Al Gore Testifies to Congress to Urge Action on Climate Change
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.
- Sixty-seven percent of Americans believe President Bush should “develop a plan to reduce the emission of gases that may contribute to global warming,” according to a March Time/CNN poll.
- Sixty-one percent of Americans support joining the international Kyoto treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to an April ABC News poll.
- Less than two months into his first term, President Bush goes back on his campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide.
- The Bush administration seeks to bury the U.S. Global Change Research Program’s “National Assessment” on climate change: the “most comprehensive, scientifically based assessment of the potential consequences of climate change for the United States.”
- President Bush announces that he opposes the Kyoto Protocol, which calls on industrial nations to reduce their emissions.
- The Bush administration attempts to raise doubts about the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide gases cause global warming by asking for a second opinion from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. The strategy backfires when the NAS study reinforces previous findings that human activity is the main driver of climate change, but the administration seizes on scientific uncertainties to bolster its policies anyway.
- Forty-nine percent of Americans believe “protecting the environment” is a top priority, according to a Pew research poll.
- Seventy percent of Americans support joining the Kyoto treaty, according to a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations poll.
- 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.
- The Bush administration strips a section on climate change from an annual EPA report on air pollution trends.
- 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 submits the “Clear Skies” initiative to Congress.
- The White House “guts” the climate change chapter of the government’s report on the state of the environment. Excised: passages that say “climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment” and that recent warming is “likely mostly due to human activities.”
- Bush goes back on his campaign promise to reduce global warming pollution from power plants.
- The EPA rules in August that carbon dioxide, the principal cause of global warming, cannot be regulated as a pollutant.
- Forty-nine percent of Americans find protecting the environment a top priority, according to a Pew Research poll.
- Fifty-six percent of Americans think global warming is already happening or will happen within a few years, according to a March Gallup poll.
- Seventy-nine percent of Americans think the president should “develop a plan to reduce the emission of gases that may contribute to global warming,” according to a June Program on International Policy Attitudes poll.
- Eighty-one percent of Americans favor limits on how much greenhouse gases large companies can emit; only 16 percent oppose such limits, according to the same PIPA poll.
- 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.
- Forty-nine percent of Americans say protecting the environment is a top priority, according to a Pew Research poll.
- Seventy-three percent of Americans endorse U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol; only 16 percent oppose, according to a PIPA poll.
- Seventy-seven percent of Americans believe global warming exists, according to an October Fox News poll.
- 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.
- Fifty-seven percent of Americans think protecting the environment is a top priority, according to a February Pew Research poll.
- Eighty-five percent of Americans agree the earth’s temperature is probably warming and 83 percent find the problem very or somewhat serious, according to a March ABC News poll.
- Seventy-five percent of Americans favor imposing mandatory controls on carbon dioxide emissions and other greenhouse gases, according to a March Gallup poll.
- Fifty-two percent believe the environment “should be given priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth,” according to the same poll.
- Fifty-nine percent believe global climate change is a problem that requires action, according to a June Fox News poll.
- Fifty-eight percent believe the Bush administration has done too little to reduce global warming, according to a July Los Angeles Times poll.
- “An Inconvenient Truth,” a documentary based on Al Gore’s slideshow about global warming, opens in limited release in May. It goes on to gross over $24 mil. at the box office, becoming the third-highest grossing documentary to date.
- President Bush says in June: “There is a debate over whether [global warming is] manmade or naturally caused.”
- Sixty-four percent of Americans believe global climate change is a problem that requires action, according to a January Fox News poll.
- Eighty-two percent believe global warming exists, according to the same poll.
- 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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