“We don’t have to protect the environment – the Second Coming is at hand.”

– James Watt, Secretary of the Interior during the Reagan administration

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has admitted something accepted by just about everyone but George Bush – that human activity is responsible for global warming. The EPA study, “Climate Action Report 2002,” was based on National Academy of Sciences research. It was prepared for the United Nations and projects the impact of global warming on the United States.

Bush rejected the report, steadfastly maintaining there is no direct link between global warming and the accumulation of greenhouse gases. This view is contradicted by the overwhelming majority of scientific evidence.

Greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere, include carbon dioxide produced by burning fossil fuels from vehicles and electric power plants, nitrous oxide from agricultural and industrial production, methane from landfills and chlorofluorocarbons from industrial production.

The U.S. was responsible for producing 36.1 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions in 1990. U.S. emissions are expected to increase 43 percent between 2000 and 2020 even with Bush’s “Clear Skies” policy, which calls for voluntary corporate compliance in cutting emissions.

The EPA report starkly envisions the disruption of rain and snowfall patterns, reduction of freshwater supplies, dangerous heat waves and coastal flooding. Entire ecosystems will disappear.

The EPA study was followed by reports that glaciers on Mount Everest and elsewhere are melting from global warming and came two weeks after the United Nations Environmental Program released its comprehensive “Global Environmental Outlook 3.” This shocking report predicts an environmental calamity unless human civilization adopts alternative production processes. The report, prepared with the cooperation of 1,000 eminent scientists worldwide, says the earth is at a crossroads and can take one of two paths – “sustainability first” or “markets first.”

The “markets first” approach is essentially the policies of unrestrained corporate pollution, a by-product of the frenzied drive for maximum corporate profits. This scenario projects 3 percent of the earth’s surface will be absorbed into cities within 30 years, 55 percent of the global population will face moderate to severe water shortages and a huge bio-diversity die-off, including 25 percent of the world’s mammals. Emissions of carbon dioxide will rise to 16 billion tons a year, doubling air pollution worldwide from levels before the industrial age and accelerating global warming.

Bush’s rejection of the EPA study shows how isolated he and the energy corporation cabal he represents are on this issue. He is mouthing the policy drafted by the Energy Task Force chaired by Vice President Dick Cheney, former CEO of Halliburton, the energy-industry-related conglomerate.

The policy, which loosens existing restraints on corporate pollution, was written by electricity, oil, coal mining, natural gas and nuclear energy corporations, and the auto industry. The more they gave to Bush’s campaign, the more they wrote.

As a result of bullying by the monopoly corporations in the EPA and Interior Department, career officials are finding it impossible to enforce even the weak regulations against polluters on the books.

The EPA report made no recommendations for curbing the emission of greenhouse gases. Instead it called for “adapting” to the inevitable climate changes, suggesting greater use of air conditioning (which would require more electricity and accelerate the production of carbon dioxide) and saying a benefit might be increased agricultural production!

Bush is maneuvering to short circuit the growing alarm for the future of the planet and the realization that corporations are the main polluters. This concern has led most countries, including the European Union, to adopt the Kyoto Treaty. While it is about to become international law, Bush stands out like a sore thumb. At the behest of the energy monopolies, Bush rejects the treaty, falsely maintaining it will harm the economy.

What he really means is it would cut into corporate profits by mandating use of pollution control equipment, burning of cleaner fuels, building more fuel-efficient vehicle engines and development of alternative sustainable energy sources that undercut the oil and coal industries. The treaty modestly calls for the reduction of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent of 1990 levels.

It will take the pro-environmental majority in the U.S. to impose the Kyoto Treaty on the Bush administration. Every candidate who expects to be elected in November should be held accountable. And the Bush administration and all its corporate polluting cronies should be sent packing in 2004.

The corporate drive for maximum profits is the essence of the capitalist system of production. This system is in basic contradiction with preserving life on planet earth. For humanity to save nature, and thus itself, requires a “sustainability first” economy. This dovetails with publicly owned socialist planned economies and policies that make possible placing human needs first while harmonizing human activity with nature and the environment.

The author can be reached at jbachtell@ameritech.net

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