article in today’s E&E Daily , "The plan may be an excellent compendium of current technologies, but it seems to be lacking in a number of areas." In another E&E Daily article, House Science Committee members Reps. Boehlert and Biggert say the strategy "articulates no clear set of criteria for technology selection and prioritization, no timelines for completing individual programs or projects, no metrics for evaluating progress, no sense of how budget priorities across agencies will be developed."
To be fair, CCTP director Stephen Eule explains that the plan was never intended as a detailed formula for confronting climate change. If that is true, the plan’s deficiencies reflect failures of the Bush administration which has not commissioned an actionable program. A serious directive would demand:
• A detailed policy prescription: Under the business as usual approach, clean technologies have always experienced difficulty achieving critical mass acceptance. The Bush administration needs to show the world how it plans to move emerging technologies to mass market.
• Timelines and guidance: The plan offers no timetables to guide development, evaluate progress or adjust strategies—elements which are critical to addressing a problem as large, complicated and critical as global warming.
• Recommendations for new money: New technologies will inevitably require financial assistance to achieve self-sufficiency. The administration’s commitment to curbing greenhouse gas emissions can be summarized by the amount of new money it’s willing to spend on deployment and development. So far, the president has given no budgetary priorities.
At a time when the climate change debate has evolved from uncertainty, to prevention, to damage control, the White House fails to produce concrete measures for protecting the world population. In fact, at the time of this writing, the House Governmental Reform Committee is investigating the White House Council of Environmental Control over their treatment of climate science. CEQ Chief Phil Cooney is at the center of the investigation for allegedly pressuring federal agencies to exaggerate the uncertainties of climate science. Cooney has subsequently gone to work for Exxon Mobile. A second inquiry by Rep. Henry Waxman appears to show NOAA officials censuring a federal scientist because he believed that climate change and hurricane activity were related.
Given the Bush administration’s anti-science culture, the CCTP report is hardly surprising. A White House that emphasizes the uncertainty of scientific consensus and censures its own employees can hardly be expected to produce the precision and leadership which this issue deserves.
<!--StartFragment -->Editor's Note: Jeff Rickert is vice president of the Apollo Alliance, a broad coalition of labor unions, major national environmental organizations, businesses and community organizations that is pursuing a crash program for clean energy.
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