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On the May 31 edition of ABC's World News, host Charles Gibson reported that President Bush "call[ed] on 15 major nations to set a goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions" and that "[t]his is a major change for the White House." Gibson noted that "the Bush administration was expected to face heavy criticism [at next week's G8 summit] for not doing enough about global warming." However, he failed to mention that Bush's greenhouse gas reduction proposal does not include any specific targets to be met or penalties for failing to reduce emissions -- shortcomings highlighted by numerous lawmakers and environmentalists. By contrast, other media outlets did report on the criticism of Bush's proposal, including the May 31 editions of the CBS Evening News and NBC's Nightly News.
In his May 31 speech on the U.S. international development agenda, Bush presented his proposal to reduce greenhouse gases emissions:
In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it. The United States takes this issue seriously. The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week. The United States will work with other nations to establish a new framework on greenhouse gas emissions for when the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.
So my proposal is this: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases. To help develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce most greenhouse gas emissions, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.
In addition to this long-term global goal, each country would establish midterm national targets, and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs. Over the course of the next 18 months, our nations would bring together industry leaders from different sectors of our economies, such as power generation and alternative fuels and transportation. These leaders will form working groups that will cooperate on ways to share clean energy technology and best practices.
Gibson called Bush's proposal a "major change," and ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore later reported that Bush said in his speech that "the U.S. would now take the lead in the fight against global warming." But while Blakemore noted that Bush's speech came only hours after NASA administrator Michael Griffin said, "I am not sure that it is fair to say that it [global warming] is a problem we must wrestle with," neither Gibson nor Blakemore mentioned any specific criticism of Bush's proposal.
Yet other media outlets did. For example:
- On the May 31 edition of the CBS Evening News, chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reported: "[T]he Bush approach calls for voluntary international goals to reduce greenhouse gases, not binding commitments. And that troubles climate change experts." Axelrod's report then quoted Elliot Diringer from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change as saying, "Unless you have all the countries sitting down together and saying, 'Here's what we're prepared to do, what are you prepared to do?' and then working toward an agreement on a package of commitments, you're not going to get the critical mass of action that you need to reduce emission."
- On the May 31 edition of NBC's Nightly News, chief environmental correspondent Anne Thompson reported that "[e]nvironmental leaders I talked to today certainly weren't impressed" with Bush's proposal. Thompson added: "One said it was worse than too little, too late, and several agreed that it was a PR strategy, designed to keep President Bush from looking like an obstructionist at next week's G8 meeting."
- The Washington Post reported on June 1 that Bush's proposal "came under heavy fire from key members of Congress" and that "[v]irtually without exception, environmentalists questioned why Bush has devised a plan that lacks mandatory cuts in greenhouse gas emissions":
"The president is not offering commitments, and he's not asking for commitments, and without them we won't get the job done," said Elliot Diringer, director of international strategies for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. "The administration has done all it can to squelch discussion of future climate commitments. This could keep them off the table until the end of this administration."
- In a June 1 article on Bush's proposal, The New York Times reported that "environmental advocates and some European officials" said that "the president delivered no clear statement on what steps the United States would take to limit emissions over the next 10 to 20 years, while he was working on long-term goals for the next 50 years and beyond." The Times noted that the goals Bush laid out "would not be binding unless individual nations chose to bind themselves."
- A June 1 Wall Street Journal article (subscription required) reported that "Mr. Bush's announcement doesn't so much represent a revolutionary change in his approach, but an evolution of thought."
- A June 17 Los Angeles Times article reported: "Some of [Bush's] most persistent critics praised him for taking on the issue. But they also expressed skepticism, saying that mandatory limits on emissions were the only way to turn around the growing release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases blamed for causing Earth's temperature to rise."
From the May 31 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
GIBSON: Well, President Bush today addressed the issue of global warming. The president is calling on 15 major nations to set a goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is a major change for the White House and comes just days before the president goes to a meeting of major industrialized nations, at which the Bush administration was expected to face heavy criticism for not doing enough about global warming.
The president made his proposal on day when a major debate over global warming erupted at NASA, of all places. The nation's space agency is responsible for producing much of the data we have on global warming, and today its top administrator seemed to play down the problem. And that did not sit well with his researchers on the subject. Here's ABC's Bill Blakemore.
BLAKEMORE: NASA's satellite photos and data have always been at the center of research on global warming. So it was startling today to hear NASA's administrator, Michael Griffin, say this on National Public Radio.
MICHAEL GRIFFIN (NASA administrator): I have no doubt that a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with.
BLAKEMORE: Even the president distanced himself from Griffin today, saying the U.S. would now take the lead in the fight against global warming. Bill Blakemore, ABC News, New York.
From the May 31 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:
THOMPSON: Good evening, Brian. Environmental leaders I talked to today certainly weren't impressed. One said it was worse than too little, too late, and several agreed that it was a PR strategy designed to keep President Bush from looking like an obstructionist at next week's G8 meeting.
David Doniger of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that the world is full of lots of international meetings and summits; the question is whether you're ready to lead at home. Environmentalists want the president to get behind legislation that would mandates cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that scientists believe contribute to global warming. The United States is the largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and environmentalists believe only after the U.S. makes cuts at home can it pressure countries like China and India to do the same.
From the May 31 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:
AXELROD: Still, the Bush approach calls for voluntary international goals to reduce greenhouse gases, not binding commitments. And that troubles climate change experts.
DIRINGER: Unless you have all the countries sitting down together and saying, "Here's what we're prepared to do, what are you prepared to do?" and then working toward an agreement on a package of commitments, you're not going to get the critical mass of action that you need to reduce emission.