Leading article: The American consensus of denial is crumbling

Share
Related Topics

In some respects, the attitude of the US political establishment towards global warming seems as intransigent as ever. President George Bush still squirms at mentioning any link between fossil fuel emissions and global warming as the desperate haggling over the wording of the G8 communique in Gleneagles showed. And the recent "post-Kyoto" agreement the Bush administration devised with a handful of friendly countries was widely regarded as a cynical effort to forestall international pressure on the US to consider emission controls.

The US Congress also seems to be an insurmountable barrier to progress. The Climate Stewardship Bill, which would impose federal caps on emission, has been repeatedly blocked by the Senate. Many congressmen and senators continue to question the scientific evidence of rising temperatures. And the Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe has publicly described global warming as a "hoax". This is not the opinion of some political maverick. Depressingly, Senator Inhofe is chairman of the Senate Environment Committee.

The irony is that American scientists are at the very forefront of exposing the damage the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels is inflicting on our environment. Researchers from the Institution of Oceanography in San Diego compared the rise in ocean temperatures with predictions from climate models. This has been the most comprehensive proof yet that human activity is behind climate change.

But there are signs that things are changing in America and that the old consensus of denial is crumbling. Some Republican state governors are already breaking ranks and imposing emissions limits unilaterally in the areas under their authority. Arnold Schwarzenegger is committed to legislation in California requiring car makers to cut emissions from vehicles sold in the state by 30 per cent from 2016. There are similar commitments in Republican-controlled Oregon and Washington. Six other Republican states in the north-east are working to develop emissions trading schemes. The Republican Party appears to be moving considerably faster than the President towards adopting a realistic and practical approach towards climate change.

Even American industry seems to be grasping the need for change. An increasing number of large firms such as DuPont, American Electric Power, Ford and Motorola have announced plans to rein in their energy consumption. This gives the lie to the President's claim that emissions caps would be catastrophic for business. What is lacking is the political will to make the case for them.

Global warming is given little coverage by the US media. Despite this, a poll last autumn found 51 per cent of Americans believe the phenomenon is a cause for substantial concern. The message is slowly filtering through.

Two of the Senators who are visiting Alaska - the Democrat Hillary Clinton and the Republican John McCain - are being mooted as presidential candidates for their respective parties in 2008. This trip could presage an important change to come in US attitudes. For the sake of the world's biggest producer of fossil fuel emissions - and our planet as a whole - it is to be hoped it will.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Newspaper stands have been criticised by the Child Eyes campaign  

There were more reader complaints this year – but, then again, there were more readers

Will Gore
 

People drink to shut out pain and stress. Arresting them won’t help

Deborah Coughlin
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced