By Guest-Blogger Brian Howard
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President George W. Bush told Congress and the country that “nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger.” He missed the mark. The most serious threat to the American people, let alone millions of others around the world, is the looming specter of global warming.
The President at least mentioned this colossal threat, demarcating a significant improvement from past speeches. But global warming demands far more than a name drop and simplistic hope for new corrective technology. We need decisive leadership and aggressive solutions on a scale akin to the gear-up to win World War II. The stakes are the rights of the next generation to a safe, fertile world.
As well-known Australian scientist Tim Flannery makes clear in his recent book The Weather Makers, global warming, in combination with the profound way human beings have already altered the planet, threatens the existence of as many as half of living species. Because ecosystems are so interdependent, this means the very living fabric of the Earth is in peril. At the same time, devastating storms will be more frequent and severe, and droughts and floods will breed famine.
Even more immediate to many is the fact that the widely anticipated temperature increase of about five degrees Fahrenheit over the next century would translate to a sea level rise of eighty feet, according to Jim Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In that scenario, say goodbye to New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and most of Florida. Much of the rest of the world would fare far worse. China would have to find new homes for 250 million people, while India and low-lying Bangladesh would have to cope with 270 million environmental refugees.
Bush’s vacuum of leadership on global warming echoes his weak support for human rights in other areas. On Tuesday, the President spoke of the need for fair, secure immigration policy, and a temporary guest worker program is a step in the right direction. But he neglected to mention his regrettable plan to build a draconian fence across the southern border.
The President also spoke of the need for fair and lawful justice and intelligence systems, but notably left out how he intends to clean up ongoing human rights problems at Guantanamo Bay, his administration’s illegal domestic wire tapping, and its hazy stance on torture.
Bush said America should bring liberty and democracy to oppressed people around the world. However, he failed to outline any specific plan of action for such troubled places as Cuba, Belarus and Burma.
Bush spent less time than in past addresses talking about Iraq, even though the country is in worse shape. If he put a tenth of the energy into taking responsibility for the hellish violence that now plagues the nation as he did in the run up to the war, America might have a clearer plan to resolution. As it is, the Bush administration wants to send more American troops into the quagmire, even though Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently told the AP, “the matter of sectarian violence [is] something that only Iraqis can solve.”