George Bush Sr Cabinet Was Worried About Climate Change 27 Years Ago

The agreement that was hammered out in Paris at the recent climate talks will be a great step forward towards addressing the growing threat of climate change. But lost amongst the applause for the accord is a question that needs to be answered: Why did it take so long, and are we too late?

Two weeks ago, memos from the George H.W. Bush administration were released that detailed conversations between Bush Sr.’s cabinet members, where they discussed the growing threat of global climate change…27 years ago.

The Hill has posted parts of those conversations:

Newly released documents from the George H.W. Bush administration show that his advisers and Cabinet were very worried about the threats posed by climate change.

The documents, released Wednesday, by a nonprofit group after a public records request, show Bush’s senior staff considering whether dramatic action could stop the worst effects of climate change.

“Global climate change is the most far reaching environmental issue of our time,” a 1989 memo from Acting Assistant Secretary of State Richard J. Smith said. “If the climate change within the range of current predictions actually occurs, the consequences for every nation and every aspect of human activity will be profound.”

Writing to Secretary of State James Baker, Smith said, “As you yourself stated we cannot wait until all the uncertainties have been resolved before we act to limit greenhouse gas emissions and to prepare for whatever climate change we are already committed to.”

The memos were released as world leaders gather in Paris to negotiate a global climate change accord.

The National Security Archive also found documents from the President Reagan administration showing his advisers expressing concerns with big environmental issues of the day.

Specifically, they were pushing for more action to protect the ozone layer and participate in a global treaty on ozone.

“Many regard this issue as the most important priority on the global environmental agenda,” a top official wrote to Reagan Secretary of State George Shultz.

Staying out of the treaty, the memo said, “would damage our international credibility, unleash major domestic criticism, and probably result in unilateral U.S.” action to protect the ozone.

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