Sunday, August 3, 2008

Remembering the “W” Era in an Environmental Context

Lets recap the George W. Bush era (a.k.a. the “W” Era). Relatively speaking, we’ve witnessed a slow economy and we’ve managed to become the target of what I like to call World War III. All of this in just two easy steps [Step 1: Elect George W. Bush President; Step 2: Re-elect President George W. Bush]. But aside from the fact that everyone dislikes us and we have suffered through an increasingly depressed economy, lets not forget President Bush’s impact on the environment…. Or lack thereof (At least he seems proud of his accomplishments).

How is it possible for a man to accomplish all of this in just a short (or insufferably prolonged and drawn out) 8 years? After all, this is the environmentally savvy man who stated, “It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.” How could he be to blame? Good ol’ Bush? The guy who said, “I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully”? Right…disbelief gone.

To focus on one folly (of many!) in W’s reign as President, let’s consider the Kyoto Protocol. The goals of the treaty are best understood with knowledge of a little economic idea called the global commons, which refers to common property resources shared by everyone on the planet. Think of oceans or the atmosphere to get a mental picture (maybe not such a “little” idea, eh?) Maintaining the quality of these resources is paramount in order to sustain global economic growth.

The Kyoto Protocol is intended to reduce emissions in the global commons by implementing greenhouse gas reduction levels of a certain amount by a certain point in time. These reduction levels and time periods can vary by member country. As one of the world’s leading emitters of greenhouse gases, including 25% of all anthropogenic emissions of CO2 with less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States has an opportunity to vastly improve the quality of the global commons and significantly reduce our contribution to global climate change.

Conforming to the protocol would offer huge opportunities for economic growth in the realm of green industry and it could offer a significant amount of new, green jobs. Take Canada, for example, who estimated that over the span of fifteen years abiding by the Kyoto Protocol would actually create two million new jobs. Sounds pretty good, right? Apparently not to Mr. Bush. Under the pretext that participating in the Kyoto Protocol would destroy our economy (which, by the way - Bush didn’t need the KP to accomplish that task) and allow China (remember China? the country everyone’s fussing over for having such horrendous ambient air quality… so horrendous that it threatens the lungs of our Olympic athletes? Yeah, we’re not signing if China’s not signing) to take our coveted title of Number 1 Polluter on the Planet, the Bush administration refused to comply.

Considering evidence that signing on to the Kyoto Protocol could actually boost our economy, improve air and water quality, lessen the enormous economic and environmental consequences of global climate change, and vastly reduce our chances of death by WWIII bombs (or increased python attacks?!), why are we not jumping on board? My answer? See steps 1 and 2.

So how will we remember the “W” era in an environmental context?

Do we really have to remember the “W” era in an environmental context?

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