Six months after the release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s “U.S. Climate Action Report 2002” – a study finding global warming is a problem and humans are responsible for it – the Bush administration has finally decided to do something about global warming. Last week it announced the government should consider mandating pollution cuts, right after 10 years of research to make sure that’s really a good idea.

Paul Wong
Peter Cunniffe

Why wasn’t the first study good enough? In fact, why aren’t the years of research that has led about every scientist not being paid by the oil industry to conclude that global warming is a serious problem enough? George W. Bush’s “science” advisors claim that they have to figure out exactly what will happen because of global warming. They can’t specify the exact environmental and economic effects it will have, so they need to take the next decade to decide what, if anything, to do.

This is no surprise. A year before the EPA report came out, Bush stated, “No one can say with any certainty what constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must be avoided,” telling us what the administration’s response to any climate change studies would be.

What does “certain” mean though?

We know the basics. The Earth’s climate is changing because of human generated emissions.

We know what the effects are. Rising temperatures are leading to drought in large areas of the world and rising sea levels that threaten coastal areas. We’re also aware of the health problems caused by pollution. Bush’s “certainty” standard can’t be met. Whatever is learned, it is unlikely anyone will ever be able, as he is demanding, to say exactly how or when changes will occur. This is a problem of trends, not incidents and deadlines.

Some still deny there is any such thing as global warming, but realizing reality couldn’t be denied to quite that extent any longer, Bush has decided to try to redefine the problem. It’s no longer about power plant and car emissions causing the earth to slowly but steadily heat up, it’s a problem of undefined consequences that we’ll do something about if we figure out what they are. In 10 years. Maybe. And that wasn’t last week’s only instance of Bush trying to bury an issue he has no interest in facing the truth of.

After resisting pressure for an independent investigation into U.S. intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks for over a year, he finally agreed to one. However, to chair the investigation, he promptly appointed someone known for lying to Congress and the public, whose consulting firm has financial ties with the same regimes trying to weasel out of any blame for producing terrorists, who is an apologists for tyrants the world over, and whose sycophancy towards those in power is legendary. Henry Kissinger is not known for being particularly concerned with uncovering the truth. But Bush has made quite clear he isn’t either. So we can have our investigation, as long as it won’t say anything the administration doesn’t like.

Remember the late 1990s when it was obligatory for every Republican officeholder in the nation to go on TV, wringing their hands, and bemoaning what Bill Clinton’s lies were teaching our children? How come nobody is asking what Bush is teaching our children? That if you don’t like the way something is, just cover it up. That the truth is whatever you want it to be as long it’s mouthed by handpicked cronies. Sound like lying? It is, but on a much grander scale and about (to make a monumental understatement) much more important things than what we went after Clinton for.

Two nights ago conservative commentator Cal Thomas was on TV asking why everybody was concentrating on what a liar Kissinger is when it never mattered for Bill Clinton.

Excuse me?

The story dominating the news for about three straight years was what a liar Clinton was. Despite Republican revisionism, the president’s lies were believed to matter a great deal. What’s shocking is how Bush’s lies are ignored. Clinton was accused of covering up everything you could think of and his (usually trivial or contrived) transgressions were harped on ceaselessly. This president’s blatant burying of any truth he dislikes get little, if any, scrutiny before the press moves on. What’s that teaching us? Maybe something regarding that old saw about the liberal media.

Peter Cunniffe can be reached at pcunniff@umich.edu.

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