“Hello Mr. President, I hope you will take action on climate change,” CSPW founder and George W. Bush White House climate change whistleblower Rick Piltz said politely but firmly to President Bush in the White House Rose Garden on a sunny morning in June 2001. The President was just about to make a much-anticipated statement on climate change. History is repeating itself today, but this time with the stakes raised as atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide have now exceeded 400 ppm. Just as news of President Donald Trump’s intention to withdraw the US from the December 2015 Paris Agreement leaked yesterday morning, nearly 16 years ago today, those anxious to hear what President Bush had to say in 2001 about climate change action had already been tipped off that a withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol was eminent, and President Bush would refuse to send the signed treaty to the Senate for ratification. A well-established global warming trend had led to mounting concerns about climate change over the previous decade, and Piltz was one of millions of Americans who worried that gains made under President Clinton would be reversed or perhaps abandoned altogether by President Bush. Climate change had already become a partisan issue with nascent but promising bitterness, naturally embraced by liberals, generally dismissed summarily by conservatives.
By June 2001, Piltz had been a senior associate at the Coordination Office for the US Global Change Research Program for six years, responsible for editing and producing scientific reports written by federal climate scientists scattered over about a dozen agencies working on the problem. He was proud of the key role he had played in the production of the very first national assessment of climate change impacts across US regions and economic sectors, a comprehensive report to Congress and the public required by a 1990 bill signed into law by George Bush’s father. The 2000 National Assessment, officially released in the waning hours of Clinton’s second term, warned of dire climate consequences already discernible, measurable, and underway. President Bush had already taken active steps to deep-six the study; its message was too contrary to the oil-friendly nature of the new administration. This to say, Piltz very much wanted to know what George W. Bush had to say about climate change.