Offsetting Bush's Green Legacy: Advice for No. 44
There is no shortage of people eager to see President George W. Bush hit the road — his approval rating hovers at 25% — but few will celebrate the end of the Bush era more than environmentalists.
From the green perspective, the Bush Administration has been an unmitigated disaster, with sins of omission (the failure to do anything significant on climate change) and commission (stealthy attempts to weaken environmental protections such as the Endangered Species Act). For Bush's successor, that legacy means having to play catch-up starting Jan. 20 on a dusty list of green issues; to name a few: national action on capping carbon, reengaging with the United Nations climate change treaty process, America's addiction to foreign oil, water shortages in the Southwest and accelerated species loss.
But the most important task on that to-do list is simple: Don't be George W. Bush. At a time when climate change forced the rest of the world to pay more attention to the environment than ever before, Bush went AWOL. "I think the most important opportunity for the new leader is simply to be a leader," says Mark Tercek, the president of the Nature Conservancy, one of the most influential environmental organizations in the world. "We need a President who will help the American people understand that investment in the environment is necessary and not a burden." (Listen to Tercek talk about the new Administration's environmental priorities on this week's Greencast.)