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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: Environmental ministers from the European Union are saying they will go ahead and implement the Kyoto Accord to address global warming, even without the participation of the United States. President George W. Bush recently announced that he won't support the Kyoto agreement. The president hasn't yet offered an alternate plan to deal with the issue of climate change, so we're turning to William Reilly. He's the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Bush the elder, and currently chairs the World Wildlife Fund. Hello, Mr. Reilly.

REILLY: Hello, how are you?

CURWOOD: So tell us, what do you see as a viable Republican approach to climate change?

REILLY: I think a conservative Bush administration climate policy would have three features. I think, first of all, it would address the scientific uncertainties and concerns the president has raised by asking the National Academy of Sciences to vet the findings of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations body that has reported that there is substantial influence of human activity on the climate. Second, the Republican administration, the Bush administration, ought to consult industry, ought to work closely with industry. And, I think we'll be reassured to find that a number of leading American companies, successful companies, project significant revenue and earnings, increases over the years ahead, even while they get 25 percent or more reductions in greenhouse gases. And DuPont is the signal company that has already achieved a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gases since 1990, and is on its way to getting 65 percent, with ten percent of those from renewables. Finally, the president has repeatedly questioned the seriousness of a treaty that exempts the developing world from reduction requirements while it imposes very severe obligations on the United States. Well, I think that one could work with developing countries more successfully if we had a more credible policy here at home.

CURWOOD: What would you see as concrete goals for this plan?

REILLY: The Kyoto numbers, the seven percent reduction in greenhouse gases on the part of the United States by the year 2007 or 8, is a very large number. I think we've got to get realistic. If we can go substantially beyond the reductions anticipated, and there are something like 30 percent off what we otherwise could expect to have if economic growth continues, we've got to have some real breakthroughs. Some industries foresee those. Unfortunately, most of them don't foresee them having an impact in the next seven years before that deadline. If that's the case, let's see if we can go far beyond the seven percent reduction. If necessary, with a somewhat stretched-out timetable, but one that is more realistic, with very specific commitments from the different sectors of industry.

CURWOOD: I wonder if you think it's fair to say that President Bush has already lost a lot of credibility with the international community, maybe even with the American people, when it comes to the environment. And, in light of that, how difficult it might be for him to get any kind of climate change policy taken seriously.

REILLY: I think the president of the United States can get a climate change policy taken seriously if he is serious about it and makes that very clear. The Europeans should be careful to talk about what's responsible and what is likely to have the support of the public, and, particularly, the American public. The polls have consistently shown that the people of the United States are very strongly in favor of more action to address the problem of climate change. But those same polls show a strong resistance to paying for that, paying more for energy, for example. So, I think that the problem is more complex than that.

CURWOOD: Looking ahead, how is the Republican Party going to be able to handle this issue? You have a closely-divided Senate that could, you know, with the change of one member, go to the Democrats. The House doesn't have exactly a huge margin. And the Republican position is perceived as anti-climate change, while the majority of the public seems to have this concern.

REILLY: Well, you know, I think that the environment does better with the Republican party when there is a Republican administration, Republican in the White House. I think that's been true historically. You had a situation last summer in the election campaign where it seemed to me that the candidate who looked like he was most likely to take the problem of climate change seriously, based on his book, Al Gore, looked like he would be very unlikely to be able to succeed with the Senate, for example, or the Congress, in getting anything seriously done on climate change. We now have a president who has expressed more reservations about the issue, but were he to identify a constructive policy, engage the rest of the world on it, and take leadership within his party, within the Congress, I think we'd be much more likely to be successful. It seems to me that's where we are right now, and I hope that the administration will see things that way.

CURWOOD: William K. Reilly was administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under the former President Bush, and is currently chair of the World Wildlife Fund. Thanks for taking this time with us today.

REILLY: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

(Music up and under: Kronos Quartet, "Dinner For A Group of Hungry Cannibals")

CURWOOD: Just ahead: As Maine goes, so goes the PVC. The state takes steps tso reduce the use of polyvinyl chloride. Stay tuned to Living on Earth.

Now, this environmental technology update with Cynthia Graber.

(Music up and under: His Name Is Alive, "Across Every Fjord")



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