28 September 2009

Its George W. Bush's Fault

In today's Guardian Hans Joachim Shellnhuber, a German climate scientist and advisor to Angela Merkel, gives a sobering view of the upcoming Copenhagen climate conference:
Professor John Schellnhuber, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, said the US was "climate illiterate" and that the rest of the world may be forced to agree a new deal without it.

"Nobody should dream of the possibility that numbers and targets for countries will be sealed in Copenhagen," said Schellnhuber, one of the world's foremost climate scientists. "If the US doesn't move then nothing will happen."

He added: "The US in a sense is climate illiterate. It is a deeper problem in the US, if you look at global polls about what the public knows about climate change. Even in Brazil and China, you have more people who know the problem, who think that deep cuts in emissions are needed."

He predicted that it could be several years before the US would be willing to take on carbon cuts that were ambitious enough to persuade countries such as China to set targets of their own. At UN talks last week, China and India made small steps forward on this issue, but Obama was unable to do the same.

"The political chances seem very slim that something will happen in Copenhagen and even in the years after," he said. "Maybe in the conferences following Copenhagen some countries – including China and the EU – whatever the US does, will say: we go ahead now. Why can't we save the world without the US? Why should that not happen?"

The US has by some distance the largest carbon emissions per capita in the world, and any deal without it would be significantly less effective at curbing global temperature rise.

Speaking on the fringes of a climate science conference at Oxford University today, Schellnhuber said the former US president, George Bush, was to blame for a decade of inaction on climate change, and that many in the Republican party and the wider US population still did not understand the need to act. European nations and others have been waiting for President Obama to engage with the issue in a way that Bush refused to.


Not Whitey Bulger said...

Angela Merkel, that paragon of climate change virtue:


How do you know a European politician is lying when talking about climate change?

You know the punchline.

Felipe said...

The US has been the main broker of western peace and prosperity over the last century. Europe chose inaction until it was too late in WWII (and looking closer, ever since). The US is the main driver of world economy (not to say science and technology). This is a rather simplistic view, but the point is: it is not from today that Europe is paying the price of letting others decide for them

bernie said...

Are you endorsing Professor Schellnhuber's rather sweeping and unsubstantiated statements?

Ayrdale said...

"The US has by some distance the largest carbon emissions per capita in the world, and any deal without it would be significantly less effective at curbing global temperature rise."

I thought China had overtaken the USA quite some time ago...

I draw this to your attention too, although by know I'm sure you must be aware of it...

"The second image below is, in my opinion, one of the most disquieting images ever presented at Climate Audit..."

rantanplan said...

he is talking about per capita emissions.
In 2006 the US emitted 19t p.c., China only 4

please get the facts straight before posting.


Will Howard said...

Although I opposed Pres. Bush's stance on carbon emissions policy, I get a bit tired of the habit of continuing to blame Dubya for the US's actions (or lack thereof) on this issue, when the Obama Admin. and the Democrats have had plenty of time to put their own policies into action.

Someone needs to tell Prof. Schellnhuber, with all due respect, that George W. Bush is not president any more, and that the Republican Party is a minority party in both houses of Congress. He seems to be unaware that cap & trade legislation in the US House of Representatives passed by *one* vote, in a legislative chamber where Pres. Obama's Democratic Party holds a 37-seat majority. The readers (and presumably Prof. Schellnhuber) can do the arithmetic.

Scott said...

Interesting choice of words here...

"The US in a sense is climate illiterate. It is a deeper problem in the US, if you look at global polls about what the public knows about climate change. Even in Brazil and China,"....

Bring up the literacy point and then compare the US to two vastly less literate countries. I would imagine that the average US citizen is worlds more accurately informed as to "climate change" than the average Chinese or Brazilian citizen.

jgdes said...

Simplistic and totally wrong! Stop making up your own facts and read something instead.

The USA had 2 years more inaction than Europe in WW2 with about 80% of the voting public against joining in. Only Pearl Harbor changed public opinion.

And yes the US is (or rather was) the main driver of the world economy. USA is also the worlds largest debtor by an incredibly large margin. What you don't appreciate is that it is the money from the rest of the world that the USA has been borrowing in ever-increasing (and now stellar) amounts. Add to that the coveted reserve currency status which is a license to print free money that the rest of the world must soak up. In exchange for all that largesse it's somewhat incumbent on the USA to do more policing than anyone else.

We are all in this together for better or worse.

Tamara said...


Felipe's point is still valid. Europeans were being harmed, and yet fellow Europeans chose inaction to the point that only intervention from the US could turn the tide.

Now, the excuse is that the rest of the world can't act until we do?!?!? Certainly, if the threat is so great, isn't it encumbent upon them to act, now to curb their own growth? Why must the leadership be on the side of the largest contributor? Should we allow everyone to drive over the speed limit until the worst offenders decide to be responsible?

Sharon F. said...

Well -I would prefer to be called ignorant, rather than stupid or morally evil, in the hierarchy of name-calling.

On the other hand, not sure if name-calling would work to change any minds here (literate or otherwise). I wonder what social science has to say about that?

TokyoTom said...

Roger, your post here leaves everyone guessing at your intentions and thoughts.

As the US`s per capita emissions are as an absolute matter quite large and are much higher on a per capita basis than China and India, clearly we are a linch-pin to effective action.

And that the Bush administration was firmly in the pocket of the coal interests is hardly beyond dispute. The coal/utility/fossil-fuel coalition is now erodong.

Eric said...

Germany: the new dirty man of Europe: The new emissions agreement is a disaster. Angela Merkel is prepared to go green only when it doesn't hurt big business. George Monbiot


The truth is that the Germans torpedoed the recent EU climate conference. Blaming the Americans is a traditional European occupation that has a 99% success record. It works here too despite Germany's guilty secret.

The Germans have abandoned all future nuclear development (happened in 2000) and the government produced a report that wind power is fundamentally uneconomical because national integration would be hugely expensive. You can see their problem as the world's largest exporter.

Eric said...

About the USA and WW2. The (British) generation before me which lived through WW2 seemed to have a much bigger hatred and contempt for Americans than Germans.

The best explanation for that I have heard is that they met Americans, they only killed Germans !

EliRabett said...

As with the number of souls killed in Iraq, the US no longer measures literacy rates, but the news is not good.

Felipe said...

I think I got too late for this comment, but just in case 1) I wasn't pointing the finger at europeans for WW2, just reminding a bit of history and some aspects that are repeating 2) Have you heard of Neville Chamberlain, hasn't Europe watched, idle, Germany rearmament in the 30's (by the 1920 Winston Churchill had warned that war penalties imposed on Germany should be relaxed or they would end in another war) 3) hasn't the Americans liberated France ?

My main point was: no one complained when the US was there to help, no one complains about GDP growth, science and wealth generated by the US, but simply forgot that US emissions sponsors growth in China, Brazil and France. You can't expect doing civilized politics when you call (an important part) of illiterate. I was trying to be subtle...

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