Bush’s climate plan: good sense, “Neanderthal”, or both?

April 18, 2008

A member of Germany’s Alternative Party dressed as a Neanderthal man from 50,000 years ago at an anti-nuclear demonstration in 1996A plan by President George W. Bush to set a distant 2025 ceiling for rising U.S. greenhouse gases has triggered criticisms by Germany that he is coming up with a “Neanderthal” solution to the problem — too little too late.

Most other delegates at 17-nation U.S.-led climate talks in Paris on Thursday and Friday have been far less damning, welcoming the fact that Bush is setting a ceiling for emissions, albeit one that will be a generation after most other rich nations.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel’s office called it a plan for losers rather than leaders and denounced it as “Neanderthal”.

But who is right? 

The United States is isolated among developed nations in opposing the Kyoto Protocol, under which 37 countries are trying to cut emissions by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. Global warming, we are always told, will only be contained if all countries work together.

“Neanderthal” was obviously meant as an insult but it strikes me that a Neanderthal solution is what the world needs — global warming was not a problem back in the Stone Age when people relied on renewable energies such as burning wood.

So who has the best strategy to fight global warming? — Bush with his belief in heavy investments in new technologies? Or Kyoto-style cuts embraced by the rest of his industrial allies? And how will the U.S. approach change after Bush steps down in 2009?

One comment

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Even the question indicates how far far far the US has to go before it even understands the depth of the problem that we all face. A 60-80% cut in emissions for the United States is a major undertaking. It will require Government to understand that the entire economy and society must transition from the current petroleum base to a variety of different, alternative measures. This will not happen through voluntary means. And the longer Governments wait to act the more people will be hurt. Serious steps will require targets, regulatory enforcement and deep incentives from government to move the economy and the society to a new footing. Stop subsidising big business that does nothing. Stop
starting wars over oil. Stop offering tax cuts to the wealth or corporate welfare to Agribusinesses (such as biofuels – talk about insane!)
Who cares whether we call the Bush plan ‘neanderthal’or not? Will it accomplish the kinds of cuts that are needed. Absolutely and obviously not.

Posted by Jeremy Tager | Report as abusive