WASHINGTON – The U.S. war on Iraq turned up neither nuclear weapons nor any
of the secondary terrorist weaponry trumpeted by the Bush administration.
And the much-bally-hooed connections between deposed dictator Saddam
Hussein’s regime and the al-Qaida terrorist network have long since been
This historic mistake doesn’t appear to matter. No decisive sector of the
public has risen against it or the “big lie” justifications (say anything
often and loudly enough and the masses will believe it). President George
W. Bush narrowly won re-election, declared victory for his war-making
decisions and moved on to domestic issues.
The administration’s war on the environment is following a similar course,
but three crucial variables tilt against it: an influential Republican
senator is carrying the standard for opponents, the international community
has a vote to cast and the “big lie” theory of leadership hasn’t worked as
well on issues where truly “we can’t afford to be wrong” on a global scale.
That senator is John McCain, R-Ariz., joined on the issue of climate change
by Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. and co-sponsor of a previous bill to limit
greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Criticizing Bush’s views on
climate change in USA Today, McCain recently said, “Some of us believe that
the accumulation of knowledge [on greenhouse gas emissions as an agent in
climate change] argues that we act, rather than continue to accumulate
In addition, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is backing a plan to
curtail greenhouse gas emissions on California highways – an approach that
would require a signoff from Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency. It’s
too early to predict a McCain-Schwarzenegger alliance against Bush on
greenhouse gasses and climate change; but should it come to that, the
political fallout would be noteworthy.
The international community is casting its vote through the Kyoto Protocol.
Rejected by successive U.S. administrations as a hindrance to domestic
economic interests, the protocol and its mandatory greenhouse gas caps go
into effect internationally over the next four years. Major U.S-based
multinational companies will have to comply with these regulations at
foreign facilities in signatory nations. British Prime Minster Tony Blair,
a vital Bush ally on Iraq, is expected to broach Kyoto and global warming
with the president.
Meanwhile, the “big lie” on climate change – that it isn’t happening, and
in any case can’t possibly be linked to greenhouse gas emissions, positions
repeated by Republican opinion leaders across the full spectrum of
communications venues – has been undermined by the Arctic Climate Impact
Assessment, a collaborative report of some 300 scientists worldwide. The
findings document climate change in the direction of global warming, but
stop short of linking the trend directly to greenhouse gas emissions.
The principle finding is that the Arctic leads the world in average
temperature increase, with about a 1 degree Fahrenheit increase over the
The findings confirm previous evidence of much higher average temperature
increases across the Arctic. Though no unanimity exists as to the reason
for this Arctic heat wave, a leading candidate is ice melt caused by global
worming. As icepacks melt, the surfaces beneath absorb the energy, leading
to further accelerated melting.
Bush allies have pronounced the assessment unconvincing, but McCain is an
admirer. “I congratulate the hundreds of scientists who worked on the
Arctic Climate Impact Assessment,” he said in a 2004 online post at
www.climatesolutions.org. “This crucial work will aid in our efforts to
secure a mandatory cap on the emission of greenhouse gasses in the U.S.”
The assessment adds to the already substantial body of evidence on the
impacts of global warming, impacts which members of the Senate witnessed
firsthand during a recent visit to the Arctic region.
Editor’s note: Raymond Orr, a Citizen Potawatomi Nation member and graduate
student at the University of California-Berkeley, contributed to this