President George W. Bush announced Wednesday what the White House calls "realistic long-term and intermediate goals" for stopping the growth of greenhouse gas emissions -- which scientists say are responsible for warming the planet.
"I am announcing a new national goal: to stop the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2025," Bush said during a speech at the White House Rose Garden Wednesday.
Bush did not, however, propose specific legislation requiring reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Instead he offered a broad goal of reducing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 without specifying how the goal should be reduced.
Environmental groups argue the president's speech is political posturing designed to erode support for more strident legislation that will be debated in Congress this June.
"He obviously is way too late with way too little in terms of emission reductions that are needed to address the crisis at this point," said Dan Lashof, science director of the National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.
"The president is throwing a Hail Mary to polluters in a last-ditch effort to stave off any meaningful action on global warming. Under the president's plan we'll need a real miracle to save us from global warming," said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club.
Environmental groups argue Bush's goal of halting the growth of emissions is insufficient, and point to scientists who have argued there needs to be a cut of total emissions by 80 percent by 2050 in order to prevent the most catastrophic effects of global warming.
"Europe has agreed to reduce its emissions 20 percent and pledged to 30 percent by 2020 if the U.S makes a comparable commitment," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA.
Despite Bush's assertion today citing a reduction in intensity of emissions, greenhouse gas emissions — including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide — have risen over 15 percent since 1990, according to the Energy Information Administration's latest report, released in November.
Scientists and environmentalists argue the current, rising carbon dioxide emissions must decrease within the next four decades by about 70 or 80 percent in order to have a chance of getting the rising global temperature to level off around 2050. At that point, it will be about two degrees hotter than it is today.
The Bush administration has resisted mandatory federal limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, Bush today touted market-based solutions and new technologies as solutions to climate change.
"There are a number of ways to achieve these reductions, but all responsible approaches depend on accelerating the development and deployment of new technologies," Bush said.
Democrats and environmentalists dismissed his speech Wednesday as an effort to preempt legislation set for debate in Congress in June that advocates for more far-reaching efforts at cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
The Democratic-led Senate is scheduled to debate several bills in June, all opposed by the White House, including one sponsored by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., which would legally require companies to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent by 2050.