Montreal Climate Change Conference: Bush
Feels the Heat
Michael G. Livingston
A United Nations Climate Change
Conference is being held in Montreal
November 28 to December 9,
2005. As the conference approached, the Bush administration was starting
to feel the heat, both literally and politically, for its position on global
The U.S. kept a low profile at the
conference. The U.S.
spokesman kept repeating the Bush line—that there is no proof that global
warming is real and that the U.S.
will not do anything about it.
Meanwhile the evidence for
global warming continues to pile up as global temperatures continue to rise. The
hurricane season ended with more than 26 named storms, breaking all records. In
yet another study, reported in the New
York Times on November 11, ice core samples taken from Antarctica show that
today’s levels of three greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous
oxide) are higher than those levels have been for the last 650,000 years. The
study, which examined air trapped in successively older ice samples, destroys
the claims that the current level of greenhouse gases falls within the range of
normal variability. The study further shows that there has been a tight
relationship during the last 650,000 years between air temperature and levels
of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The study is yet another nail in the
coffin of global warming skeptics.
More disturbing evidence of
global warming did not make it into the national print or electronic media. Studies
compiled at the University
of Wisconsin in
collaboration with the World Health Organization show that global warming is
changing the range, frequency, and seasonality of infectious diseases. One
example of this is the spread of West Nile virus in the U.S. Most of the examples, however,
occur in Africa, Latin America, and tropical areas of Asia, and are thus almost
invisible in the U.S.
media. The University of Wisconsin research was covered by The Herald of Bradenton,
Florida (11/18/05) but was not carried in most U.S. newspapers.
Given its importance, it should have been front-page news across the U.S. But
such coverage would have raised difficult questions, not just for the Bush
administration, but for large sectors of the U.S. capitalist class.
The worse news of all comes not
from the Antarctic or the University
of Wisconsin, but from Greenland. This past summer record amounts of Greenland’s ice cap turned to water. The water has
percolated down through the glaciers that cover Greenland
and are now acting as a kind of conveyor belt, speeding the movement of the
glaciers toward the sea where they will break off, first forming icebergs, then melting. The research, published in the journal Geophysical Research and reported in the
British Independent on November 11, warned that disappearance of the Greenland
Icecap will raise world sea levels by 20 feet, flooding London
and other coastal cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, and Boston and
putting entire countries such as the Netherlands
under water. Researchers also warned that the influx of fresh water could slow
down the Gulf Stream, which moderates the climate of Britain
and would cause substantial loss of crops and animals.
Bush and his administration are
also starting to feel the heat politically. The state of New
York is set to follow California
in adopting strict emission standards to cut greenhouse gas emissions,
according to the Nov. 26 New York Times.
Other states planning on adopting the stricter California
standards include New Jersey, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island,
Oregon, and Washington. The standards require a 30%
reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 40% increase in fuel efficiency
(thus also addressing the looming problem of declining oil supplies). Current
plans are that the standards will be phased in between 2009 and 2016. Auto
companies are planning a massive legal challenge to the new standards, which
are also opposed by the Bush administration.
At the same time that coastal
states in the east and west are moving against the Bush administrations
do-nothing policy on global warming, sectors of the environmental movement are
forming broad coalitions around global warming and calling for demonstrations.
The national Climate Crisis
Coalition (www.climatecrisiscoalition.org) planned a mass demonstration in Montreal on December 3. Over
15,000 participated in that demonstration. Among the demands of the Climate
Crisis Coalition are: ratification by the U.S. of the Kyoto Protocol, support
for clean, safe, non-nuclear energy, and an end to subsidies for oil and coal
corporations. An additional important demand is for a Just Transition for
workers, indigenous peoples, and others affected by the conversion to
alternative energies. [Information on the Just Transition can be found at www.jtalliance.org and is also an
important plank in the Labor Party platform.]
The Climate Crisis Coalition is
also urging the formation of local coalitions. Local coalitions and groups
carried out demonstrations in over 25 states and 31 countries on December 3. In
2006 the coalition hopes to hold town meetings around the country on global
warming followed by a national demonstration later in the year. This represents
the first time the environmental movement has sought to mobilize people in the
streets around global warming and is a significant step forward for the
movement, which has been considered by some environmentalists to be in a state
Can the Bush administration
resist efforts to protect the planet? The future is not yet written and will
depend upon what you, and many others, do. What is certain is that Bush &
Co. will resist any efforts to curtail the unrestrained quest for profit by the
capitalist system and will make no concessions without a fight. That fight,
like the future, is before us.
The author can be reached at