by Tony Juniper, Director of Friends of the Earth –
LONDON (November 18, 2003) — Good evening and welcome! Thank you all for expressing your concern about US President, George Bush and his crazy environmental policies.
Can you believe how low the pro-corporate, anti-environment commentators and their New Labour cronies have sunk. Rather than address our concerns, they are accusing us of being anti-American. Yet our protest is not against America. Our protest is not against the American people. Our protest is against George Bush and the corporations who put him in power and sustain him in office.
And there are good reasons to protest against the Bush Administration. There is, for example, his attempt to flood the world with genetically-modified crops. There is his the policy of promoting the interests of US transnational corporations over the interests of people and the planet – the very selective and self-serving use by his administration of world trade rules. There is, only last week, the export of the “ghost ships” to the UK so that the toxic materials embedded in them can be buried beneath our soil. There is, of course, the aggressive pursuit of the war against Iraq, based on flawed intelligence and unfounded claims about weapons of mass destruction and against the collective judgement of global public opinion
But above even all of this, and above all of the questions raised at so many levels, surely the reason for the gravest concern is Bush‚s failure to accept the impending catastrophe that is unfolding because of global climate change.
Teetering on the Brink of Environmental Calamity
We stand today on the brink of the most rapid and profound environmental change experienced in human history ˆ a change caused by man-made pollution. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that, by the end of this century, average global temperatures could increase by nearly six degrees centigrade. The impacts associated with so rapid an unprecedented change are by definition unpredictable ˆ but what we now know suggests that they will be unpleasant and dangerous.
Sea levels will rise inundating low-lying areas, and even whole low lying countries. Storms and floods are likely to be fiercer and droughts more sever. Agriculture and water supplies will be disrupted ˆ potentially provoking famines, migration and conflict. The financial stability of our western economies could be undermined as the insurance industry finds the task of disaster risk management ever more difficult. And, of course, there could be catastrophic impacts on the natural world.
It is for example expected that, by the middle of this century, climate change will dry out the Amazon basin rainforests transform them into savannah and even grasslands. This will release billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as forest biomass declines, and accelerate the loss of species and habitats now taking place around the world, contributing to a rate of extinctions not seen since the dinosaurs disappeared some 65 million years ago.
The insanity of the short-term thinking now being inflicted on the planet beggars belief — and it is being led by the Bush Administration.
Pushing Eco-collapse: George W. Bush and the USA
Global warming and climate change represent the most serious environmental challenge facing the world today. But just as the rest of the world becomes more aware of the risks that lie ahead, so the world‚s most powerful country and largest economy has withdrawn from international efforts to fight the threat. It has decided instead to pollute as it sees fit for its own benefit. Not surprisingly, Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector in Iraq, said he was more concerned about climate change than he was by the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
With five percent of the world’s population, the USA accounts for about a quarter of the world‚s annual carbon dioxide emissions and is already responsible for the much of the climate change now being felt. Corporations and corporate lobby groups peddling their self-serving, skeptical agenda have ensured that US factories, cars, planes and homes do not have to cut their emissions, but can continue to make it worse.
And while the average annual emissions of US citizens is 17 times higher than that of Indian citizens, the Bush Administration has the breathtaking cheek to claim that the Kyoto Protocol, which demands they make only the modest cuts in their emissions, is unfair, because developing countries like India do not have to do the same.
Millions of Americans will suffer because of George Bush’s policies. But it is not they who will pay the highest price when climate change accelerates, it will be the poor countries of the South. During the last four decades, millions of people have died in extreme weather events. 99 per cent have been in the poorer countries. Recent history is likely to provide an accurate guide to the future.
Citizens around the World and inside the US Opposing Bush
We are not alone in being deeply concerned at the conscious decision of the Bush Administration to walk away from international action on climate change. Many voices in the USA share our views.
The cities of Boulder in Colorado and Arcata and Oakland in California are taking legal action against the Bush Government because of its failure to consider climate change when funding overseas oil projects. The Attorney Generals of Maine and Connecticut have called on the US Attorney General to investigate White House staff who colluded with an Exxon-funded lobby group to instigate legal action to stop the White House Office of Science and Technology from distributing a report on climate science.
Many of the leading scientists sounding the loudest alarm come from the USA or have worked for the US Government ˆ people like Michael Mann from the University of Virginia and the British-born, former NASA scientist, Bob Watson That is why the White House colluded with Exxon-Mobil to remove Dr. Watson as Chair of a key UN climate advisory body.
And many millions of American citizens, like us, call for Bush to do the right thing from the grass roots. All of those people have our respect and support. But not you, George Bush.
George Bush ˆ your climate madness will go down in history. You will be remembered as one of the world’s arch environmental villains. You do not represent the interests of your country’s people, and certainly not the people of the wider world, or the people who will inhabit the world when you and your oil companies have finished with it.
George Bush, we do not wish our country to harbor environmental villains. We do not wish to honor you. Please go away and do not come back, until you have changed your policies ˆ not only for the sake of environmental justice for the world, but for the sake of environmental justice for your own people.
(These personal opinions do not necessarily reflect the policy of Friends of the Earth.)