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Kerry unlikely to push hard on global gases

Allen Best

John Kerry would likely do more to address projected climate change if elected president than George W. Bush. Still, Kerry would be cautious – unless something catastrophic happened in climate comparable to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.Then all bets would be off, says Christopher Flavin, president of Washington D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute, a research organization dedicated to environmental sustainability. Flavin sees Bush and Kerry vying for middle ground on terms dictated by coal producers. “If you look at the positioning of both campaigns, then two states – Pennsylvania and West Virginia – are considered in the top tier of swing states,” he says. To hold their support, both Bush and Kerry are careful to avoid offending sensibilities there.”The desire to not appear too threatening to the fossil fuel interests is really a driving force politically,” says Flavin. “I think that fact is one of the reasons that Bush is comfortable in doing virtually nothing on climate change except in ways that are really symbolic and perhaps deceptive, such as when he talks about his commitment to research for renewable energy sources when in fact research funding is really declining. But Kerry is taking a very deep bow to the coal interests, which he thinks he must do in order to carry those two states.”Flavin sees no evidence that Bush will budge on his position regarding climate change. “I think this administration is pretty well dug in on this issue, and I think the politics work OK for them.”Kerry has not made climate change a prime issue, nor is he likely to push for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, which at any rate would almost certainly be defeated in the Senate. Instead, Kerry’s argument is that walking away from the negotiating process is wrong, one more example of a unilateralist approach.However, as a senator last year, Kerry voted for the McCain-Leiberman bill. Moreover, he proposes to spend $10 billion to develop cleaner coal technology.As for the public, says Flavin, opinion polls consistently show concern about global warming and support for action, but that is never among the top 10 concerns. But then, people expressed little concern about terrorism until New York City was attacked.”We’re not going to see anything like ‘The Day After’ (this summer’s movie showing New York City turning into a snowball), but it’s not inconceivable that we’ll see something similar to the terrorist actions occur with respect to global warming. And then, all the same questions will be asked as have been asked after Sept. 11.”Vail Colorado


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