(This speech was given at a public hearing on possible crimes committed by the Bush Administration.)
Presentation by Ted Glick of the Climate Crisis Coalition at Riverside Church, 1/21/06
From the time that the Bush administration came into office at the beginning of 2001, there have been a steady series of actions taken which unmistakably and clearly show evidence of a willful disregard of the assessment of the world scientific community and, indeed, the governments of the world that it is critical that action be taken now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The first action taken was to withdraw the United States from the Kyoto Protocol process completely even though the U.S., with 5% of the world’s population, is responsible for nearly ¼ of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Around the same time, the U.S. used its power to remove Dr. Robert Watson, the chief scientist of the World Bank, as chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations association of 2,000 scientists that has been studying global warming since 1989. They had him replaced with Dr. Rajendra Pachauri. According to an article by Geoffrey Lean in The Independent on January 23, 2005, “A memorandum from Exxon to the White House in early 2001 specifically asked it to get the previous chairman, Dr. Robert Watson, ‘replaced at the request of the U.S.’ The Bush administration then lobbied other countries in favour of Dr. Pachauri—whom the former vice-president Al Gore called the ‘let’s drag out feet’ candidate—and got him elected to replace Dr. Watson, a British-born naturalized American, who had repeatedly called for urgent action.”
Two years later, an article in the June 19th, 2003 N.Y. Times by Adrew Revkin and Katharine Seelye, reported that, “The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to publish a draft report next week on the state of the environment, but after editing by the White House, a long section describing risks from rising global temperatures has been whittled to a few noncommittal paragraphs. . . The editing eliminated references to many studies concluding that warming is at least partly caused by rising concentrations of smokestack and tail-pipe emissions and could threaten health and ecosystems.”
Around the same time, according to author Ross Gelbspan in his book, Boiling Point, “the White House ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to remove or alter all references to the dangers of global warming” after it had “listed the potential impacts of climate change in the United States on its web site in a document known as ‘The National Assessment on Climate Change.’ The president dismissed the meticulously researched document, which took four years to prepare and review, as a frivolous ‘product of bureaucracy.’”
Two years later, on June 8, 2005, another N.Y. Times article by Andrew Revkin threw additional light on these kinds of actions by the White House. “A White House official who once led the oil industry’s fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming. . . In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, [who at the time was chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues] removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors . . . had already approved.”
Note that soon after this information was revealed, Cooney resigned his post and was immediately hired by ExxonMobil.
Toward the end of 2004 the United States stepped up its action on the world stage. It did so after Russia announced in the fall of that year that it would sign the Kyoto Protocol. Its signing meant that enough countries had done so that it would go into effect on Feb. 16, 2005. With that as an important backdrop, the U.S. delegation to an international negotiating session in Buenos Aires, in the words of Geoffrey Lean in The Independent, “brought the talks to the brink of collapse by obstructing even anodyne [painless] proposals. This breached an assurance given by President Bush in 2001, when he pulled out of the [Kyoto] protocol, that America would not try to stop other countries reaching agreement.”
The New York Times also reported immediately afterwards that this meeting “ended with a weak pledge to start limited, informal talks on ways to slow down global warming, after the United States blocked efforts to begin more substantive discussions.”
Last year, from July 6-8, the Group of 8 countries, the G-8, met in Gleneagles, Scotland. Prior to that meeting, one in which Tony Blair had publicly announced that a major topic would be global warming, there were, according to an article in the June 19th issue of The Observer, “extraordinary efforts by the White House to scupper [destroy] Britain’s attempts to tackle global warming,” according to “leaked U.S. government documents obtained by The Observer. These papers—part of the Bush administration’s submission to the G8 action plan for Gleneagles next month—show how the United States, over the past two months, has been seriously undermining Tony Blair’s proposals to tackle climate change.” They “show that Washington officials:
“Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a ‘serious threat to human health and to ecosystems;’
“Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started;
“Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change.”
It is therefore not surprising that there were no decisions made to undertake or support any significant, concerted action coming out of the G8 summit.
Finally, we have the evidence of this administration’s obstructionist efforts at the United Nations Climate Conference in Montreal, which was attended by 10,000 delegates from 180 countries and which concluded a little more than a month ago on December 10th.
As that conference began on November 28th, the chief U.S. climate negotiator, Harlan Watson, was quoted in a Reuters news story as saying, in reference to new ways to fight the build-up of greenhouse gases, that “The United States is opposed to any such discussions.” This is the position they held to and the role that they played over the course of the two weeks of this important international conference. In the words of Andrew Revkin in a Dec. 11th N.Y. Times article, “the United States. . . spent much of the meeting opposing language aimed at starting fresh talks on ways to increase the effectiveness of the original Framework Convention.”
A front-page article by Revkin on Dec. 10th reported on the most dramatic example of the U.S. role: A “walkout, by Harlan L. Watson, the chief American negotiator here, came Friday, shortly after midnight, on what was to have been the last day of the talks, during which the administration has been repeatedly assailed by the leaders of other wealthy industrialized nations for refusing to negotiate to advance the goals of that treaty. . . At a closed session of about 50 delegates, Dr. Watson objected to the proposed title of a statement calling for long-term international cooperation to carry out the 1992 climate treaty, participants said. He then got up from the table and departed.”
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, and others listening, I would urge you to take all of the testimony we have put before you this morning and consider it very seriously. I believe that we have presented compelling evidence that the U.S. government for the last five years has engaged in a deliberate, willful and reckless course of action which is causing great damage to the ecosystem upon which all forms of life on this planet depend, whether plant, insect, animal, mammal or human.
The extensive disruption of the basis for all life, the destruction of our natural environment, done willfully and with full understanding of the consequences, is, I believe, the greatest crime that could ever be committed. I hope you will agree and that we will all act accordingly.