ecoAmerica and Climate Survey Make Time Magazine

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Time Magazine recently wrote an article about the damaged green legacy that President Bush will leave for the next President.  One of the studies they cite is ecoAmerica's American Climate Values Survey (ACVS).  Mark Tercek, president of The Nature Conservancy (one of ACVS' co-sponsors) discusses the ramifications of the large partisan divide on the climate issue.

Offsetting Bush's Green Legacy: Advice for No. 44

Posted Nov. 3, 2008
By Bryan Walsh, TIME

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There is no shortage of people eager to see President George W. Bush hit the road — his approval rating hovers at 25% — but few will celebrate the end of the Bush era more than environmentalists. 

From the green perspective, the Bush Administration has been an
unmitigated disaster, with sins of omission (the failure to do anything
significant on climate change) and commission (stealthy attempts to
weaken environmental protections such as the Endangered Species Act).
For Bush's successor,
that legacy means having to play catch-up starting Jan. 20 on a dusty
list of green issues; to name a few: national action on capping carbon,
reengaging with the United Nations climate change treaty process,
America's addiction to foreign oil, water shortages in the Southwest
and accelerated species loss.

But the most important task on that to-do list is simple: Don't be
George W. Bush. At a time when climate change forced the rest of the
world to pay more attention to the environment than ever before, Bush
went AWOL. "I think the most important opportunity for the new leader
is simply to be a leader," says Mark Tercek, the president of the
Nature Conservancy, one of the most influential environmental
organizations in the world. "We need a President who will help the
American people understand that investment in the environment is
necessary and not a burden." (Listen to Tercek talk about the new
Administration's environmental priorities on this week's Greencast.)

Granted, that's a tough task considering that the ongoing economic
crisis — not to mention the two unending wars — will dominate the
national agenda. Certain green issues, like energy, are tied into the
downturn and will naturally be addressed. (Indeed, Sen. Obama — who has
pledged to spend $150 billion on clean energy — has said the issue
would be the first on his to-do list.) But Tercek believes the key for
the new President will lie in persuading Americans that the environment
is not a partisan issue.

In the past, it wasn't — after all it was Richard Nixon who created
the Environmental Protection Agency (albeit grudgingly), and supporters
of conservation could be regularly found on both sides of the aisle.
But the debate over global warming — which often takes the form of a
religious debate, depending on what one "believes" — is markedly
partisan. The new American Climate Values Survey, commissioned by
environmental groups, found that only half of Republicans think global
warming is real, compared to 90% of all Democrats. "Americans have to
understand that this is not a partisan or political issue," says
Tercek. "We need a leader who can start that."

It doesn't help that President Bush seems bent on dismantling as
many of the nation's environmental regulations as possible before his
time runs out. With less than three months to go, the White House is
looking to tweak regulations that will make mountaintop mining easier,
ease catch limits for certain kinds of fish, lighten the regulation of
drinking water and potentially allow power plants to emit more
greenhouse gases. "We already know this Administration has a deep,
unwavering ideology of deregulation," said Representative Edward
Markey, the chairman of the select committee on energy independence and
global warming. "With scant time left, there's no reason to think
they'll stop deregulating now." The new Administration could reverse
many of these changes, but doing so will take precious time and effort.

The new President will be faced immediately with the U.N.'s annual
climate change summit, which occurs this December in Poland before he
takes office. Still, the best way to signal both to the U.S. and the
rest of the world that the White House is getting greener would be to
send a high-level delegation along — or even stop by himself. It's
important to realize that much of the rest of the world's disdain for
America originates in Bush's apparent contempt for international
climate action, first indicated by his withdrawal from the Kyoto
Protocol process not long after taking office. Changing that attitude —
even if real progress doesn't happen immediately, which it won't —
would go a long way toward repairing America's image in the world. "The
world needs to see the U.S. engage here," says Tercek.

Of course, true international action on climate change will require
strong support at home — and it's not clear that exists yet. (Bush gets
the blame for ditching Kyoto, but don't forget that the Senate in 1997
voted 95-0 that the U.S. shouldn't sign onto the protocol in its
finished form, and President Bill Clinton never brought the treaty to
Congress.) It'll be up to the next President — with the help of a
somewhat greener Congress — to change that, even as he copes with a
hemorrhaging economy. But there's one bright side for President 44: He
doesn't have much to live up to.

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