GOP Presidents Recognized Need for U.S. Leadership on Ozone Depletion and Climate Change

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tags: climate change

Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush actively promoted measures to combat climate change, with Reagan in 1987 overruling objections within his own Cabinet to a major proposed treaty to protect the ozone layer, according to recently declassified records posted today by the George Washington University-based National Security Archive ( As world leaders, including President Barack Obama, meet in Paris for the latest round of climate talks, the posting reveals a desire by the two Republican leaders from the 1980s for strong American leadership on climate issues that sometimes resembles the Obama White House view more than that of many of today's top GOP officials - or presidential candidates.

In connection with the Montreal Protocol (negotiated in 1987 and put into effect in 1989), both Reagan and Bush 41 showed a clear desire to tackle environmental concerns and to lead the global community in that effort, according to the documents. Protests by the Domestic Policy Council, led by Attorney General Edwin Meese, and other agency heads led Reagan to step in to ensure adoption of the final set of U.S. objectives for the treaty. Bush basically shared his predecessor's views on entering office in January 1989. 

Both presidents' secretaries of state, George P. Shultz and James A. Baker III, played key roles in blocking efforts by other Cabinet secretaries to frustrate implementation of more environmentally friendly policies. For example, memos for senior State Department officials in today's posting note that "Global climate change is the most far reaching environmental issue of our time" and that notwithstanding the need for continued research, "We simply cannot wait - the costs of inaction will be too high." 

Today's posting features documents obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A follow-up posting on the Clinton administration's climate policies will appear later this month.

Read entire article at National Security Archive

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