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Obama's shaky trust in science

On stem cells, he's for the science. But not on climate change – unless the EPA acts.

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In stem cell research, President Obama plans to keep the politics out of the science. But not so for global warming. He's ignoring key advice from most climate scientists that developed countries must act quickly to reduce carbon emissions. To Mr. Obama, the politics of avoiding a public backlash against tough curbs on CO2 trumps the science.

The evidence for early and drastic action is clear to the body set up by the UN to develop a scientific consensus on global warming.

By 2020, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wants developed nations to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by at least 25 percent below the level in 1990. Such action is needed to prevent the worst of climate change, the IPCC says, and "to avoid lock-in of carbon-intensive technologies."

Europe aims for a 20 percent drop with a 30 percent target if other countries follow. But Obama begs to differ, both with the European Union and the IPCC's scientists. He wants only a 20 percent reduction below the 2005 level in the US – not the 1990 level – by 2020. Not only is that well shy of the scientific consensus, but consider this: US emissions have risen 17 percent since 1990. [Editor's note: An earlier version incorrectly gave a number for IPCC-related scientists.]

The Obama administration's rhetoric on global warming doesn't match its policy. His envoy on climate change, Todd Stern, said last week, "We need to be guided by science," or what he calls "the unforgiving math of accumulating emissions." And his White House climate change czar, Carol Browner, said two years ago: "We have the science... We can stop global warming. Anything less would be a felony against the future."

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