British turn up heat on U.S. over global warming
Tony Blair calls for "bold and decisive action" and — in what may be a jab at President Bush — enlists the help of former Vice President Al Gore.
WASHINGTON — Left unchecked, global warming could drive the world economy into a depression similar to the devastating downturn of the 1930s, the British government said Monday in a report that appeared designed to influence politics in the United States.
The report, written by Nicholas Stern, head of the British Government Economic Service and a former World Bank economist, said the environmental cost of global warming could range between 5 percent and 20 percent of the world's total annual economic output after 2050.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has sought to persuade President Bush to take a more aggressive stance in tackling global warming, asked former Vice President Al Gore on Monday to advise his government on climate change — an action that could be considered a political shot across the bow. Gore, who has warned of the dangers of global warming for years, is one of Bush's sharpest critics on the environment.
Blair told reporters in London the report called for "bold and decisive action" and "demolished the last remaining argument for inaction in the face of climate change."
Blair warned that there is a limit to what Britain alone can do to achieve results.
"Britain is more than playing its part," Blair said. "But it is 2 percent of worldwide emissions. Close down all of Britain's emissions, and in less than two years, just the growth in China's emissions would wipe out the difference. So this issue is the definition of global interdependence."
The report said that without rapid and substantial spending to reduce greenhouse gases, climate change will devastate food sources, cause widespread deaths and turn hundreds of millions of people into refugees.
Supporters of proposals to reduce "greenhouse gas" emissions, as called for in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, hailed the report for putting global warming in an economic context, and added that this could help change U.S. policy. In 1999, the U.S. Senate voted 95-0 not to ratify the Kyoto treaty unless China and other rapidly developing countries were also required to reduce greenhouse gases.
The report said the world could avoid drastic economic and environmental consequences by acting as soon as possible to cut industrial emissions that contribute to global warming. Bringing these emissions under control would cost the equivalent of 1 percent of annual economic output by 2050, the report said. Environmental groups called that a relatively modest cost to avoid a possible catastrophe.
But some critics said the Stern report is flawed. Jerry Taylor, an economist at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, said it exaggerates the economic costs and the extent of global warming that would occur if allowed to go unabated. Previous global warming studies have shown relative modest economic impacts on the world, he said.
While Bush opposes the Kyoto treaty, he has proposed new "clean" energy initiatives that he said would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent by 2012. These include clean coal technology and expansion of alternative energy sources.
Kristen Hellmer, spokeswoman for the White House Council on Environmental Policy, said in a statement that "the president has long recognized that climate change is a serious issue, and he has committed the U.S. to advancing and investing in the new technologies to help address this problem."
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., teaming up with Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., has proposed bipartisan legislation that would cap greenhouse gas emissions in the utility, transportation, industrial and commercial sectors. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., have sponsored similar legislation.
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said he doubted that Bush would support either the Kyoto treaty or legislation that would require reduction of emissions. But he added that he believes the next president would sign on to an emissions-reduction program to cut global warming.
Material from the Los Angeles Times is included in this report.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
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