Green Bush: an (oxy)moron?

Mar 242008
Authors: Mary Ackerson

President Bush supports an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases, but only if the United States does not have to join.

On March 5, when Bush addressed the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference about confronting climate change, he said, “Should there be an international agreement? Yes, there should be, and we support it. But I would remind you, an agreement will be effective — and that’s what we want, we want an effective agreement . And so in order for there to be effective international agreements, it must include . commitments, solid commitments, by every major economy, and no country should get a free ride.”

His argument that an effective agreement must include everyone is unreasonable and seems to be more based upon a concern for fairness rather than effectiveness.

In his continued refusal to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, Bush is dwelling on the perfection of the process instead of focusing on the need to work together to produce results, contradicting his espoused disapproval of “process people.”

And in terms of fairness, his claim that all major economies should participate is only concerned with what is most “fair” for the United States. But what Bush fails to mention is that we already had our turn as a free-rider.

The reason developing countries such as India and China are exempt from the reduction requirements is that their economies are still emerging, and they didn’t contribute to the greenhouse gases emitted during the industrialization era.

Moreover, by failing to be an actor in the agreement, we continue to be guilty of the free ride that Bush denounces. In fact, the U.S. is the guiltiest of free ride status considering we are currently the largest total emitter of carbon dioxide of any country.

Worse still, the United States has not only failed to join the agreement, we are also taking advantage of it by outsourcing much of our carbon emissions to India and China.

Thirty-six developed countries and the European Union have chosen to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. These countries arguably have a better understanding of priorities than our administration.

Environmental degradation is one of the most dangerous and pressing problems facing our world, and we cannot afford to wait until the perfect system is created to address it internationally.

But we can’t blame this whole situation on George Bush.

Despite our country’s failure in the international realm, Jesse Ausubel, the director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University in New York, summed it up nicely when he told the London Times, “We have met the enemy, and he is us. He’s not the Saudi oil minister or George Bush. He is us.”

Bryan Apple, author of the article, continued, “The technology to reduce emissions in small ways at home is advancing rapidly . so perhaps the best solution is to start with ourselves. If we can’t clean up the air, maybe we can clean up our act.”

As a local example: The number of students who live close enough to our campus to walk or take the bus but instead drive to school every day is totally unnecessary. Living closter to campus is just one of many ways that we can start taking personal responsibility in preserving our environment.

We need to work to change the unfortunate reality noted by Apple, “commitment is the big problem. People accept the green message, hence all the green rhetoric in politics, but don’t yet seem to let it affect their lives on a large scale.”

Mary Ackerson is a senior political science major. Her column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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