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The Guardian (UK)
March 4, 2003

Memo Exposes Bush's New Green Strategy

by Oliver Burkeman in Washington

The US Republican party is changing tactics on the environment,
avoiding "frightening" phrases such as global warming, after a
confidential party memo warned that it is the domestic issue on which
George Bush is most vulnerable.

The memo, by the leading Republican consultant Frank Luntz, concedes
the party has "lost the environmental communications battle" and
urges its politicians to encourage the public in the view that there
is no scientific consensus on the dangers of greenhouse gases.

"The scientific debate is closing [against us] but not yet closed.
There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science," Mr
Luntz writes in the memo, obtained by the Environmental Working
Group, a Washington-based campaigning organization.

"Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming
within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe
that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global
warming will change accordingly.

"Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific
certainty a primary issue in the debate."

The phrase "global warming" should be abandoned in favor of "climate
change", Mr Luntz says, and the party should describe its policies as
"conservationist" instead of "environmentalist", because "most
people" think environmentalists are "extremists" who indulge in "some
pretty bizarre behavior.. that turns off many voters".

Words such as "common sense" should be used, with pro-business
arguments avoided wherever possible.

The environment, the memo says, "is probably the single issue on
which Republicans in general - and President Bush in particular - are
most vulnerable".

A Republican source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said party
strategists agreed with Mr Luntz's conclusion that "many Americans
believe Republicans do not care about the environment".

The popular image is that they are "in the pockets of corporate fat
cats who rub their hands together and chuckle manically [sic] as they
plot to pollute America for fun and profit", Mr Luntz adds.

The phrase "global warming" appeared frequently in President Bush's
speeches in 2001, but decreased to almost nothing during 2002, when
the memo was produced.

Environmentalists have accused the party and oil companies of helping
to promulgate the view that serious doubt remains about the effects
of global warming.

Last week, a panel of experts appointed at the Bush administration's
request to analyze the president's climate change strategy found that
it lacked "vision, executable goals, clear timetables and criteria
for measuring progress".

"Rather than focusing on the things we don't know, it's almost as if
parts of the plan were written by people who are totally unfamiliar
with where ecosystems science is coming from," panel member William
Schlesinger told the Guardian.

Mr Luntz urges Republicans to "emphasize the importance of 'acting
only with all the facts in hand'", in line with the White House
position that mandatory restrictions on emissions, as required by the
Kyoto protocol, should not be countenanced until further research is
undertaken.

The memo singles out as a major strategic failure the incoming Bush
administration's response to Bill Clinton's last-minute executive
order reducing the permitted level of arsenic in drinking water from
50 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion.

The new administration put the plan on hold, prompting "the biggest
public relations misfire of President Bush's first year in office",
Mr Luntz writes. The perception was that Mr Bush "was actively
putting in more arsenic in the water".

"A compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more
emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth," Mr Luntz
notes in the memo.