Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey: George W. Bush, the assassin of the environment

The President of the United States of America, George W. Bush reneges not only on his election promises, but worse, blatantly refuses to accept treaties signed by his country. The outcry from the rest of the world denounces this shameful disrespect for the international community. The furore echoing around the world today is about the emission of Greenhouse Effect Gases (GEG), the most important being Cardon DiOxide emissions from industry and traffic. It has been proved that the emission of this gas in particular causes harmful effects in the stratosphere, which in turn leads to global warming. There is also concrete evidence that if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the near future, the planet could suffer serious alterations which may endanger life. The melting of the polar ice caps would cause a dramatic rise in sea levels and many seaside cities (such as Lisbon) would be flooded. In 1992, the Climate Change Convention was signed in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was the first step towards tackling the problem, being a troubleshooting and brainstorming session. The result of this meeting was the Protocol of Kyoto, signed in Japan in 1997. This Convention imposed emission limits on industrialised countries. Both of these treaties were signed by the United States of America as a State, and not by an isolated Administration. Earlier this year, Christine Todd Whittman, the director of the American Environment Protection Agency, happily told European Union delegates that the United States intended to impose a reduction in CO2 emission. George Bush himself, during his election campaign, had pledged to reduce GEG, including Carbon DiOxide. In an amazing U-turn, doubtless pressured by the energy lobby in the USA, both Whittman and Bush forget the international treaties signed in the past and declare that neither does the USA intend to implement the Protocol of Kyoto nor does it propose to reduce GEG emission. In Whittman’s words : “The USA does not have any interest in applying” the Protocol of Kyoto. White House spokesperson, Ari Fleischer, stated that “The President is worried about the climate heating up and considers that this is a serious matter which he intends to discuss with our friends and allies, to find a plan which covers not only developing countries but developed ones as well” (sic). This is a declaration which demonstrates a total lack of responsibility. This shameful position was immediately criticised by the rest of the world. The Portuguese Secretary of State for the Environment, Rui Gonзalves, claimed that this attitude “is very worrying because as the USA is the most polluting country in the world, and it refuses to collaborate towards the improvement of the environment as a whole, and even towards the preservation of the human race”. He stated that the USA had signed international treaties in the past (Rio de Janeiro and Kyoto), treaties which George Bush now blithely discards. Other reactions from around the world were equally outraged. The Italian Minister of the Environment, Willar Borbon, said “it is extremely serious” and that he was considering a unilateral imposition of the Kyoto Protocol by the EU, along with Russia and China, leaving the USA out of any agreement. The Japanese Environment Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, declared that “It is extremely important that the USA, being the world’s main source of emission of CO2, adheres to the Treaty” and his counterpart in China, Sun Yuxi, accused the White House of being “irresponsible” in “burying the Protocol of Kyoto...which favours developing countries” Finally, Gerhard Schroeder, the German Chancellor, said he was worried about Bush’s attitude : “It is necessary for the USA to understand the responsibilities it has and it should clearly affirm that, not accepting its responsibilities, it is harming future generations”. The new President of the United States has managed to unite the rest of the world against him, not bad for a little over two months in office. To disregard international treaties, signed by his country as a State, invoking economical reasons when the USA is the richest country in the world, is not only an insult to the international community, but an affront to his own country’s credibility, let alone his Administration. Apart from this, it is unacceptable that the future of Humanity is put as risk by the caprices and whims of one misguided individual who is obviously in the wrong job.