President Bush has decided on a "left" agenda as his legacy. History will show that he left the Iraq war to the next president and the budget deficit to future taxpayers. And he has taken a "left" approach on the greatest environmental threat of our time. It will be said that he left global warming to the next generation to solve.
In an April 16 speech, Bush pretended to get serious on addressing climate change and its major cause — rising greenhouse gas emissions — for the first time in his presidency. Forget years of stalling on international treaties, refusing to enforce clean air laws and suppressing scientific facts.
"Today, I'm announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025," Bush said. That's three or more presidencies removed from his administration before Bush expects actual progress on climate change.
Plus Bush put hurdles in the path of even that modest goal. He rules out mandatory regulations on industry, higher fuel taxes, stiffer trade barriers with polluters or a rejection of coal (the worst polluter). Instead, he puts all of his chips on "new technologies" to reduce carbon emissions.
No doubt technology will play a major role in responding to climate change. What Bush rejects is the sense of urgency necessary to spur technological innovation. The nation needs the will to act before it can develop the skill to act.
Bush is out of step with the three candidates for president, who all favor a mandatory cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Even presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, who echoes Bush on other issues, takes climate change more seriously.
Credible scientists say delaying action until 2025 could be too late. Rising sea levels, a particular threat to Florida, won't wait for Bush's voluntary response. It should be no surprise by now, however, that Bush has no intention of taking serious action.