WASHINGTON — As President Bush prepares for a potentially contentious European trip, the White House and congressional leaders sought to soothe the environmental worries of allies Friday by promising more money for research and technology on global warming.
Bush plans to commit the United States to combat the global warming problem and announce new money for research and technology aimed at reducing climate change, advisers said in advance of his Monday trip. Bearing similar goals, Sens. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, proposed Friday to spend nearly $5 billion over the next decade to invent cutting-edge technologies.
Senior White House officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush will announce new money to advance scientific research and encourage new technologies to combat global warming. They would not say how much he was proposing,
but said it was dramatically
lower than the Byrd-
That package would create “a major research effort to invent the advanced technologies that we will need to begin to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming,” Byrd said.
“It is virtually indisputable that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are rising and that mankind is contributing to this rise,” he said. Global warming refers to a rise in the Earth’s temperature that many scientists blame on heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere resulting from the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities.
A report from the National Academy of Sciences that had been requested by the White House concluded that the Earth’s temperature is rising, mainly because of human activities, and dire climate changes could occur this century. Bush had expressed skepticism about global warming and requested the report to determine the science behind the phenomenon.
Hours before leaving for a round of talks in Europe in the coming week,
Bush will meet with his global warming task force to announce the proposal and commit the United States to helping to solve the problem, aides said Friday.
Bush hopes to ease tension with U.S. allies by agreeing that there is a problem — even if his solution lacks the regulatory teeth of the international pact negotiated in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, requiring industrial nations to reduce greenhouse gases by specified amounts.
He and several Cabinet members last week were preparing a new position on global warming that, unlike Kyoto’s mandates, offers mostly voluntary initiatives and flexible emissions caps for polluters as an alternative to Kyoto’s mandates.
“My expectation has been they would announce principles first,” said Kevin Fay, executive director of the International Climate Change Partnership, who has discussed the issue with the White House. “They’re looking to beef up what they can do domestically, then re-engage in the international process.”
Eileen Claussen, president of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, which represents several multinational corporations that favor the Kyoto approach, said: “There is a lot of interest in having the president say something before he goes to Europe.”
“My sense is nothing is off the table. There’s still a range of voluntary programs all the way to regulatory programs,” said Claussen, who also has been involved in White House talks. “The litmus test is really whether we’re going to do something that’s mandatory.”
Five months before the 1997 pact was signed, Byrd and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., co-authored a Senate resolution saying any global warming accord mandating greenhouse gas reductions for industrial countries should also require them for developing nations.
Now, Byrd and Stevens hope their legislation — focusing on emissions reductions, technology innovation, climate adaptation and resolving lingering scientific uncertainty — will help steer the administration.
“This is a major positive step. It’s a powerful policy statement that these two senators aren’t going to watch President Bush fiddle while the planet burns,” said David Hawkins, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center.
After backing out of an international climate change treaty and breaking a campaign pledge to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, Bush’s job approval ratings fell and European allies were outraged.
On the Net:
National Academy: http://www.nationalacademies.org
United Nations: http://www.ipcc.ch