By the wise contrivance of the Author of nature, virtue is upon all ordinary occasions, even with regard to this life, real wisdom, and the surest and readiest means of obtaining both safety and advantage.
Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
On 13 March President George W. Bush wrote to four Republican Senators informing them that he would not be ratifying the Kyoto Protocol, aimed at reducing worldwide emissions of 'greenhouse' gases, especially carbon dioxide - the same protocol Al Gore as Vice-President had negotiated on behalf of the United States in 1997. A few days later, he bluntly defended his decision at a Washington press conference: 'I will not accept a plan that will harm our economy and hurt American workers . . . first things first are the people who live in America; that's my priority.' Bush's abrupt decision to back out of an agreement already made by his former opponent was greeted with dismay by many Democrats and even some sensitive Republicans, and by greens and environmentalists throughout the world, a world in which America, with 4 per cent of our planet's population, emits a quarter of all the greenhouse gases, mostly for generating electricity, heating, cooling, and for running its transport system. Reminded of his campaign promise to support mandatory cuts of co2 from American power stations, Bush declared that 'circumstances have changed since the campaign . . . We' - meaning Americans - 'are now in an energy crisis.'
LRB 21 June 2001 | PDF Download