U.S. Climate Change Policy of the 1980’s

Most people would be surprised to know that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both actively promoted measures to combat climate change. This is quite a contradiction to today’s top GOP officials, who generally deny that climate change even exists.

A series of memos, stamped “confidential” and kept under wraps for years, portray a White House eager to assert U.S. leadership on climate change. Global warming will have “profound consequences,” one document warns, and the United States “cannot wait” until all scientific questions are resolved before taking action.

The memos were among several formerly classified documents from the Bush and Reagan administrations obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and released by the National Security Archive. The documents portray senior officials in the two Republican administrations pressing for an aggressive response to international environmental issues of the day.

One of the most important pieces of legislation was the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. It is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion. It was agreed on in August of 1987 and has been hailed as the most successful international agreement with regards to climate change at the time. As a result of the international agreement, the ozone hole in Antarctica is slowly recovering and projections indicate that the ozone layer will return to 1980 levels between 2050 and 2070.

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