President Bush offered conclusive evidence this week that on the challenge of global warming, he just doesn't get it. Mr. Bush wants to begin reducing America's greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 - a date when most of the civilized world hopes to have achieved significant reductions. Mr. Bush's distant goal was greeted with derision by environmentalists, scientists, lawmakers and climate experts. But there is a serious, sensible proposal out there: a Senate bill that aims to reduce American greenhouse emissions by nearly a third by 2025.
The Bush plan, offered after years of White House denial, delay and bureaucratic detours on this subject, included no specific legislative proposals. It suggested only that technological breakthroughs such as clean coal energy, wind power, ethanol and other biofuels would somehow make it possible to begin reducing emissions. The Senate bill, sponsored by Republican John W. Warner and independent Joseph I. Lieberman, neither of whom is known for wild-eyed views, would set limits on emissions and allow companies to trade credits.
Experts predict global warming will raise ocean levels, submerging coastlines around the world, and lead to changes in weather that could result in food shortages. Mr. Bush's proposal is widely viewed as an effort to derail the pending Senate bill and to pre-empt more ambitious reduction proposals from the three presidential candidates.
Representatives of industrial nations began meeting in Paris yesterday to develop coordinated greenhouse gas-reduction goals. Experts there described the Bush proposal as irrelevant. A United Nations study group has called for a cut of as much as 85 percent in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Even China, which recently passed the United States as the largest greenhouse gas emitter, has pledged to begin cutting emissions by 2010.
In the absence of White House leadership, many states, including California, Maryland and others in the Northeast, have moved forward with their own efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But global warming is a challenge that requires international cooperation and U.S. leadership. Congress and the presidential candidates should now begin to plan how America will move forward on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and persuade other nations to do their fair share to limit the potential devastating effects of global warming.