Friday, August 27, 2004

Warming up to warming up

Taking a grudging step in the general direction of reality,
a new report to Congress focuses on federal research indicating that emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases are the only likely explanation for global warming over the last three decades.

In delivering the report to Congress yesterday, an administration official, Dr. James R Mahoney, said it reflected "the best possible scientific information" on climate change. ...

The report is among those submitted regularly to Congress as a summary of recent and planned federal research on shifting global conditions of all sorts.
That from Thursday's New York Times.

The report, pointing to recent studies using climatological models, says that shifts in the sun's energy output and other natural factors can explain the rise in temperature from 1900 to 1950 but not that in more recent times, particularly the sharp and continuing climb over the last 35 years.
It also says the accumulating emissions pose newly identified risks to farmers, citing studies showing that carbon dioxide promotes the growth of invasive weeds far more than it stimulates crops and that it reduces the nutritional value of some rangeland grasses.
It may be hard for the White House to walk away from this report, as it has from previous ones, since it's accompanied by a letter signed by Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham, Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, and John Marburger, Shrub's science adviser. But that doesn't mean they won't try. Even though the Times refers to it as a "striking shift," Mahoney, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and the director of government climate research, tended to downplay its significance.
In an interview, he said the report was mainly an update on the overall climate research program and was not intended to be a conclusive "state of the science" summary of the administration's thinking. A series of 21 reports are promised on particular issues in coming years, he said, and the studies on climate models, agriculture and other subjects mentioned in the new report are "significant but not definitive."
That can easily be translated to the old "need more study" dodge, which is likely why environmental scientists were not bowled over by the news, as Reuters reported on Friday.
Some said the Bush administration report ... might simply be a bid to reach out to environmentally minded voters before the November presidential election.

"I don't think there is any policy shift at all," said Steve Sawyer, climate policy director at the environmental group Greenpeace. "It's election season and Bush may be trying to reach out to the elusive center." ...

None saw Bush as a convert to concerted international action.
And why would they be so cynical? Maybe it's because Bush himself gives them reason.
In an interview with the New York Times, published on its Web site, Bush was asked why his administration had changed its position. "Ah, did we?" Bush replied. "I don't think so."
The report can be found online here.

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