Bush Gets a Mulligan on Kyoto; Will He Use It?

Next week's Kyoto conference in Nairobi, Kenya, will give President Bush a second chance to join other industrialized countries in support of the Kyoto Protocol. That's the view of NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

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DANIEL SCHORR: Around Washington, when they talk of climate change, they usually mean change in the political climate.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

NPR's senior news analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: Now, the change in the climate on global warming presents President Bush with the opportunity with a kind of legacy building reversal of policy that led President Reagan in his second term to embrace Mikhael Gorbachev and the formerly evil empire in Red Square.

Until now, the Bush administration has turned its back on the Kyoto Protocols requiring some three dozen industrialized countries to meet specific deadlines for reducing the air emissions of greenhouse gasses. He called the treaty unrealistic and not based on science.

That has left his political adversary, Al Gore, to fly the banner on combating climate change. And it has left the president at odds with leading Republicans like Senator John McCain and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And today, it has put him at odds with his most loyal coalition partner, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has endorsed the results of a searching study of a need for a stronger action to combat the spread of greenhouse gasses.

The president's opportunity for a shift in policy comes next week. Even while America is voting, the signatories of the Kyoto protocol will be meeting in a two week session in Nairobi, Kenya. As of now, the Bush administration will participate in the sessions dealing with voluntary action to reduce greenhouse emissions to which the United States is a signatory.

But the U.S. is not scheduled to participate in a portion of the conference dealing with mandatory action. At sake is whether Mr. Bush, in the twilight of his tenure, will ensure other advanced countries in creating the infrastructure necessary to start moving away from fossil fuels and perhaps save developing icebergs.

No one should expect the president to reverse himself and offer to belatedly sign the Kyoto Protocols. But then, no one expected President Reagan to show up glad handing Gorbachev in Red Square either.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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