Bush Administration Again Rejects Treaty on Climate Change

By Tom Doggett and Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON (June 3) - The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time in a new report that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will increase significantly over the next two decades due mostly to human activities, but again rejected an international treaty to slow global warming.

The report released by the Environmental Protection Agency was a surprising endorsement of what many scientists and weather experts have long argued -- that human activities such as oil refining, power plants and automobile emissions are important causes of global warming.

The White House had previously said there was not enough scientific evidence to blame industrial emissions for global warming.

"Greenhouse gases are accumulating in the Earth's atmosphere as a result of human activities, causing global mean surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise," the administration said in its report.

That position puts the Bush administration at odds with its supporters in the U.S. auto, oil and electricity industries, which contend that more research is needed to determine if the changes are naturally occurring or caused by industry.

In the report sent Friday to the United Nations, the administration forecast that total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions will increase 43 percent between 2000 and 2020.

On the same day, all 15 European Union nations ratified the Kyoto pact -- the only global framework for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and soot.

The United States is the world's largest emitter of so-called greenhouse gases, mostly from utilities and factories.

Last year, the Bush administration triggered international outrage when it announced the United States would not participate in the Kyoto Treaty, a U.N.-backed attempt to limit greenhouse gas emissions by industrial countries.

At the time, President Bush said the Kyoto Treaty's goal of reducing U.S. emissions by about 7 percent from 1990 levels during 2008-2012 would be too costly to the American economy.

Environmental groups said the new U.S. report was a major reversal by Bush administration on the link between global warming and human activity.

"(The report) undercuts everything the president has said about global warming since he took office," said Philip Clapp, president of the National Environmental Trust.

The Environmental Protection Agency posted the report on its Webs site, but EPA officials refused to comment on its contents and referred inquires to the State Department, which submitted the report to the United Nations.


The administration warned that increased emissions and rising temperatures will have a greater impact on certain regions of the United States.

The report said average temperatures in the contiguous United States will rise 5 degrees to 9 degrees Fahrenheit during this century.

Some highly sensitive ecosystems, such as Rocky Mountain meadows and coastal barrier islands, will likely disappear, the report said.

Forest regions in the Southeastern United States could see "major species shifts," or major changes in growth patterns.

The report also raises the possibility of drought conditions and changing snowfall patterns in the West, Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Average sea level rises of 19 inches from global warming could threaten buildings, roads, power lines and other infrastructure in climate-sensitive areas, the report said.

"With higher sea level, coastal regions could be subject to increased wind and flood damage, even if tropical storms do not change in intensity," it said.

Though not referenced in the report, the impacts spell significant dangers for coastal cities like New York City and New Orleans, Clapp said.

With sea level rises referenced in the report, Manhattan would be underwater up to Wall Street and New Orleans would have to undertake a major dike-building effort to hold back the waters, Clapp said.

"The United States needs to take aggressive action now to develop a program to reduce emissions," he said.


The administration repeated in the report that voluntary measures to control emissions taken by polluting U.S. companies are the best way to slow the growth of emissions that are believed to cause the earth's atmosphere and oceans to warm.

A voluntary approach is "expected to achieve emission reductions comparable to the average reductions prescribed by the Kyoto agreement, but without the threats to economic growth that rigid national emission limits would bring," the report said.

The White House reiterated its commitment to fighting global warming and touted its plan to reduce the amount of emissions per unit of U.S. gross domestic product by 18 percent over the next decade through a combination of voluntary, incentive-based and mandatory measures.

The administration also pointed out that the United States had led the world in investment in climate change science and since 1990 has spent over $18 billion on such research.

A global summit in Johannesburg is planned for August with 60,000 delegates and 100 heads of state to discuss sustainable development, with climate change issues slated for discussion.

The United States is expected to face heavy criticism at the meeting, especially from the European Union, for not doing more to fight global warming.

06/03/02 12:55 ET