Editorial: World coming together on
OUR OPINION: U.S. COULD WIELD MORE INFLUENCE BY JOINING
Published December 20th, 2004
The two-week U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change
in Buenos Aires ended last week with good feelings all
around and a firm commitment to fight global warming,
even though the results weren't wholly satisfying. The
United States remains the biggest obstacle to success
because it pollutes more than any other country, yet has
refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocols for pollution controls.
A modest goal
While there isn't much to commend the U.S. position,
the Bush administration did send delegates to the conference
who explained as best they could why the U.S. plan for
developing cleaner-burning technology over the long term
will work. That's not nearly enough, but it is at least
a more-engaged position than four years ago when President
Bush expressed doubt about global warming and withdrew
U.S. support of the accords.
Nonetheless, the treaty has been ratified by 130 countries
and its protocols will begin to take effect Feb. 16. The
protocols call for 30 industrialized nations to reduce
emissions of ''greenhouse gases'' by 2012 to a level 5
percent less than 1990 emissions -- a modest goal at best.
Developing and nonindustrialized countries are exempt
from the pact, which is a mistake.
Fast-growing China, for example, qualifies as a developing
country. China's output of greenhouse gases doesn't match
the United States'; we're responsible for 21 percent of
the world's emission of carbon dioxide, methane and other
greenhouse gases. However, China's size, rapid growth
and heavy reliance on fossil-driven technology make it
an imminent threat. A recent multinational study of pollutants
discovered a heretofore unrecognized source of mercury
pollution in the Great Lakes and New England states --
China's coal-fired power plants.
Evidence of the effects of global warming are all around.
Last month, an international team of 300 scientists confirmed
that Arctic winter temperatures had risen by 4 to 7 degrees
since 1950. In 2003, Europe experienced its worst summer
heat wave in 500 years. Last summer a record number of
giant typhoons struck Southeast Asia, and Florida had
a record four hurricanes in a single season.
On the sidelines
The conference has made clear that different countries
have different requirements, needs and expectations from
the treaty. Europe, Japan and Canada are big supporters
while poor and developing countries worry that they will
be the first to bear the ill effects of global warming.
The United States, China and India would rather sit on
It's true that the protocols aren't perfect and could
use tinkering and fine tuning. But global warming is real,
and the better choice is to be part of the solution rather
than part of the problem.