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An Environmental Presidency

"The Powers of the Earth," which today continues our series on American values in the context of the presidential campaign, represents the merger of two major lines of editorial work for us in 2007 — exploration of issues involving the environment, especially in the area of climate change, and the intensifying race for president.

Those are closely related topics, for the obvious reason that the next president will steer the nation through a crucial period in the fate of the planet. The Bush Administration has not always been wrong on climate change and the environment — its unwillingness to sign the Kyoto agreement, for instance, has been widely misunderstood. But it's faint praise to say a president is occasionally right, and that's the best that can be said for Bush's record in this area.

As we have documented in our series on global warming, the Bush years have been marked by inattention, ignorance and worse when it comes to climate change. Still, there are policy solutions, for any president willing to pursue them: Wind and solar power provide real opportunities for energy production; conservation already has proven enormously effective and can continue to ease our energy burdens. Even such relatively unexplored ideas as cutting down on beef consumption — and, with it, methane production — could have extraordinary impact. That said, there are also tempting but misguided options, notably nuclear power.

Warming, of course, is just one of the troubles that we are busy inflicting on the planet. As our editorial makes clear, the next president will confront questions about clean air, clean water and mining, all areas that will shape our physical lives and those of coming generations. These, then, are the challenges that face the president who sifts through this administration's environmental wreckage.

We're pleased to present these thoughts on them — both in today's editorial and in our Warming World series. Both can be found in special collections on our Opinion pages.


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