Oct 9, 2007
President at odds with public opinion in the US
According to a recent survey of public opinion in the US, 68% of respondents were in favour of a new international treaty requiring the US to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 90% by the year 2050. The poll, conducted by Yale University, Gallup and the ClearVision Institute, also found that 40% of those questioned said that a presidential candidate’s position on global warming will be either extremely or very important when they vote.
“One of the most surprising findings was the growing sense of urgency,” said Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change. “Nearly half of all Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world, or will in the next 10 years – a 20% point increase since 2004. These results indicate a sea change in public opinion.”
But US public opinion – according to this survey, at least – appears to be at odds with that of President George Bush. At the recent “major economies meeting on energy security and climate change”, he convened for more than 20 countries a few days after the UN climate change summit in New York, Bush made no firm commitments to mandatory cuts in US greenhouse gas emissions, preferring instead to focus on technology solutions, such as clean coal, nuclear energy and the set-up of an international clean technology fund, as well as on limiting deforestation.
According to UK newspaper the Guardian, this strategy left European diplomats fuming. There had previously been much speculation that Bush’s meeting was intended to act as a “spoiler” for the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) meeting in Bali in December that will aim to thrash out a follow-on agreement for the Kyoto protocol, which expires in 2012. “It [Bush’s meeting] was a total charade and has been exposed as a charade,” one European attendee told the newspaper.
Although it’s likely that US climate policy will radically alter when a new president takes up office in 2008, time is a luxury that many of those trying to negotiate climate agreements don’t feel they – or the planet – have.