Leading article: President Bush to the rescue?

Share

The administration of George Bush is not exactly known for its responsible stewardship of the environment. Lest we forget, Mr Bush is the President who wanted to open a protected part of Alaska to oil prospecting, until the plan was scuppered by Congress. He is the President, too, who - in an early act of defying the international consensus - reversed his predecessor's acceptance of the Kyoto treaty even before Congress had refused to ratify it. And he has given every impression of believing that global warming is not a threat - at least not one that the US needs to help avert.

So why is it that, two years before leaving office, the Bush administration has suddenly decided to embrace the cause of the polar bear? The Department of the Interior has now announced that the polar bear should be listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act. Given the known stance of the administration on such subjects, the explanation was little short of remarkable.

The Department of the Interior has reviewed all the available data and now accepts that the sea ice on which the polar bear depends has been receding. As a result, it has concluded that polar bears could be endangered within the relatively short span of 45 years. A department official is quoted as saying this: "Obviously, the sea ice is melting because the temperatures are warmer."

To which environmentalists the world over would be justified in asking what took the administration so very long. Regrettably, there is an easy answer: the administration is meeting the terms of an agreement it reached reluctantly with three campaigning organisations, including Greenpeace, which had gone to court, accusing the administration of tardiness in recognising the polar bear's plight. Now it is possible to approach yesterday's announcement with scepticism. It does not actually list the polar bear as threatened, it merely opens a three-month period of public comment. When the three months are up, the administration could simply let the matter drop - if campaigners do not keep up their pressure.

Let's not be too churlish, though. It may have taken a two-year review and a lawsuit, but the Bush administration is now on record as accepting the reality of global warming and also the need to do something about it. This is a huge advance, for the polar bear's plight cannot be considered in isolation. What applies to this bear applies to other species and other habitats around the globe. With a more alert public and a Democrat-controlled Congress, the Bush administration may even find itself forced to introduce statutory limits on US industry's carbon emissions. Now there's a tantalising thought for the New Year.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own