February 1, 2007

No Sign Bush to Change Greenhouse Gas Stance

PARIS -- It was a U.S. government scientist who helped push through the strong language in the upcoming international report on global warming. But that doesn't signal a change in President Bush's policy about greenhouse gas emissions.

The climate change report coming out Friday - an agreement by officials from 113 governments, including the United States - is very different from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that Bush has long opposed.

"I think it's hard to take the U.S. action on this as a signal of them changing policy," said John Reilly, associate director of research at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a science document describing what scientists say is now happening and forecasting what will happen. The report recommends no actions to slow global warming.

The 10-year-old Kyoto Protocol, which called for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, is about reducing fossil fuel use to fight global warming. (The Clinton administration agreed to it, but didn't push for U.S. Senate ratification after clear signals it would be rejected.)

Delegates who have seen the new science report coming out Friday say it will declare that global warming is "very likely" man-made. The wording was largely the result of the leadership of U.S. government scientist Susan Solomon, who heads the panel's working group, several delegates said Thursday.

But Reilly notes that "saying that climate change is almost certainly occurring and it's almost certainly due to human activity is different than saying the impact of climate change is so bad that we need to do something right away."

Reilly, who represented the U.S. Department of Agriculture at IPCC negotiations in 1990 and 1995, said scientists such as Solomon are rarely told what to do by governments, including this administration. It's different for government officials.

However, other nations' delegates noticed a slight change in the official U.S. government delegation to the climate panel between 2001 and now. One non-U.S. delegate, who asked not to be named so as to not cause a diplomatic stir, said this time "the U.S. is very much more constructive."

John Marburger, President Bush's science adviser (whose deputy heads the U.S. delegation in the Paris talks), said the president and his administration have long recognized that global warming is man-made and real.