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A step in the right eco-direction

Thanks to President George W. Bush’s recognition of problematic greenhouse gas emissions that warm the globe and his move to take action against them, saving the environment is no longer a purely progressive platform. It’s also a refreshing change to see that reducing harmful emissions has lost its taboo in the conservative’s vocabulary.

After the Bush administration reneged on the 1997 Kyoto Protocol – a treaty designed to limit the greenhouse gas emissions of industrialized nations – other countries viewed the United States as environmentally careless. As the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (recently booted from the first place by China), it’s about time the government put aside party lines and focused on the real issue of being environmentally responsible.

There is some hope that Bush is actually on the right path (or maybe the left), at least in terms of making America appear more interested in the state of the environment and the impact of its industries.

As detailed by the Agence France-Presse, Bush’s proposal includes encouraging each nation to “design its own separate strategies” for lowering emissions, help developing countries gain access to “secure, cost-effective, and proliferation-resistant nuclear power” and building an “international clean technology fund.”

The problem is that this proposal still isn’t sufficient. Although Bush believes that “setting a long-term goal” to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions is enough because it “acknowledges there is a problem,” he still won’t budge on joining in on mandatory emission reduction, and prefers to keep U.S. efforts voluntary. The administration still stands firm on the six-year-long opposition to mandatory emissions caps.

I agree with Yvo de Boer, U.N. envoy on climate change, that Bush’s efforts are “encouraging.” But South African Environment Minister Mathinus van Schalkwyk also has a point that what Bush “placed on the table at this meeting is a first step, but is simply not enough.”

While the speech was unexpected, other eco-aware countries found it encouraging. Bush, however, presented his ideals from a very simple-minded environmental understanding.

“We must lead the world to produce fewer greenhouse-gas emissions and we must do it in a way that does not undermine economic growth or prevent nations from delivering greater prosperity for their people,” he said.

As anyone who has taken a course as basic as Introduction to Environmental Science can tell you, that is the most basic principle of successful environmental sustainability.

He also supports widespread use of nuclear power. Although this method may emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases, there is still a problem of how to safely discard the toxic by-products of nuclear fission, not to mention the disastrous results should something go wrong (Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl, anyone?).

Though it’s apparent that Bush’s proposal lacks teeth to truly curb emissions, at least he is making an effort by bringing environmental issues to the right.

Jaclyn DeVore is a junior majoring in mass communication.