Friday, October 29, 2004
Kyoto Protocol alive despite U.S.
The Kyoto Protocol on climate change is an international agreement setting targets for countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions (mostly carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels). Scientists agree that these gases are responsible for global warming - the rise in global temperature that may have catastrophic consequences for life on Earth. The agreement, established in 1997 by the United Nations, commits countries to cut emissions to 5% below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012.
For the agreement to become a legally binding treaty, however, it must be ratified by countries which together are responsible for at least 55% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. So far, 126 countries have signed the agreement — most every industrialized country in the world except the U.S., Australia, and Russia. President George W. Bush pulled out of the treaty in March 2001 fearing it would damage the U.S. economy. Because the U.S. accounts for 36% of world emissions, the fate of the treaty has been dependent on Russian ratification.
This September, however, President Vladimir Putin finally approved the Kyoto Protocol and sent it to the Russian parliament to be ratified. Putin's control of parliament makes Kyoto passage a near certainty. Passage will be a huge success in the international fight against climate change. The treaty sends a strong signal to the U.S. and developing countries such as China and India that global warming must be taken seriously. The Kyoto treaty will also serve as a model for future pacts, which climatologists agree will be needed to achieve more stringent cutbacks in the future.
Even when Kyoto passes, however, the U.S. will not be bound by it because our country has not signed it. Some states have acted on their own — however, when California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger set reasonable limits on carbon dioxide pollution from new cars, the federal administration joined the auto companies in lobbying and suing the state. To learn more and to comment on this important issue, visit the Union of Concerned Scientists' web site: www.ucsusa.org, or contact your U.S. and state officials.
© 2004 The Carlisle Mosquito