Bush holds cautious course on global warming.
President Bush urged caution in responding to the threat of global warming in an address before an international environmental conference last week, while 10 European nations stressed their desire to begin negotiations quickly toward setting limits on emissions of carbon dioxide.
At the meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Washington, D.C., Bush asserted the need to improve scientific knowledge about global change and to consider carefully a range of policy options to protect the global environment.
"Some may be tempted to exploit legitimate concerns for political positioning. Our responsibility is to maintain the quality of our approach, our commitment to sound science, and an open mind to policy options," the President said.
To the disappointment of international environmental groups, Bush did not announce any specific new policies to slow global warming, which can result from the atmospheric accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons. In his speech before the IPCC, the President also maintained that environmental policies need not slow economic growth or restrict the free market.
Established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, the IPCC is assessing scientific climate data, the likely future impacts of global change and the policy options available to the international community. Its report, due this summer, will serve as a focus for discussions during the Second World Climate Conference in Geneva this fall.
During the IPCC meeting, 10 European delegations urged the world's governments to begin preparatory negotiations that would allow ministers at the Geneva conference to commit the industrialized countries to stabilize emissions of carbon dioxide by the year 2000. Sweden, Austria, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Italy offered the proposal, although the IPCC has no authority to adopt any binding policies.
"We would like to see things happening, to put it simply. That was the essence of it and maybe to put some pressure on some countries that don't seem to be willing to move as fast as we would like to," says Leif Westgaard of the Norwegian Embassy in Washingtong, D.C.
At an international meeting in the Netherlands last November, many nations supported stabilization by 2005, but the move failed when the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Japan did not commit to the plan (SN: 12/16/89, p. 394).
Several environmental groups argued that governments must move ahead with even more severe measures to curb global warming. "Stabilization of emissions doesn't really respond ultimately to the urgency of the problem. Stabilization of emissions means concentrations will rise at roughly the rate they are rising at now," says Daniel Lashof of the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.
Environmentalists pressed for nations to agree to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20 percent by the year 2000. Ultimately, Lashof says, emissions must drop by 70 percent in order to stop the atmospheric accumulation of carbon dioxide. Scientists say that even with this step, the planet's surface would still warm due to greenhouse gases already released into the atmosphere over the past few centuries.
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|Date:||Feb 17, 1990|
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