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The Planet

September 1997, Volume 4, number 7

Clinton Tepid on Global Warming

by David Edeli Speaking to world leaders at the U.N. Earth Summit in New York on June 24, President Clinton said the United States ''must do better'' to curb global warming but gave no specific timetables and made no specific promises. He pointed to new technology to save us from our old technology, but pledged only to bring a U.S. plan to Kyoto -- a gathering of nations to update the 1992 treaty on global warming -- in December 1997.

The June address was lauded by some environmentalists as the strongest acknowledgment of the dangers of climate change by a sitting U.S. president. But Clinton ultimately refused to make any binding commitments to combat the problem.

At a press conference following the speech, Sierra Club President Adam Werbach said Clinton's approach to global warming was like ''trying to quell a raging fire with a squirt gun.''

Clinton's cagey approach has earned the approval of industry lobbyists such as Gail McDonald, president of the Global Climate Coalition, who told the New York Times, ''We are encouraged by the fact that President Clinton seems to be taking a slightly more cautious approach to climate issues than he appeared to be taking several months ago.''

Environmentalists, however, are tired of the stalling tactics of the supposedly green administration. ''With the whole world watching, the president of the world's biggest polluter needs to do more than warn of the consequences of global warming,'' said Werbach.

The Sierra Club advocates increasing miles-per-gallon standards -- to 45 mpg for cars and 34 mpg for light trucks -- as the most important step the country can take to curb global warming. But friends of the auto industry are working hard to ensure that miles-per-gallon (corporate average fuel economy, or CAFE) standards are frozen for the third year by attaching an anti-environmental rider to the 1998 transportation appropriations bill. Bills in both the House and Senate aim to weaken the CAFE law.

''These attacks emphasize the need for the Club to turn up the pressure on the Clinton administration and Congress to combat the powerful industrial interests that want to prevent action to curb global warming,'' says Club Global Warming and Energy Program Director Dan Becker.

To take action: Let President Clinton know that you care about kids and that's why you care about global warming. Send him pictures of your kids or a friend's kids, along with a message urging him to take the single biggest step in curbing global warming: making our cars go farther on a gallon of gas. Send them to: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, DC 20500.

For more information: Contact Dan Becker, (202) 675-6694;

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