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U.S. urges "global discussion" on UN warming report

Reuters | February 3, 2007
Deborah Zabarenko and Chris Baltimore

The Bush administration played down the U.S. contribution to world climate change on Friday and called for a "global discussion" after a U.N. report blamed humans for much of the warming over the past 50 years.

"We are a small contributor when you look at the rest of the world," U.S. Energy Secretary Sam Bodman said of greenhouse gas emissions. "It's really got to be a global discussion."

The United States is responsible for one-quarter of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide and uses one-quarter of the world's crude oil.

A unilateral U.S. program to cut emissions might hurt the economy and send business overseas, Bodman said.

But Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said: "This report must serve as a wake-up call to those policymakers who have ignored this issue. We must take action now."

Speaking later to reporters at the United Nations, Boxer called on President George W. Bush to convene a summit of 12 nations most responsible for polluting the atmosphere and said she was also inviting to Washington soon some of the world's top scientists who contributed to the U.N. report.

"And so this really puts to rest, I think, the debate over the science," she said of the report.

Bodman, speaking in measured tones that accepted the reality of global climate change, but stopped short of urging specific limits on the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to it, hailed the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in Paris.

"We're very pleased with it. We're embracing it. We agree with it," Bodman told a news conference. "Human activity is contributing to changes in our Earth's climate and that issue is no longer up for debate."

He reiterated the administration's opposition to mandatory caps on the emission of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced naturally and by coal-fired power plants and petroleum-fueled vehicles, among other sources.

White House economist Edward Lazear said the administration was studying the report and would evaluate what policies might be needed. On C-SPAN television, Lazear called climate change a "key issue" that needed to be addressed in a global context.

A White House statement released in Paris quoted the head of the U.S. delegation, Sharon Hays, as saying the report "will serve as a valuable source of information for policymakers."


Among members of Congress, Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and member of a committee that deals with energy, commerce and natural resources, took issue with the energy secretary's remarks by making a connection with Friday's Groundhog Day celebration.

"It sounds like the Bush administration, having seen the very real shadow of scientific evidence of global warming, has chosen to go back into its hole of denial by saying that it will not support measures to reduce global warming and its disastrous effects on our economy and environment," Markey said in a statement.

Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican and global warming skeptic who headed the environment committee before Democrats gained the congressional majority last year, assailed the report.

"This is a political document, not a scientific report, and it is a shining example of the corruption of science for political gain," Inhofe said in a statement.

Bush's stance on global warming has evolved over his presidency, from open skepticism to acceptance that human activities accelerate change. He briefly mentioned the issue in last week's State of the Union address, saying solutions to the problem lie in technological advances and the use of renewable fuels like ethanol.

That is at odds with environmentalists who have urged mandatory limits on the carbon emissions. Last month, a panel of top corporate leaders, including those from electric companies, urged that same kind of federal regulation.

John Holdren, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said the report's significance lies in the solidity of its science and the unequivocal link it makes between the global warming and its human cause.

"It is a much more powerful report than the last version (from 2001). ... There really has been a torrent of new scientific evidence over the last five or six years, evidence that bears on the magnitude and the human origins and the growing impacts of the climate changes that are already under way," Holdren said in a telephone interview.

(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Steve Holland and Caren Bohan in Washington and Evelyn Leopold at United Nations)


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