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Poll: Americans favor emissions reduction

By K. I. Marshall

Published July 5, 2005

A recent poll reports most Americans would support U.S. involvement in greenhouse gas reduction agreements, one of the items to be discussed this week at the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.
     The poll, conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes and Knowledge Networks, found 86 percent of Americans believe President Bush should be willing to act to limit greenhouse gas emissions if the other nations in the G8 - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia -- do so.
    " I think there is much greater awareness among the public that global warming is an issue, that it is man-made, and that it does require action," said Annie Petsonk, International Counsel with the Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit environmental rights group.
     Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair has stressed global poverty and climate change as two of his areas of focus for the G8 summit. In an interview with ITV released Tuesday, Bush said the United States was embracing talks on climate change but would not automatically sign on to any global climate change policy to come out of the G8 meetings.
    " I believe (climate change) is a significant, long-term issue that we've got to deal with," said Bush. "That's why my government is dealing with it. We spent over $20 billion since I've been the president to not only research the issue of greenhouse gases, but to develop technologies that will enable us to diversify away from fossil fuels. And I look forward to discussing this agenda with not only the G8 leaders, but also with the leaders of developing countries, countries like India and China."
     Bush acknowledged that humans may play a role in global warming but stresses technological innovation over emissions caps. When asked if global warming is a man-made phenomenon, he responded, "To a certain extent it is, obviously. I mean, if fossil fuels create greenhouse gases, we're burning fossil fuel, as are a lot of other countries."
     The voluntary U.S. Global Climate Change Policy calls for an 18 percent reduction in emissions per unit of economic activity in the next 10 years and offers tax incentives for compliance.
    " There is no indication that tax credits reduce total U.S. carbon emissions," said Petsonk, who said mandatory caps are needed to reduce total emission. "Bush has called carbon caps as being 'Kyoto-lite', while he has proposed the same caps for other pollutants."
     Ben Lieberman, senior policy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation, disagreed. "The Global Climate Change Policy is a better approach than Kyoto, especially since it is voluntary, and is based on carbon intensity, which is a better model than carbon caps," he said.
     Twenty-four percent of those polled believe the United States is already doing more than average to limit greenhouse gases, 44 percent believed the United States is doing the average, and 27 percent feel it is doing less than average, when compared with other developed countries.
     Bush said if the G8 talks resulted in policy that would restrict U.S. economic freedom, he would be against it.
    " If this looks like Kyoto, the answer is 'no.'," said Bush when asked if he would support a binding international agreement on climate change. "My hope is -- and I think the hope of Tony Blair is -- to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil."
     The United States is the only nation represented in the G8 that has not signed on to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that calls for industrialized nations to reduce their collective emissions levels 5 percent relative to 1990 by 2012. The poll found that 73 percent of Americans believe the United States should participate in the Kyoto Protocol, while 43 percent erroneously believe that President Bush favors the Protocol.
     Bush defended U.S. rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, saying, "the Kyoto treaty would have wrecked our economy, if I can be blunt."
    " I walked away from Kyoto because it would damage America's economy, you bet. It would have destroyed our economy," he went on to say.
    " If you look at the European countries that signed on to Kyoto, they are having difficulty complying with the requirements," said Lieberman. He went on to that the Kyoto Protocol's 1990 emissions limit was unfair. "The 1990 levels favor certain countries. Germany was just taking in the heavily polluting East German economy while the United Kingdom was still switching from coal to natural gas and oil," he said.
    " Kyoto is a stretch, and it needs to be in order to be effective," said Petsonk. "Considering that Kyoto came into effect in February and the date for compliance is 2012, it is a bit premature to say that countries will not be able to comply."
     The poll found 71 percent of respondents believe the U.S. economy will be made more competitive in the long run because of efforts to reduce greenhouse gases while 23 percent said the U.S. economy would be hurt by efforts to reduce emissions.
    " Along with Kyoto, the Europeans created a mandatory market-based framework to encourage emissions reduction that is also stimulating innovation," said Petsonk. "The United States needs to get in to mandatory, market-based limits to remain competitive." "I think you can grow your economy and at the same time do a better job of harnessing greenhouse gases," said Bush. "That's exactly what I intend to talk to our partners about. I don't think you can expect any American leader to wreck the economy, nor as an ally and a friend of America and a trading partner of America should you want us to wreck our economy."
     Twenty-one percent of those polled responded the U.S. should not take steps to reduce global emissions that would have economic costs unless global warming was an assured problem, while 42 percent believe global warming should be addressed but its effects would be gradual and could be countered with low cost measures; and 34 percent believe global warming is a serious problem that requires immediate steps even at significant cost.
     The margin of error was 3.5 percent.
     Lieberman said that Bush will not agree to any binding climate change agreements at the G8 summit, especially after the rejection of the McCain-Lieberman amendment to the Energy Bill. The amendment which called for a cap on emissions at the year 2000 by 2010 was originally a stand-alone bill that failed to pass and was rejected by a vote of 38-60.
    " Congress is pretty adamantly opposed to binding carbon caps. (Bush) would not want to undercut his position, seeing as how it is something that Congress agrees with," he said.
     Despite rejection of the amendment and the previous bill, Petsonk points to the "sense of the Senate" resolution on climate change, which passed immediately after rejection of the bill.
     In the resolution, the Senate recognizes, "that Congress should enact a comprehensive and effective national program of mandatory, market-based limits and incentives on emissions of greenhouse gases that slow, stop, and reverse the growth of such emissions."


Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.

Updated: 2016/06/30

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