It is the first year of the new Republican president’s term. He has taken over a healthy economy from his Democratic predecessor, and, with it, the freedom to branch out beyond the typical Reaganism. He has also inherited a slew of environmental policies, many of which combat global warming.
Most important among these is a fledgling UN treaty, a global agreement to restrict greenhouse-gas emissions. It was never ratified by the Senate, so the new president—whose Cabinet members have deep ties to the oil and gas industry—must decide whether to stay in the agreement or abandon it.
Global warming does not obsess most Americans, but it frightens the scientists who study it. Just before the new president took office, an unprecedented and monstrous El Niño, the largest ever recorded, set a new annual global temperature record—“the hottest year ever measured,” as the newspapers put it. Ocean temperatures surged around the world, bleaching the Great Barrier Reef and inducing a mass coral die-off . Great cracks are even appearing in ancient Antarctic ice shelves. Climate change seems to be already under way.
You know where this is going. The president, of course, was George W. Bush. In his first months in office, he decided to abandon negotiations over the Kyoto Protocol, which required the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions five percent below 1990 levels. He promised to supply a different climate policy later in his term. Environmentalists warned that soon global warming would become too devastating to ignore.