For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 12, 2001
Office of the Press Secretary
June 11, 2001
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
11:10 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I've
just met with senior members of my administration who are working to
develop an effective and science-based approach to addressing the
important issues of global climate change.
This is an issue that I know is very important
to the nations of Europe, which I will be visiting for the first time
as President. The earth's well-being is also an issue
important to America. And it's an issue that should be
important to every nation in every part of our world.
The issue of climate change respects no
border. Its effects cannot be reined in by an army nor
advanced by any ideology. Climate change, with its potential
to impact every corner of the world, is an issue that must be addressed
by the world.
The Kyoto Protocol was fatally flawed in
fundamental ways. But the process used to bring nations
together to discuss our joint response to climate change is an
important one. That is why I am today committing the United
States of America to work within the United Nations framework and
elsewhere to develop with our friends and allies and nations throughout
the world an effective and science-based response to the issue of
My Cabinet-level working group has met
regularly for the last 10 weeks to review the most recent, most
accurate, and most comprehensive science. They have heard from
scientists offering a wide spectrum of views. They have
reviewed the facts, and they have listened to many theories and
suppositions. The working group asked the highly-respected
National Academy of Sciences to provide us the most up-to-date
information about what is known and about what is not known on the
science of climate change.
First, we know the surface temperature of the
earth is warming. It has risen by .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
There is a natural greenhouse effect that
contributes to warming. Greenhouse gases trap heat, and thus warm the
earth because they prevent a significant proportion of infrared
radiation from escaping into space. Concentration of greenhouse gases,
especially CO2, have increased substantially since the beginning of the
industrial revolution. And the National Academy of Sciences
indicate that the increase is due in large part to human activity.
Yet, the Academy's report tells us that we do
not know how much effect natural fluctuations in climate may have had
on warming. We do not know how much our climate could, or
will change in the future. We do not know how fast change
will occur, or even how some of our actions could impact it.
For example, our useful efforts to reduce
sulfur emissions may have actually increased warming, because sulfate
particles reflect sunlight, bouncing it back into
space. And, finally, no one can say with any certainty what
constitutes a dangerous level of warming, and therefore what level must
The policy challenge is to act in a serious
and sensible way, given the limits of our knowledge. While
scientific uncertainties remain, we can begin now to address the
factors that contribute to climate change.
There are only two ways to stabilize
concentration of greenhouse gases. One is to avoid emitting
them in the first place; the other is to try to capture them after
they're created. And there are problems with both
approaches. We're making great progress through technology,
but have not yet developed cost-effective ways to capture carbon
emissions at their source; although there is some promising work that
is being done.
And a growing population requires more energy
to heat and cool our homes, more gas to drive our cars. Even
though we're making progress on conservation and energy efficiency and
have significantly reduced the amount of carbon emissions per unit of
Our country, the United States is the world's
largest emitter of manmade greenhouse gases. We account for
almost 20 percent of the world's man-made greenhouse
emissions. We also account for about one-quarter of the
world's economic output. We recognize the responsibility to
reduce our emissions. We also recognize the other part of
the story -- that the rest of the world emits 80 percent of all
greenhouse gases. And many of those emissions come from
This is a challenge that requires a 100
percent effort; ours, and the rest of the world's. The
world's second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases is
China. Yet, China was entirely exempted from the
requirements of the Kyoto Protocol.
India and Germany are among the top
emitters. Yet, India was also exempt from
Kyoto. These and other developing countries that are
experiencing rapid growth face challenges in reducing their emissions
without harming their economies. We want to work
cooperatively with these countries in their efforts to reduce
greenhouse emissions and maintain economic growth.
Kyoto also failed to address two major
pollutants that have an impact on warming: black soot and
tropospheric ozone. Both are proven health
hazards. Reducing both would not only address climate
change, but also dramatically improve people's health.
Kyoto is, in many ways,
unrealistic. Many countries cannot meet their Kyoto
targets. The targets themselves were arbitrary and not based
upon science. For America, complying with those mandates
would have a negative economic impact, with layoffs of workers and
price increases for consumers. And when you evaluate all these flaws,
most reasonable people will understand that it's not sound public
That's why 95 members of the United States
Senate expressed a reluctance to endorse such an
approach. Yet, America's unwillingness to embrace a flawed
treaty should not be read by our friends and allies as any abdication
of responsibility. To the contrary, my administration is
committed to a leadership role on the issue of climate change.
We recognize our responsibility and will meet
it -- at home, in our hemisphere, and in the world. My
Cabinet-level working group on climate change is recommending a number
of initial steps, and will continue to work on additional
ideas. The working group proposes the United States help
lead the way by advancing the science on climate change, advancing the
technology to monitor and reduce greenhouse gases, and creating
partnerships within our hemisphere and beyond to monitor and measure
and mitigate emissions.
I also call on Congress to work with my
administration to achieve the significant emission reductions made
possible by implementing the clean energy technologies proposed in our
energy plan. Our working group study has made it clear that
we need to know a lot more.
The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate
Change commences to stabilizing concentrations at a level that will
prevent dangerous human interference with the climate; but no one knows
what that level is. The United States has spent $18 billion
on climate research since 1990 -- three times as much as any other
country, and more than Japan and all 15 nations of the EU combined.
Today, I make our investment in science even
greater. My administration will establish the U.S. Climate
Change Research Initiative to study areas of uncertainty and identify
priority areas where investments can make a difference.
I'm directing my Secretary of Commerce,
working with other agencies, to set priorities for additional
investments in climate change research, review such investments, and to
improve coordination amongst federal agencies. We will fully
fund high-priority areas for climate change science over the next five
years. We'll also provide resources to build climate
observation systems in developing countries and encourage other
developed nations to match our American commitment.
And we propose a joint venture with the EU,
Japan and others to develop state-of-the-art climate modeling that will
help us better understand the causes and impacts of climate
change. America's the leader in technology and
innovation. We all believe technology offers great promise
to significantly reduce emissions -- especially carbon capture, storage
and sequestration technologies.
So we're creating the National Climate Change
Technology Initiative to strengthen research at universities and
national labs, to enhance partnerships in applied research, to develop
improved technology for measuring and monitoring gross and net
greenhouse gas emissions, and to fund demonstration projects for
cutting-edge technologies, such as bioreactors and fuel cells.
Even with the best science, even with the best
technology, we all know the United States cannot solve this global
problem alone. We're building partnerships within the
Western Hemisphere and with other like-minded
countries. Last week, Secretary Powell signed a new CONCAUSA
Declaration with the countries of Central America, calling for
cooperative efforts on science research, monitoring and measuring of
emissions, technology development, and investment in forest
We will work with the Inter-American Institute
for Global Change Research and other institutions to better understand
regional impacts of climate change. We will establish a
partnership to monitor and mitigate emissions. And at home,
I call on Congress to work with my administration on the initiatives to
enhance conservation and energy efficiency outlined in my energy plan,
to implement the increased use of renewables, natural gas and
hydropower that are outlined in the plan, and to increase the
generation of safe and clean nuclear power.
By increasing conservation and energy
efficiency and aggressively using these clean energy technologies, we
can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by significant amounts in the
coming years. We can make great progress in reducing
emissions, and we will. Yet, even that isn't enough.
I've asked my advisors to consider approaches
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including those that tap the power
of markets, help realize the promise of technology and ensure the
widest-possible global participation. As we analyze the possibilities,
we will be guided by several basic principles. Our approach
must be consistent with the long-term goal of stabilizing greenhouse
gas concentrations in the atmosphere. Our actions should be
measured as we learn more from science and build on it.
Our approach must be flexible to adjust to new
information and take advantage of new technology. We must
always act to ensure continued economic growth and prosperity for our
citizens and for citizens throughout the world. We should
pursue market-based incentives and spur technological innovation.
And, finally, our approach must be based on
global participation, including that of developing countries whose net
greenhouse gas emissions now exceed those in the developed countries.
I've asked Secretary Powell and Administrator
Whitman to ensure they actively work with friends and allies to explore
common approaches to climate change consistent with these
principles. Each step we take will increase our
knowledge. We will act, learn, and act again, adjusting our
approaches as science advances and technology evolves.
Our administration will be
creative. We're committed to protecting our environment and
improving our economy, to acting at home and working in concert with
the world. This is an administration that will make
commitments we can keep, and keep the commitments that we make.
I look forward to continued discussions with
our friends and allies about this important issue.
Thank you for coming.