White House

Bush sets climate change goal; scientists say it's too little

WASHINGTON — President Bush set a new target date Wednesday for stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions by 2025, presenting a strategy that the scientific community says is too little, too late, to prevent dangerous global warming.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Bush acknowledged that climate change is a problem but called for a slow approach to dealing with it that wouldn't raise taxes, burden American businesses or be run by judges working off the Clean Air Act, which he says wasn't meant to address climate change.

"The wrong way is to raise taxes, duplicate mandates or demand sudden and drastic emissions cuts that have no chance of being realized and every chance of hurting our economy," the president said. "The right way is to set realistic goals for reducing emissions consistent with advances in technology, while increasing our energy security and ensuring our economy can continue to grow and prosper."

Bush said the main way to curb U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions was to "rapidly slow the growth" of emissions from the nation's power plants, which are responsible for about 40 percent of the nation's emissions, within 10 to 15 years.

He offered no new initiatives to cut the emissions. Instead, he spoke of an "economy-wide strategy that builds on the solid foundation that we have in place," such as recently passed legislation that raises auto fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020 as well as tax incentives for private research and new technology to attack the problem.

Scientists, environmental groups and some lawmakers charged that Bush's recommendations were an attempt to derail more serious climate-change legislation in Congress and to influence international debate. Delegates from leading economic powers have been discussing climate change in Paris this week.

A consensus report last year by more than 2,000 scientists from around the world called for stronger measures to slow the long-term accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that to prevent average global temperatures from rising more than 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit — the level it set as a danger zone — global emissions would have to peak by 2015 and decline to as little as 15 percent of 2000 levels by 2050. The panel is affiliated with the United Nations.

To keep temperatures from rising above 3.5 degrees, the panel said, industrialized countries would need to reduce emissions by 25 percent to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The European Union has recommended doing that.

Bush's goal would allow emissions to be 28 percent above 1990 levels in 2025, according to calculations made by the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, that are based on U.S. government projections data.

"In his eighth year, the president has just proposed a path on global warming weaker than the campaign pledge he made in September 2000 and broke three months into office," said Frances Beinecke, the council's president. "Not content with blocking action over the last eight years, this president is trying to lock in pollution growth for the next 15."

All three top presidential candidates — Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz. — have climate-change proposals that go beyond Bush's.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, called Bush's plan "the height of irresponsibility."

"The president's plan to have America stand by while greenhouse gases reach dangerous levels and threaten America and the world is worse than doing nothing," she said.

(Renee Schoof contributed to this article.)

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