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Cheney shoots down Bush message on climate change

When is a U-turn not a U-turn?

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Comment Dick Cheney has torpedoed his own administration's attempts to flip its rhetoric on climate change.

In a TV interview in Australia, the Vice President parroted a stance against the scientific consensus on global warming which is well past its use by date, even among his colleagues.

INTERVIEWER: But what's your sense, where is the science on this? Is global warming a fact? And is it human activity that is causing global warming?

CHENEY: Those are the two key questions. I think there's an emerging consensus that we do have global warming. You can look at the data on that, and I think clearly we're in a period of warming. Where there does not appear to be a consensus, where it begins to break down, is the extent to which that's part of a normal cycle versus the extent to which it's caused by man, greenhouse gases, et cetera.

The gaffe comes less than two weeks after this White House made an embarrassingly ham-fisted attempt to rewrite its history on the issue.

The administration's long-standing fence perch became flat out silly with the release of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest assessment earlier this month. The comprehensive assessment of the science behind the issue concluded our influence was very likely responsible for observed global warming.

In the US, it was received by media as the cast iron rod they needed to beat the administration's equivocations, sending Bush spinners into crisis management mode. Their open letter got them into even more hot water with its blatant revisionism.

The last time George W. Bush made comments similar to Cheney's, suggesting there is a debate around the cause of global warming, was in June last year, when he said: "I have said consistently that global warming is a serious problem. There is a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused."

You wouldn't catch him saying that now, but Cheney's latest denial of the scientific consensus should leave no doubt - despite hopes expressed in Europe - that the policy stance on global warming won't be changed until the moving trucks roll up in January 2009. ®

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