George W. Bush began his first term by withdrawing the United States from the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, which seeks to respond to manmade global climate change by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. This set the tone for the Bush era in relationship to climate change. Bush repeatedly stressed that more study was needed and questioned the science of climate change, enabling climate change deniers and environmental inaction.
Throughout his terms, Bush pushed for increased access and rights for oil companies. He overturned a 27-year ban (put in place by his father) on new offshore drilling, while pushing for drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and the Green River Basin.
Bush sought to introduce market-based environmental regulations, such as cap-and-trade with his Clear Skies Initiative, to enable energy companies to buy and trade pollution credits. In 2002, the Bush administration redefined carbon dioxide as ‘not a pollutant,’ and hence not subject to the Clean Air Act.
Environmentalists were pleasantly surprised with the administration’s naming of the Pacific Remote Islands (on this panel) as a national monument—a rare protectionist move from an administration more frequently characterized by working against environmental regulations and protections.