WASHINGTON -- Overshadowed by the London terrorist attack and largely ignored by inattentive news media, the declaration on global warming at the G-8 summit of industrialized nations sounded far more like George W. Bush than Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac. Prime Minister Blair failed in his attempted coup at Gleneagles in Scotland to bring his close friend President Bush into conformity on the Kyoto protocol.
The British, French and Germans pushed hard for U.S. submission to binding carbon emission targets. To the amazement of the scientific community, Europe capitulated and backed away from immediate restraints on a growing American economy. Bush won agreement from the G-8 that the world should await further scientific conclusion rather than rush unwise decisions that could deflate economic growth and lose jobs.
Together with the rout of pro-Kyoto forces in the U.S. Senate two weeks ago, the outcome at Gleneagles constitutes a major energy triumph for Bush when he had seemed headed for defeat. The week before Gleneagles, the president displayed the stubbornness that often confounds allies but is his greatest strength. In a speech at the Smithsonian, he said efforts to "oppose development and put the world on an energy diet" would condemn two billion people in the undeveloped world to poverty and disease.
The totality of Bush's victory was cloaked by the outrageous rhetoric of French President Chirac, who claimed major U.S. concessions at Gleneagles. "We have noticed a shift in the American position," he declared, contending Bush has isolated his country in rejecting the Kyoto pact.
But Chirac's claims are contradicted by what really happened in Scotland. U.S. negotiators there insisted on removal from the summit's communique language describing global warming as "an urgent threat to the world" requiring "immediate action." Also eliminated were references to melting glaciers and rising seas, plus an audacious effort by France to link Europe with pro-Kyoto U.S. cities and states (mainly California and New England).
Chirac's pretensions may be explained by France's lead role behind the scenes at Gleneagles trying to beat down the U.S. position. "In earlier drafts of the communique," a Bush aide told me, "the French aggressively pushed for pseudo-scientific, alarmist language on climate change."