"A New And Unlikely Climate Hero, The George W. Bush Library"
CREDIT: Credit: AP/David J. Phillip
On Monday Senator Barbara Boxer awarded her inaugural Climate Hero Award to George W. Bush’s presidential library for its energy conservation and environmentally friendly design. This is an unlikely juxtaposition of climate accolades and presidential climate legacy, as Bush is recognized more for devoting energy to preventing action on climate change than addressing it during his administration.
Boxer, a liberal Democrat, was received by former First Lady Laura Bush, who accepted the award. Boxer is co-chair of the Senate Climate Change Clearinghouse, a group of Senators that meets to discuss climate change science and policy, and who established the award to recognize environmental leadership.
This year both the Bush library and the William J. Clinton Presidential Center received Climate Hero Awards for achieving LEED Platinum certification. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the Bush Library integrates architecture and materials to increase energy efficiency with features such as recycling rain water, a green roof and solar water heating. All its materials were locally sourced.
“The George W. Bush Presidential Center has demonstrated true leadership in making energy conservation a top priority,” Boxer said in a statement. “It was a pleasure to see first-hand the library’s innovative and energy efficient designs and to honor these important achievements with the Climate Hero Award.”
The Bush Center may want to place this Climate Hero Award conspicuously out-of-sight of certain holdings within the Library that reflect the larger picture of his climate legacy, such as:
- When Bush firmly rejected the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the most ambitious global effort to combat climate change undertaken during his Presidency.
- Or when Bush reversed a campaign pledge to regulate power plants’ emissions of carbon dioxide.
- Or when the Bush administration tried to stop high-profile climate scientist James Hansen from calling for prompt reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- Or when Bush’s chief environmental adviser blamed Russia for the Bush administration’s climate change obstructionism.
- Or when Bush tried to prevent the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act from being used as tools to help regulate environmentally related climate issues.
- Or when Bush Transportation Secretary Mary Peters directed a lobbying campaign to persuade governors and legislators to block California’s groundbreaking law limiting greenhouse gases from cars and trucks.
Senator Boxer summed up her feelings about the Bush administration’s environmental record in quite different terms in a 2008 Senate hearing:
“Unfortunately, instead of reviewing accomplishments, we look back on years filled with environmental rollbacks that serve special interests, and do not serve the American people,” Boxer said. “The Bush EPA record on global warming could hardly be worse.”
While it is admirable to build a presidential library that wins awards for efficiency and local sourcing, what really matters is what’s inside, in the fine print.