For decades lawmakers and others have debated the complex and
politicized issue of changes to the Earth's climate, largely failing
to find the consensus needed to implement and consistent national
Scientists have reported different rates of warming at the Earth's
surface and in the midsection of the atmosphere, called the troposphere.
These disparities have been cited by the Bush administration and
some scientists to question the growing consensus among climatologists
that heat-trapping gases could dangerously warm the Earth.
Bush and his administration have consistently said climate change
data are incomplete and have moved to dramatically increase funding
for scientists, saying more research was needed to better understand
At his first press conference on climate change in September
2001, the president acknowledged global warming is occurring.
However, the influence of human activity on the Earth's temperature
is still unknown, the administration has said.
"Climate change is an issue that must be addressed by the
world," President Bush said in 2001. "First we know
that the surface temperature of the earth is warming. It has risen
by 0.6 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years. There was a warming
trend from the 1890s to the 1940s.
Cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s, and then sharply rising
temperatures from the 1970s to today."
The United States has spent $18 billion on climate research since
1990 -- three times as much as any other country.
The current administration has earmarked about $2 billion a year
for climate monitoring and research, including the creation of
the Climate Change Science Program to address what it calls unresolved
questions. The program released a much anticipated report in May
2006 aimed at resolving conflicting records of atmospheric temperature
The studies confirmed warming in the troposphere and at the surface
of the Earth.
"The patterns of climate change over the past 50 years cannot
be explained by natural phenomenon alone and show clear evidence
of human influences on the climate system (due to changes in greenhouse
gases, aerosols, and stratospheric ozone)," the report found.
"There is no longer a discrepancy in the rate of global
average temperature increase for the surface compared with higher
levels in the atmosphere," the report said. It also concluded
that man-made emissions, mainly caused by burning coal and oil,
were driving the change in the global climate.
The administration's policy remains focused on studying the remaining
questions -- 20 other assessments from the Climate Change Science
Program are under way -- and using voluntary means to slow the
growth in emissions of heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide.
In Congress, the views widely vary among those who trumpet the
environmental damages caused by global warming and those who the
economic disruption that could be caused by expensive anti-pollution
Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe,
R-Okla., has said "much of the debate over global warming
is predicated on fear, rather than science." And the threat
of catastrophic global warming is the "greatest hoax ever
perpetrated on the American people."
Skeptics have seized on satellite measurements that suggest the
atmosphere is not heating up to bolster their argument that there
was no link between climate change and man-made emissions.
Other lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at dealing
with the impacts of global warming while preserving business interests.
For example, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn.,
reintroduced the Climate Stewardship Act to cap and trade greenhouse
The bill, which has a similar House version, would create mandatory
restrictions on emissions of carbon dioxide and created a mechanism
for stricter limits in the style of the Kyoto Protocol climate
The legislation has drawn some opposition in both the environmental
and business communities for different reasons. In essence, they
believe that a more affordable and reliable restriction could
Another bipartisan offering, the Keep America Competitive Global
Warming Policy Act from Reps. Tom Udall, D-N.M., And Tom Petri,
R-Wis., would cap prices for greenhouse gas credits at about $7
per ton but would not set an emissions cap, instead giving the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency three years after the date
of enactment to set one.
Some environmentalists, including David Doniger, policy director
at the Natural Resources Defense Council's Climate Center, criticize
the legislative proposals for not containing enough conservation
"There's a race to the bottom going on," he said. "Because
of the 'just say no' attitude in Congress, you have lawmakers
trying to get to 'yes' by negotiating compromises so great they
no longer offer meaningful climate solutions."