President Bush cautioned an international gathering of scientists today against seeking solutions to global warming that would burden major industries.
Bush promised U.S. support for "aggressive and thoughtful action" to solve the problems posed by global warming and announced that he is calling a meeting at the White House this spring bringing together top environmentalists, economists and ecologists to grapple with the issue.
But he sounded a note of caution against scientists and environmentalists who believe that the warming of the Earth's atmosphere is already serious enough to warrant severe antipollution controls.
"Wherever possible we believe that market mechanism should be applied and that our policies must be consistent with economic growth and free market principles in all countries," Bush said in his address before the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-sponsored group opening a three-day meeting at Georgetown University.
Environmentalists from the United States and Europe were quick to criticize Bush for not making a clear commitment to immediate action aimed at dealing with global warming.
"It was a gross disappointment. There was more talk in the speech about economics than about the environment," said Daniel Becker of the Sierra Club.
Stewart Boyle of the Assn. for the Conservation of Energy in Great Britain said Bush's remarks demonstrated "a leadership crisis" on the global warming issue at the White House. "About the only thing we can say about it is he turned up" at the conference, Boyle said.
The cross section of environmentalists are attending the conference as observers. They said they would have liked to have seen Bush present specific U.S. commitments toward energy conservation and specific goals on reductions in carbon dioxide pollution, which is the major contributor to global warming.
In his speech, Bush said, "We all know that human activities are changing the atmosphere in unexpected and in unprecedented ways."
He said that "some may be tempted to exploit legitimate concerns for political positioning."
"Where politics and opinion have outpaced the science, we are accelerating our support of the technology to bridge that gap," Bush said.
White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu reportedly ordered changes in the text to mute U.S. concerns about global warming. Sununu acknowledged Sunday that he had made some changes, but said they were simply to make the speech "reflective" of Administration policy.
Sununu also criticized "faceless" environmental bureaucrats he said want to force Americans to give up their cars.