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US Refuses to Sign Pact to Stem Global Warming

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Giant tabular icebergs are surrounded by ice floe drift in Vincennes Bay on January 11, 2008 in the Australian Antarctic Territory.
Pool/Getty Images News/Getty Images

What Is the Kyoto Protocol?:

The Kyoto Protocol is the first international agreement to fight global warming. It was signed by 141 nations, including all European and all other developed industrial nations except the US and Australia.

The pact went into effect on February 16, 2005, and expires in 2012. The Kyoto Protocol has been celebrated by its backers as a lifeline to save our planet from disastrous human-caused effects of a warming global climate.

What Is Global Warming?:

The phrase "global warming" refers to the scientific fact that our climate is getting warmer. Nine of the 10 warmest years worldwide on record have occurred since 1994. Scientists have proven that the climate is getting warmer because of "greenhouse gases," which are mainly carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the earth's atmosphere, causing it to heat like a greenhouse.

Why Is Global Warming a Danger?:

Global warming began in the 20th century with the modern industrial age. 21st century continuation of this warming trend will result in melting glaciers and arctic ice sheets, which will cause rising sea-levels to inundate coastal areas. Cities as London, Shanghai, Bombay and New York can expect major flooding. Global warming also changes weather patterns, increased risks of droughts and hurricanes, and many health problems. The arctic ice sheet has shrunk 20% since 1979.

How Do Greenhouse Gases Occur?:

The scientific community believes that the global climate is warming because of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities, including industrial and manufacturing processes, fossil fuel combustion (gas) and changes in land use, such as deforestation. Shockingly, the US accounts for 25% of all greenhouse emissions in the world.

What Does the Kyoto Protocol Require?:

The Protocol sets legally-binding targets for developed countries to reduce greenhouse emissions within 7 years, to about 5% below 1990 levels. To reach this goal, countries must put greenhouse emissions controls on its largest polluters, which are corporations and militaries. Productivity will only be maintained if the polluters seek cleaner, renewable alternative energies to replace fossil fuel (gas) energy. Solar, wind and geothermal energy are examples of renewable sources.

What Is US history with the Kyoto Protocol?:

Vice President Al Gore was a main participant in putting the Kyoto Protocol together in 1997. President Bill Clinton signed the agreement in 1997, but the US Senate refused to ratify it, citing potential damage to the US economy required by compliance. The Senate also balked at the agreement because it excluded certain developing countries, including India and China, from having to comply with new emissions standards.

Why did President Bush Withdraw US Support?:

George Bush made campaign promises in 2000 to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. However, in 2001, George Bush pulled the US out of the Kyoto accords as one of the first acts of his presidency. Bush dismissed Kyoto Protocol as too costly, describing it as "an unrealistic and ever-tightening straitjacket." Lately, the White House has even questioned the validity of the science behind global warming, and claims that millions of jobs will be lost if the US joins in this world pact.

Anger Over US Withdrawal from Kyoto Protocol:

"The evidence of this worsening crisis continues to mount," said Al Gore yesterday, accusing Bush of showing the world "a stunning display of moral cowardice."

"Kyoto's ability to survive the near-fatal attacks of the Bush administration is testimony to the urgency of the climate problem." Worldwatch Institute

"As the world celebrates the global warming pact's debut, Bush continues to pander to the energy industry." Laurie David, Natural Resources Defense Council

The Future of the Kyoto Protocol:

The Kyoto Protocol became legally effective after obtaining support from countries representing 55% of worldwide greenhouse gas pollution. The agreement expires in 2012. It's likely that a new agreement will be proposed in 2012. However, if the US doesn't sign on, and instead chooses to pander to profits and business lobbyists, then the agreement will likely fall apart. China and other large nations would probably follow suit.

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