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Bush's global warming posture draws criticism

©Associated Press
December 4, 2002

WASHINGTON -- Bush administration officials mapped out a strategy Tuesday for researching climate change and its causes over the next five years -- studies that critics say are just a means to delay the toughest decisions on global warming until after President Bush leaves office.

The administration strategy calls for more accurate projections of the economic effects of climate policy changes and gives the White House more control over the research efforts of more than a dozen federal agencies.

John Marburger III, the president's science and technology adviser, said at the start of a three-day meeting of climate change experts that the White House hopes to refocus the 13-year-old research program on providing data that can be used to shape a "clearly articulated policy ... that doesn't put the economy at risk."

For many climate experts, the administration's latest strategy reopens questions that most scientists considered already fairly settled. It also ignores the Environmental Protection Agency's published findings in 2000 from a decadelong federal assessment of effects of climate change around the United States.

The new research plan, posted on the Web site of an interagency program led by the White House, asserts that people are clearly agents of environmental change but that still unclear is whether human activities actually are causing changes such as global warming.

"It seems like they're reinventing the wheel because some people didn't like the direction indicated the last time the analysis was done," said Dan Lashof, science director for the climate program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group.

"The overall thrust of this plan is to take a giant step backward and almost pretend that the last decade and findings by the scientific community don't exist," he added.

Bush has advocated voluntary measures for industry to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that many scientists blame for warming the atmosphere like a greenhouse.

In June, he downplayed the significance of a White House-approved report his administration submitted to the United Nations that mostly blamed human activity for global warming but acknowledged lingering scientific uncertainties.

Five months into his presidency, Bush heard back from the National Academy of Sciences that global warming is caused at least partly by man-made pollution, and that it is a real problem and getting worse.

With that advice, the president felt he had "a basis of sound science on which decisions can be made," spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in June 2001.

But 18 months later, the administration is now resisting calls for quick action and instead issuing the plan for more study.

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