Jan 30, 1989: new US Secretary of State makes a positive speech about climate action.

At the Department of State, Bush family consigliere James Baker, talking to Working Group 3  (Response Strategies)of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, made all the right noises.  It soon went badly wrong, of course…

Context:

George HW Bush had beaten Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election, for a variety of reasons (thanks Lee Atwater!). Bush had, as his son did after him, made some of the “right” noises about climate change, which had burst onto the public agenda in the summer of ’88.

Here’s what William Nitze had to say –

“Ironically the administration initially positioned itself well on the issue with Secretary of State Baker’s endorsement of the “no-regrets” approach to climate change in his first official speech on January 30, 1989.  But after it became apparent that Governor Sununu was strongly opposed to the spirit and much of the substance of that speech, Baker reversed himself on the issue in early 1990 and withdrew from the field.”
Nitze (1994) Page 192-3

Here’s more on Baker, and “no regrets”

He told the National Governor’s Association (26 Feb 2010) that no regrets meant “… while the United States continues to support scientific research into the greenhouse effect, [we] are prepared to take actions that are fully justified in their own right and which have the added advantage of coping with greenhouse gases. They’re precisely the policies[we] will never have cause to regret.”

Future Generations and International Law eds Agius E., Busuttil, S. (eds) 1998) Abingdon, Oxon: Earthscan

footnote 45, Chapter 9 Precautionary Principle and Future Generations by James Cameron, Will Wade-Gery and Juli Abouchar

No regrets” is one of those phrases that has a delightful ambiguity (“basic research” “balanced approach”) and we will return to it when talking about the wondrous climate policies of John Howard, Australian Prime Minister from 1996 to 2007.


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