On This Week, Will suggested developing nations "not interested" in climate change

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

On This Week, George F. Will suggested that developing countries are "not interested" in climate change. In fact, during the recent United Nations General Assembly, numerous leaders from so-called developing nations said that their countries are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and requested international cooperation to help mitigate its impact.

During a discussion of former Vice President Al Gore's recent Nobel Peace Prize award for his work on global warming, on the October 14 edition of ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Washington Post columnist George F. Will asserted that "the underdeveloped nations are not interested in this drama of the rich." In fact, during the recent United Nations General Assembly, numerous leaders from developing nations said that their countries are particularly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and requested international cooperation to help mitigate its impact. Will also cited a recent ABC News poll to assert that only 1 percent of the American people "considered global warming their top problem" -- despite other recent polls indicating that Americans find global warming to be an "important" and "serious" problem.

While opening his weekly "Roundtable" segment, host George Stephanopoulos stated: "George, when I heard this on Friday morning I said, this is designed to drive you, George Will, crazy. You don't like the Nobel Peace committee. You don't like Al Gore. You don't think global warming is a crisis." Will responded, "Right on all three counts." In discussing the policy implications of Gore's Nobel Peace Prize, Will stated that "the policy question is going to be ... how much are the developed nations -- because the underdeveloped nations are not interested in this drama of the rich -- how much are the developed nations willing to pay in cash, foregone productivity, inconvenience, circumscribed freedom in order to have no measurable effect on global warming?"

But contrary to Will's assertion that "the underdeveloped nations are not interested in the drama of the rich," the U.N. News Centre reported on October 3 that during the 2007 U.N. General Assembly, "Senior officials from a number of developing countries today called for greater international cooperation to help the world's poor and vulnerable States respond to climate change -- the central focus of this year's annual high-level debate of the General Assembly." It went on to state: "Seyoum Mesfin, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, said Africa is 'exceptionally' vulnerable to the effects of climate change. 'So many of us live on the margins that the smallest difference in climate can mean the difference between sufficiency and famine, survival and death,' he said."

In addition, during the informal thematic debate on "climate change as a global challenge" convened by the president of the U.N. General Assembly on August 1, H.E. Mukhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, Pakistan's minister for environment, delivered a statement on behalf of the Group of 77 (made up of developing nations) and China, in which he asserted: "As we are all aware, Climate Change poses serious risks and challenges particularly to developing countries and therefore demands urgent global action and response. We are concerned about the fact that adverse effects of climate change and the associated phenomena including sea level rise and the increase in frequency and intensity of hurricanes, cyclones, floods and other weather patterns as well as deglaciation, drought and desertification threaten the sustainable development, livelihoods and the very existence of many developing countries and in particular countries in Africa, the LDCs [least-developed countries], the LLDCs [land-locked developing copuntries] and disaster prone developing countries. The Group of 77 and China, therefore, view these discussions as an integral part of the wider sustainable development debate." Moreover, in 2004, the IPS News reported that the delegate from Tanzania at the 10th Conference of Parties of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-10), "summed up the stance of the world's 48 least developed countries" in stating: "For our countries, climate change is more catastrophic than terrorism." IPS News further noted that the "[Tanzania] delegation's sentiments were echoed throughout the opening session of the conference."

Will also asserted, "The American people, sensible that they are, told ABC's recent poll that 1 percent of them considered global warming their top problem." But although a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted September 4-9 indicated that less than 1 percent of respondents consider global warming the "single most important issue in [their] choice for president" in 2008. However, several recent polls have found that Americans believe that global warming is indeed a significant problem and think the federal government should do more to address the issue. For example, a CBS News poll conducted January 18-21 found that 70 percent of respondents think that global warming is "causing a serious impact now," and a Washington Post-ABC News-Stanford University poll conducted April 5-10 found that 52 percent of respondents said that global warming was either "extremely" or "very" important" to them "personally," compared to a 17 percent who said it was "not important" (30 percent responded "somewhat important"). The Washington Post-ABC News-Stanford University also found that 70 percent of respondents think the "federal government should do more than it's doing now to try to deal with global warming," while a CNN/Opinion Research poll conducted January 19-21 found that 75 percent of respondents think that "the government should put new restrictions on emissions from cars and industrial facilities" to address global warming. Moreover, a November 2006 Zogby International post-election survey found that half of Americans who voted in the midterm elections said concern about global warming made a difference in who they voted for, while 58 percent of voters agreed that elected officials "should make combating global warming a high priority."

From the October 14 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:

STEPHANOPOULOS: This week we're going to talk about it here on the roundtable with George Will, Sam Donaldson, and Cokie Roberts. But I do want to begin, though, and I have to do this for George with the Al Gore Nobel Peace Prize because, George, when I heard this on Friday morning I said, this is designed to drive you, George Will, crazy. You don't like the Nobel Peace committee. You don't like Al Gore. You don't think global warming is a crisis.

WILL: Right on all three counts. The New York Times, in one of those headlines that I'm sure it really believes is without editorial content, said, "Gore Vindicated." I suppose in that sense Yassir Arafat, world's foremost terrorist, was vindicated by getting the Nobel Peace Prize. It actually was two prizes. They say he's sharing the prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on --

STEPHANOPOULOS: Climate change.

WILL: --on Climate Change, but they're doing two different things. The panel does the science. He does the hyperbole that gets people to pay attention to the science. And there are all kinds of scientists who are quite candid about this. The panel says over the next century we might anticipate a one-foot increase in the sea levels, approximately what we've had since 1860 without a planetary crisis. Mr. Gore says 20 feet, hence the scene in his movie where Ground Zero is inundated.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah.

WILL: Because he assumes all of the ice in Greenland melts, which scientists say could happen in a thousand years or more.

SAM DONALDSON (ABC News national correspondent): Whoa, whoa. There are now studies which suggest that within 30 years the polar ice cap may melt.

WILL: It's not the polar. We're talking about Greenland. Go ahead.

DONALDSON: Well it's not near enough for government work. Did Al Gore deserve the prize? I think he's pointed out something and he's been the leading exponent publicly of something that's very important. Now if you and Senator [James] Inhofe [R-OK] want to continue to stick your heads in the sand, I'm going to make it out. I'm old enough that I probably will get out of here before the earth collapse, but I have grandchildren, George.

WILL: How does the earth collapse?

DONALDSON: Well, the earth collapses --

COKIE ROBERTS (ABC News chief congressional analyst): Well there've always -- the truth is there have always been propagandists who make something popular. Go back to the revolution, you know, oh, you had Tom Payne and you had the Continental Congress, so you do have the two and they both work for a debate. But good for Al Gore. He worked hard on this. He got this prize. The question now is what does it mean politically?

STEPHANOPOULOS: The immediate question.

ROBERTS: That's right.

DONALDSON: Nothing.

ROBERTS: And so - that's what I think. I think that there have been all kinds of people who want him to get into this race, but the truth is the Democrats are happy with their candidates. There's no vacuum. Maybe he could run for the Republican nomination because they are looking for a candidate.

WILL: The American people, sensible that they are, told ABC's recent poll that 1 percent of them considered global warming their top problem. The policy question that we now come to, now that he's had his Oscar and the Nobel Prize --

STEPHANOPOULOS: And an Emmy too.

ROBERTS: Emmy.

WILL: The policy question is going to be --

ROBERTS: And he won the popular vote.

WILL: How much are the developed nations -- because the underdeveloped nations are not interested in this drama of the rich -- how much are the developed nations willing to pay in cash, forgone productivity, inconvenience, circumscribed freedom in order to have no measurable effect on global warming?

DONALDSON: Not long ago, the vast majority of the American people endorsed the strike against Iraq too. To tell me now that people haven't gotten onto this problem, as they should, is not to say the problem doesn't exist.

ROBERTS: Well, and --

DONALDSON: You cannot prove this by saying, people out there don't know yet, and they don't care.

WILL: We were talking politics.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And politically, even though there's not much debate inside each party right now on this issue, this is likely to be a big issue in the general election.

Posted In
Environment & Science, Climate Change
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
George F. Will
Show/Publication
This Week
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