The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

The significance of Bush’s silence

January 31, 2006

Like Bill, I’m willing to speculate about the content of tonight’s “State of the Union” address. However, allow me to guess about what won’t be discussed. I’m willing to conjecture that President Bush will ignore a globally crucial issue that close ally Tony Blair considers one of his “top priorities.”

Monday, the British government released Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, a book outlining the official findings from the Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change conference, held at the Meteorological Office last February, at the start of the UK’s G8 Presidency.

Tony Blair wrote these opening words in the Report’s “Foreward“:

“Climate change is the world’s greatest environmental challenge. It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialisation and economic growth from a world population that has increased six-fold in 200 years, is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable.

That is why I set climate change as one of the top priorities for the UK’s Presidency of the G8 and the European Union in 2005.”

Sir David King, the British government’s chief scientific adviser explicitly compared climate change and terrorism in early 2004 (from the BBC):

“In my view, climate change is the most severe problem we are facing today, more serious even than the threat of terrorism.”

Given that the World Health Organization already attributes 150,000 deaths every year to global warming, that’s not exactly a shocking claim.

A study commissioned for the Pentagon reported a “worst case” scenario in 2004 that would make global climate change a clear national security threat. The study forecast dangerous water surges in coastal areas all over the world (think “the Hague” and “New Orleans”), “mega-droughts” of 10 year duration in Europe and China triggering widespread famine and civil war in the world’s largest state, and conflict-related nuclear proliferation in Japan, Germany, Iran, Egypt and South Korea.

Sir John Houghton, former chief executive of the UK’s Meteorological Office compared the risk of climate change to WMD proliferation in July 2003 (from The Guardian):

“our long-term security is threatened by a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear or biological weapons, or indeed international terrorism: human-induced climate change.”

Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said something remarkably similar in 2004.

The anecdotal evidence about global warming continues to build, making the story harder and harder to ignore. This “propaganda” from US government scientists appeared on Voice of America last week:

Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies say 2005 appears to have been the warmest year in a century.

If that is too elitist, consider the reporting on the the Weather Channel, which regularly tells average Americans that the current winter is unusually warm. This morning, the talking heads there were asking whether the country was experiencing spring, rather than winter. The average temperature in Kansas City for the month of January was only one degree cooler than the average March. Weather Channel “winter weather expert” Paul Kocin blogged (that’s right, blogged)

what a warm run it’s been! It’s now 5 weeks since winter began and once it did, “winter”, as we typically know it, died. And it’s been dead as the dinosaurs!

…Nationwide, January may turn out to be the nation’s warmest on record and a large part is due to how widespread and persistent the warmth has been, especially over the middle of the nation. And it’s not going to break any time soon,

Number of references to “climate change,” “global warming” or “greenhouse effect” in Bush State of the Union addresses:

2005 — 0
2004 — 0
2003 — 0
2002 — 0
2001 — 0 (technically not a SOTU address)

Again, I’m forecasting that Bush continues to pitch a shut out on this issue.

Obviously, this post is a followup to my post from last week, “Is it getting warmer in Washington?

Update: It was terror, terror, terror:

2006 — 0

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Rodger A. Payne is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Louisville. He serves on the University’s Sustainability Council and was a co-founder of the Peace, Conflict, and Social Justice program. He is the author of dozens of journal articles and book chapters and coauthor, with Nayef Samhat, of Democratizing Global Politics: Discourse Norms, International Regimes, and Political Community (SUNY, 2004). He is currently working on two major projects, one exploring the role of narratives in international politics and the other examining the implications of America First foreign policy.