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Environment: Bush’s Bake Sale

Dozens of world leaders are currently assembled at the United Nations to create a "road map" for reducing greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

SEPTEMBER 25, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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ENVIRONMENT

Bush’s Bake Sale

Dozens of world leaders are currently assembled at the United Nations to create a “road map” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Yesterday, President Bush skipped the meetings, but managed to show up in time for a dinner hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Even though a new poll finds that 90 percent of people worldwide believe action is necessary on climate change, Bush continues to undermine global progress on emission reductions. On Thursday, he will host a meeting of the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases where he will push them to accept his misguided framework of “voluntary” reductions. Embracing the rhetoric of global warming isn’t enough. Scientists estimate that the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50-80 percent by 2050 to avoid the worst impacts of global warming. “Today, the time for doubt has passed,” Ban told the General Assembly. “Inaction now will prove the costliest action of all in the long term.”

BUSH’S ALTERNATE, ‘ASPIRATIONAL’ UNIVERSE: Thursday’s White House-sponsored meeting will include the 15 major emitters of greenhouse gases, in addition to the United Nations and the European Union. Most of these countries are signatories to the Kyoto Protocol, with the exception of the United States and Australia, which remain the only major industrialized nations to stay out of the international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellows Joseph Romm and Daniel J. Weiss note, Bush’s meeting will end up starting “another process outside the United Nations and post-Kyoto talks — a process consisting of multiple meetings that don’t finish their work until the very end of his presidency.” The Bush administration has made clear that it wants each country to adopt voluntary “aspirational” goals to reduce emissions. By convening this separate meeting, Bush is essentially undermining the mandatory caps on emissions that the United Nations is attempting to negotiate.

VOLUNTEERISM IS FOR BAKE SALES, NOT GLOBAL WARMING: Bush announced his idea for this major emitters meeting just five days before the G-8 summit in June. He said that he wanted the United States to be involved in post-Kyoto talks on greenhouse gas emissions, but that the focus should be on a “long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.” The Bush administration hailed the major emitters meeting as a “new” policy on climate change. Yet pushing for toothless, watered-down climate policies is nothing new for this administration. At the G-8 summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed that countries adopt a 50 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, “but had to settle for compromise language after President Bush made it clear the United States would not agree to it.” Earlier this month, Bush also convinced leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation agree to a “long-term aspirational goal” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, instead of binding targets. Yesterday, Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA) told The Progress Report that Bush’s focus on voluntary reductions is misguided and destructive. “We simply know that volunteerism is great for PTA bake sales, but they will not reorder the economic system of the world, and move to a clean energy technology,” said Inslee.

HIDING BEHIND AMERICA’S SKIRTS: Bush’s refusal to join the international community in battling climate change is more than just a nuisance. The United States is “responsible for roughly one-quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide” and other greenhouse gases. While many nations have already agreed to adopt significant greenhouse gas reductions, U.S. action on the issue would make it more likely that countries such as China, India, and Brazil would do so as well. “The leadership role of the United States is absolutely essential,” said former senator Timothy E. Wirth, who is now president of the United Nations Foundation. “Unless the United States decides that it wants to be a major and committed leadership player in this and make very specific commitments, much of the rest of the world is effectively going to hide behind the skirts of the United States and not do anything.”

PUSHING FORWARD ON MANDATORY CAPS: Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) wrote to Bush and urged him to support “mandatory national and international limits,” as well as Congress’s energy bill that is currently being held up by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and other conservatives. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that the strongest provisions of the House and Senate legislation — including increasing fuel economy to 35 mpg and establishing a 15 percent renewable electricity standard — could cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 20 percent by 2030, compared to business as usual. This bill would be an essential contribution to meeting long-term global warming pollution reduction goals. Sens. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA) are putting together a bill with a market-based approach that could reduce emissions by 70 percent by 2050. The bill, likely to be introduced in October, has “already garnered tentative support from members who have previously been opposed to measures mandating carbon limits.” Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Todd Stern and Brookings Institution scholar William Antholis have also put together a plan for an E-8 summit that would “consist of four developed and four developing countries (or entities) focused on global ecological and resource problems.” “While an E-8 would be small enough to facilitate productive dialogue,” they write, “it would have such a formidable footprint that its actions would be consequential in their own right and could set the terms of the policy debate more broadly.”

UNDER THE RADAR

HEALTH CARE — BUSH SET TO VETO HEALTH INSURANCE FOR 10 MILLION CHILDREN: Today, the House will vote to extend the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides grants to states to fund health care for uninsured children and is set to expire on Sept. 30. The House and Senate leadership have agreed on a version of the bill that would cover 10 million children and be paid for by an increase in taxes on tobacco. Despite broad bipartisan support in Congress and the states, President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, claiming that it is too expensive and would cover too many children. Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) notes that the cost of fully funding SCHIP is equivalent to that of only 41 days of fighting in Iraq. The Senate is likely to garner enough votes to override Bush’s veto, though it is less clear whether a veto-proof majority exists in the House. Asked if he would support a veto override, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) responded, “You bet your sweet bippy I will.” The Center for American Progress debunks many of the administration’s myths about SCHIP here.

ETHICS — TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT IMPROPERLY LOBBIED LAWMAKERS: House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has uncovered an unethical and potentially illegal Department of Transportation campaign to lobby Congress regarding California’s efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Waxman discovered that “five department staffers contacted between 20 and 25 members of Congress” and that Transportation Secretary Mary Peters “personally called two to four governors” in an attempt to sway their vote against the emission regulations. For example, an aide at the Department left a voicemail message for a member of Congress and lobbied the lawmaker to take a stand on tougher state emission standards because “this would greatly impact the auto facilities’ in the member’s district.” In a letter to Peters, Waxman writes that “it is not an appropriate use of federal resources to lobby members of Congress to oppose state efforts to protect the environment. … At the very least, [the] call suggests the presence of an improper hidden agenda.”  
 
IRAN — PODHORETZ GRANTED SECRET ACCESS TO LOBBY BUSH ON ‘THE CASE FOR BOMBING IRAN’: The Politico reported yesterday that President Bush has been “diligently” listening to the agenda of Norman Podhoretz — the “patriarch of neoconservatism” who has repeatedly called for war against Iran — and recently enlisted Podhoretz to discuss his views on Iran. In a meeting that “was not on the president’s public schedule,” Bush and Karl Rove “sat listening to Norman Podhoretz for roughly 45 minutes at the White House.” Bush has loyally supported Podhoretz’s agenda in the past. In 2004, he bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Podhoretz, calling him a “fierce intellectual man” with “fine writing” and a “great love for our country.” Today, Podhoretz’s calls for bombing Iran are being echoed in the administration. Vice President Cheney reportedly considered a plan to allow Israel to conduct missile strikes against Iran “in an effort to draw a military response from Iran, which could in turn spark a U.S. offensive against targets in the Islamic Republic.” Podhoretz has argued that “if we were to bomb the Iranians as I hope and pray we will, we’ll unleash a wave of anti-Americanism all over the world that will make the anti-Americanism we’ve experienced so far look like a lovefest.” By enlisting Podhoretz’s advice, Bush is demonstrating that there isn’t any idea too radical for him to consider.

THINK FAST

Violent crime rose nearly two percent last year, slightly more than expected, the FBI reported on Monday. “The number of big-city murders also increased, by 1.8 percent, the same rate as homicides nationwide.”

In a victory for the Bush administration, a special military appeals court ruling “removed a legal hurdle that has derailed” trials for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The ruling allows prosecutors to introduce new evidence that defendants labeled “enemy combatants” are actually “alien unlawful enemy combatants,” as the law requires for them to be tried in military tribunals.

Following large protests last week supporting six African-American teenagers in Jena, LA, white supremacists have begun calling for retaliatory violence. The threats include the posting on a neo-Nazi website of the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six teenagers and their families. In an interview, the Mayor of Jena, Murphy McMillin, “praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counter-demonstrations.”

At a gala in Little Rock last night, former President Bill Clinton and other dignitaries honored the nine black students who integrated Little Rock Central High school fifty years ago while stressing “the country’s continuing need for better race relations.”

UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said of the autoworkers strike: “Job security is one of our primary concerns. … We’re talking about investment and we’re talking about job creation” and preserving benefits, he said. Negotiators were to return Tuesday morning for their 22nd straight day of bargaining.

“The world’s top leaders should meet every three months, starting next year, until a plan is drawn up to reduce emissions blamed for global warming, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said on Monday.”

A suicide bomber in Iraq blew himself up on Monday “at a banquet intended to be a reconciliation feast between provincial officials and former Sunni insurgents in Diyala Province, killing 16 people and wounding at least 28.”

And finally: Fly Swatter-in-Chief. Former Press Secretary Tony Snow reports that President Bush chases “flies around the Oval Office. It drives him crazy when flies get in.” Bush is so well known as a fly hunter among his White House staff, says Snow, that somebody “made him White House fly swatters.”

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GOOD NEWS

“Democratic leaders and labor officials are expected to reveal new legislation today aimed at giving workers more protection during corporate bankruptcies, as part of an increasing effort to bring labor issues to the fore.”

STATE WATCH

UTAH: “Utah is considering a greater role in regulating its 13 coal mines after 30 years of deferring to the federal government.”

NEW JERSEY: Judge rejects “an effort by right-to-life groups to derail November’s vote on a $450 million stem cell research program.”

WISCONSIN: An overhaul of the computer system that runs the state’s health insurance program for the poor sees rising costs and more delays.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: President Bush: we can’t spend $22 billion on America because we need $200 billion for Iraq war.

CLIMATE PROGRESS: The Arctic has lost an area of ice “approximately equal to the size of Alaska and Texas combined.”

UNCLAIMED TERRITORY: New York lawmakers threaten to punish Columbia University over Ahmadinejad speech.

AFL-CIO BLOG: The cost of one day of war in Iraq equals 246,000 kids who could be covered by the State Children’s Health Insurance Program that President Bush is threatening to veto.

DAILY GRILL

Condoleezza Rice: “The Most Powerful Person in Washington.”
— GQ, 9/07

VERSUS

“[T]wo programs took the unusual step of turning her down. Executives at CBS and NBC say Rice no longer seems to be a key player on the war.”
–Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz, 9/24/07