Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Economy trumps climate fears

Obama says little, Romney changes stance

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WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama promised to tackle climate change when he ran for the White House four years ago, but as he battles for a second term, he says little about the issue, even as the United States suffers through a drought of historic proportions, wild storms, and punishing heat that topples temperature records almost daily.

As late as April, he told Rolling Stone magazine climate change would be a central campaign issue.

"I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way," he said.

Instead, Obama is fighting Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a tight race over the struggling American economy and stubbornly high unemployment. Gallup polling repeatedly shows the economy is the chief concern among American voters, at 65 per cent, while environmental and pollution issues were mentioned by less than one per cent of those polled.

Even without a big push on climate change, Obama has the support of environmentalists. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said Obama "has done a substantial amount in his three years to fight the climate crisis." Romney, he said, "is taking his lead from fossil-fuel companies and does not even acknowledge there is a climate problem."

Romney has been accused of changing positions on the issue to curry favour with the most conservative Republicans, many of whom deny climate change exists.

As governor of the liberal-leaning state of Massachusetts, Romney imposed restrictions on carbon-dioxide emissions by power plants in the state. But as a presidential candidate, he has said the "idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us."

He acknowledges Earth is warming, but says "we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet."

The United States is more politically riven and gripped in partisanship than at any time in recent history. Legislation on a deeply controversial issue such as curbing greenhouse gases stands no chance of passing in Congress at a time when Republicans are accusing Obama of reckless spending and burdening businesses with unnecessary regulations.

-- The Associated Press

Federal minister plans industry regulation

OTTAWA -- Confronted by a looming 2020 deadline for curbing greenhouse-gas emissions, the Harper government will ramp up its efforts to reduce climate-change pollutants, Environment Minister Peter Kent said Wednesday.

Kent made the commitment as he announced Canada had reached the halfway mark toward meeting the government's target for cutting emissions.

Critics say the Tories are overstating their accomplishments.

"After six years in power, the federal government's policies still leave a huge gap between where Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions are headed and the government's promise to reduce climate pollution," said P.J. Partington, of the Pembina Institute's climate-change program.

Kent acknowledged much of the reduction to date has been the result of the combined efforts of environmentally conscious consumers and actions taken by provincial governments.

But he said Ottawa will be stepping up to the plate in the coming months to regulate high-emitting industries.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2012 ??65527

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