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Digging That Hole Deeper and Deeper

Andrew Freedman @ 11:00 AM

I had grown accustomed to the expectation that President George W. Bush would never have a Nixon goes to China moment on global warming. The pessimism has become a chronic condition during the past six years, enveloping my head like sinusitus.

Yet the past several weeks have left me more deflated than when Bush first ditched the Kyoto Protocol in his early days in the White House.

Jason Samenow's Forecast

Forecast Confidence: Medium-HighToday: Mostly cloudy and cooler with a few very scattered light showers. Highs 75-80.
Tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows 60-65(suburbs to city)
Monday: Mostly cloudy with a slight chance of an isolated shower or two. Highs 76-81.

Last week, Bush dashed the climate change hopes of seven far more important people than me when he stared down other leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized nations at a summit in Germany.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed for a G8 agreement to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2050 (what I call the "50/50" plan). Some scientists say such cuts are necessary in order to keep the planet from warming more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit within the next 100 years.

Instead of offering a substantive counteroffer, as Russian President Vladimir Putin did on U.S. plans to build a missile defense system based in Europe, the watered down document Bush helped craft merely says that the U.S. will "seriously consider" making similar mandatory emissions cuts to what is enacted by other G8 nations. The grand gesture in the agreement was that the U.S. committed itself to continuing to negotiate climate change agreements within the United Nations process.

The fact that Merkel and other leaders portrayed the agreement as a breakthrough was laughable. They should have been the ones to puke soon afterwards, not Bush.

This past week also saw the disturbing non-apology by NASA administrator Michael Griffin for creating a firestorm when he told a reporter that he isn't sure global warming is a problem that needs to be dealt with. See last week's Undercast for more details on that.

Griffin said he regretted the controversy he caused, but never said that his remarks were scientifically dubious and were an affront to the hundreds of scientists who work for him. He denied a basic fact about climate change, which is that it will have consequences, many of which will be negative. If you leave out the consequences of climate change then it actually does seem "arrogant," as he put it, to do anything about it.

"He doesn't seem to understand that his remarks made no sense," wrote Wired blogger Brandon Keim.

His non-apology was akin to how Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington got into trouble not so much for his anti-gay remarks on the set as for his horrendous attempt at a public apology at the Golden Globe Awards. At least in Hollywood you get fired for something like that.

Also this week, the Associated Press (courtesy of documents obtained from climate science watchdog Rick Piltz) reported that the Bush administration is eliminating key climate observation equipment from the new network of weather satellites because of budget shortfalls.

Maybe the intent is based on the notion that if we can't see the problem anymore, maybe it'll just disappear and we won't have to "seriously consider" making any emissions reductions after all?

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