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Presidents from Reagan to Obama ultimately recognized the importance of science and high-level international cooperation in addressing climate change

President George H.W. Bush initially sought a leadership role for the United States on the environment, according to declassified documents obtained and posted today by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.

Contrary to the popular impression that Republican presidents have always downplayed such concerns, the record shows that some of Bush’s advisers – as under Ronald Reagan – early on recommended severing the “link between economic development and deterioration of the environment,” and demonstrating that “wise, active stewardship over the resources of our planet” was a “responsibility we have to ourselves and as our legacy to future generations.”

The new documentation presented here provides a nuanced picture of some of the continuities that characterized U.S. environmental policy from Reagan to Obama, but there is clear evidence that Reagan and both Bush presidents believed that greenhouse emissions and other problems were real and that even senior aides to George W. Bush sought actions “grounded in science” and designed to encourage renewed cooperation with other countries on restricting emissions.

Though these views could not stem the early push for withdrawal from leadership on climate change driven by Vice President Dick Cheney, similar voices pressing for a multilateral, diplomatic solution to existing problems later in Bush 43’s term presaged a pendulum swing back toward engagement, and set the stage for the Obama administration to reclaim a strong leadership role.

Read entire article at National Security Archive