- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2007

A top White House adviser says Democratic plans to spotlight global warming will vindicate the president’s policies, which have relied on skepticism that a warming trend will have dire consequences.

“I’m encouraged that what is happening right now is that the debate is turning to the details of the issue. It has really been stuck for many years on a very high, relatively loosely informed rhetorical plane,” Jim Connaughton, the top environmental policy adviser to President Bush, told The Washington Times.

“People are finally listening to what the president has been saying for some time,” Mr. Connaughton said. “What the president said early on is what others are now saying, that it’s a serious issue, but we have to treat it in the context of a risk … kind of like an insurance issue.

“The alternative is shutting down economic growth, and nobody’s going to do that,” he said.

Mr. Bush has acknowledged since 2001 that global warming is a reality, but his administration has been cautious in making dire predictions about the severity of probable effects, and has fought to keep regulation from crippling the economy.

Key congressional Democrats continue to criticize the president’s approach, and say they plan to change U.S. policy on global warming.

“President Bush has only offered empty rhetoric and half measures when it comes to addressing global warming,” said Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. “The Bush administration is becoming increasingly isolated in its refusal to take action to prevent global warming.”

Mrs. Pelosi has formed a 15-member special committee on global warming that will hold a series of hearings in the coming months — both in the United States and in other countries — to raise public awareness and make policy recommendations.

Many Democrats favor much stricter controls on carbon dioxide emissions for all businesses, and said they will push for such measures on the panel, whose chairman will be Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat.

“We are proposing a cap and trade system,” said Rep. Jay Inslee, Washington Democrat, also a member of the committee. “To date the president has abjectly refused to join on us on that.”

A cap and trade system, which allows businesses that come in below emissions standards to sell credits to other businesses that are above emissions levels, has been instituted across much of Europe,

The White House has rejected strict emissions standards, saying they will cripple the economy. Mr. Bush has refused to ratify the Kyoto treaty, which would have enacted mandatory emissions standards.

The Bush administration has said that ratifying the treaty would have cost the United States huge amounts of money and jobs.

But some Republicans who agree with Mr. Bush on global warming said Democratic policy may overwhelm their party’s stance on the issue.

“It remains to be seen whether the hearings will cause it to be viewed with hysteria, or will result in people recognizing [that] it is an issue and there are things we can do to resolve it, but not that it is a catastrophe that requires draconian governmental response,” said Rep. John Shadegg, Arizona Republican and a member of the committee.

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