Center for American Progress

Al Gore Testifies to Congress to Urge Action on Climate Change
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Al Gore Testifies to Congress to Urge Action on Climate Change

The American public’s concern over global warming has been growing, but the Bush administration has ignored the problem.

When Former Vice President Al Gore testifies before Congress today on global warming, he will present the panel with hundreds of thousands of electronic postcards submitted to his Web site by Americans who want their leaders to act on climate change. Global warming has become a hot topic recently, in no small part due to Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” For all the recent public discussion of global warming, however, the U.S. government has failed to act, lagging behind the rest of the world in adopting measures to combat it.

The Center for American Progress has made policy suggestions for curbing the carbon gas emissions that cause global warming, including adopting a national cap-and-trade program as part of a larger initiative to prevent the global average temperature from rising beyond 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels.

The program would include the immediate creation of a national cap on emissions and a market for trading credits; economy-wide implementation that protects early adopters and provides opportunities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and agriculture and forestry industries to participate; and the potential for integration into international carbon credit trading markets in the future.

Public support for programs like these has been strong since President Bush took office, and continues to grow even as federal action remains stagnant. The timeline below shows how the recent history of public opinion and action on climate change has heated up in recent years, while the Bush administration has remained cool to the idea of mitigating further damage to the environment.

2001

Public Opinion

 Bush Administration

 
2002

Public Opinion

 Bush Administration

  • The Bush administration proposes the “Clear Skies” initiative, which ironically would “weaken many parts of the Clean Air Act” and doesn’t include any measures to reduce or even limit carbon dioxide.


2003

Public Opinion

  • Thirty-nine percent of Americans find protecting the environment a top priority, according to a Pew Research poll.
  • Fifty-seven percent of Americans think global warming is already happening or will happen within a few years, according to a March Gallup poll.
  • Fifty-nine percent of Americans think global warming is an environmental problem with an immediate “serious impact,” according to a CBS/New York Times poll.

Bush Administration

 
2004

Public Opinion

Bush Administration

  •  Russia announces their ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, putting renewed pressure on President Bush to re-enter into international global warming negotiations, which he neglects to do.


2005

Public Opinion

Bush Administration

  • At the G8 meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland in July, President Bush acknowledges for the first time that human-generated pollution contributes to climate change. Despite this admission, his delegation keeps up pressure behind the scenes “to water down the international action plan on the issue.”
  • The United States fails to enter into the Kyoto treaty although the other seven countries at Gleneagles reaffirm their commitment to it.
  • The Kyoto Protocol takes effect in February. One hundred and forty nations sign on, but the United States is not among them.

 
2006

Public Opinion

 Bush Administration

 
2007

Public Opinion

Bush Administration

  • A survey of 1,600 federal scientists at seven federal agencies finds “political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic.” Nearly half of the scientists—46 percent—“perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words ‘climate change,’ ‘global warming,’ or other similar terms” from their communications.
  • German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel says the United States has “blocked progress” on two key initiatives to protect the environment: carbon emissions trading and rewarding developing nations for protecting their natural assets. “I would have been disappointed if I’d expected something different,” Gabriel said.
  • President Bush mentions climate change in the State of the Union address for the first time.
  • The former chief of staff to President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality testifies in March that he made hundreds of edits to government reports in order to play down links between human activity and global warming.

 
The American public is clearly concerned about climate change, yet the Bush administration has done little to combat the problem—in many cases, going so far as to suppress scientific evidence that warming is happening. The Center for American Progress has released several reports detailing policy solutions that would use cap-and-trade programs, the development of biofuels, and other strategies to reduce the emissions that cause global warming. It is time for the federal government to wake up to what CAP and the American people have been saying for a long time—we’re ready for a change in policy on global warming.

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