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Saturday, February 14, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
British science adviser generates heat in visit
By Hal Bernton
In their showdown with Saddam Hussein, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush proved staunch allies.
But in the gathering threat of global warming, the two nations have sharply different approaches, a policy difference that was spotlighted yesterday as Britain's chief government science adviser spoke in Seattle at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Sir David King, who has warned that climate change is a far greater threat to the world than is international terrorism, said that Britain has committed to a 60 percent reduction in carbon-dioxide emissions by 2050.
That is far beyond the reductions outlined in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol that set up an international framework for combating global warming. That protocol has been rejected by the Bush administration as unfair and ineffective, but it is supported by the British government.
Britain plans to reach the 2050 goal through a wide range of voluntary and regulatory measures that already include a climate-change tax on industry intended to reduce CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming.
"The British government is taking a leadership role in this, and we are looking to our partners in the rest of the world to (also) act on this," King said. Already, the British government has cut greenhouse gases by 13 percent compared to 1990 levels.
President Bush, early in his administration, came out against the United States signing the Kyoto Treaty, and many within the administration view global warming with a skeptic's eye. No Bush administration representatives appeared at yesterday's panel.
But in an interview yesterday with The Seattle Times, Bush's science adviser, John Marburger, said the administration does view global warming as an "international issue" and welcomes international participation to try to cope with the problem.
Marburger acknowledged that the U.S. and British governments now have sharp differences in solutions to the problem.
Marburger said the United States was opting to try to combat the problem through major investments in new technology such as hydrogen fuels that would reduce carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, Britain is trying a regulatory approach.
Marburger's view of U.S. policy was challenged yesterday by a U.S. scientist, Harvard's Dan Schrag, who joined King in an afternoon panel.
"The assertion that our current administration has taken a different tack to reach the very similar end is simply untrue," said Schrag, a professor of earth and planetary sciences.
Schrag said the Bush administration has rejected much of the science of global warming, and that investing billions of dollars to research new energy technology is no substitute for the kind of comprehensive policy developed by the British government.
During the afternoon panel, British officials said recent floods and last summer's severe European heat wave that claimed thousands of lives may be linked to global climate change, and those events underscore the risks of inaction.
King said he has had repeated discussions with Bush administration officials about global warming. The most recent talks were earlier this week en route to Seattle. "The U.K. position is very clear we will reduce our emissions beyond the Kyoto Protocol, and we are waiting for other partners to join us."
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or email@example.com
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