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Saturday, 31 March, 2001, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Kyoto: Was the US right to ditch the deal?
Governments across the world are lining up to deplore the decision by the US not to implement the Kyoto treaty on combating global warming.
The US objects to the protocol on the grounds that it does not seek to limit pollution from developing nations and puts too heavy a burden on the US economy.
The US is responsible for about 25% of emissions of carbon dioxide, one of the main greenhouse gases. Environmental groups say the move threatens "climate disaster".
Is the US administration right in demanding the inclusion of developing countries? Is the deal dead without the US? What consequences will the announcement have for global warming?
We will be debating this topic on our programme "Talking Point on Air" this Sunday at 1400 GMT, broadcast by the BBC World Service and webcast by News Online. If you would like to take part, please include a telephone number with your comments.
Thomas Jacob, Dresden, Germany
Peter H's assertion "Satellite measurements indicate that the world is getting cooler" is actually incorrect. In fact the scientific consensus is that satellite measurements support global warming predictions. For example, John Harries and colleagues reported in Nature (the world's leading scientific journal) earlier this month, compelling satellite data which directly supports global warming predictions. This is just the latest of thousands of publications in respected journals providing strong evidence for global warming. Observations of warmer temperatures at weather stations, in the oceans and from satellite data have been found many times by scientists from many countries. There are also observations of melting mountain glaciers, permafrost, sea ice and ice sheets around the globe; plus observations of increased sea levels and unusual weather patterns. The evidence for global warming is in fact so overwhelming that it is hard to see how any reasonable person could doubt it. To do so is a bit like saying HIV isn't connected with AIDS or evolution doesn't exist.
Many of those scientists opposing global warming are funded by the oil and energy companies whose profits are at stake from CO2 cuts. I think the media should be more responsible in its coverage. Often global warming opponents with little scientific credibility are given the same type of coverage as the world's leading climate scientists. This does the public a disservice by attempting to generate controversy where there is scientific consensus.
Even Mr. Bush accepts climate change is a "serious problem". He believes, however, that the US should continue producing the most pollution and let the rest of the world clean up the mess.
Emmanuel, Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania
'Junior' has clearly shown where he wishes to drag the USA. Right back to the early 80s again. First thing he did was a little bombing sortie and now this. Ignorant to the rest of us, Bush will get into this pathetic leaning as time goes by. I wonder just how far Daddy is behind the scenes.
David W. Mannon, Searcy, AR, USA
Yes, Bush is owned by the oil, mining, and gas industries just as he is owned by the anti-abortion religious right and the extremely wealthy who have no social conscience and want huge tax cuts for themselves and to hell with the poor. If he doesn't give a damn about our own downtrodden, he couldn't care less for those in any other country. The man's days in office are numbered until the next presidential election and the right wing knows it, so they are blatantly putting their monetary donor's interests out front very quickly. For the record, of any president this century, he has the highest hard core disapproval rating. The only solace I can offer those of you abroad is that he will be gone in a little less than four years.
During this one year and a half living in US, several times people (environmentally concerned) asked me about the devastation of the Amazon and at the same time complained about the price of gas. This decision of the Bush government does not surprise me as the decision
of the US people to elect him. Unfortunately, Bush represents the opinion of his people. As a Brazilian I would like to see the other
countries in world, lead by the EU, following the Kyoto protocol, regardless of US environmental policy. We should not be so
terrified with Bush's decision, yet we should be now thinking how to force them to accept the Kyoto protocol. Any suggestion?
Boycott of their products will target their only apparent concern: money!
The claims of pseudo-science against the IPCC here are invalid. A scientific proof is experimentation yielding expected results; how do you apply that to the climate? The best you can get is statistical probability and that should be enough. There is no proof that smoking causes cancer, but everyone except the CEOs of tobacco companies accept it as fact. And Paul from London is probably right that most comments will be from Brits with little or no experience of American life, but America is undeniably insular (there is very little reporting of World events here) and will never yield to any pressure unless it hurts financially.
Srikanth Ranganathan, Novi, Michigan, USA
As an American, I am sick and tired of the rest of the world trying to tell us what to do. If you want to spend billions and ruin your economy fighting a problem that scientists are not even sure exists - go ahead. Just leave us alone.
I am sick and tired of other countries pushing their unproven suspicions and paranoias on us like genetically modified foods - as if nature doesn't genetically modify plants and animals on its own over time.
I am sick and tired of other countries telling us that we can protect ourselves from rogue nations firing missiles at us.
I am sick and tired of others lecturing us on capital punishment, private ownership of guns etc.
Mind your own business and leave us alone.
If you want to tax our imports - go ahead. Last I saw we ran a trade deficit with nearly every country. When we match your tax, we will actually make out on the deal.
Martyn Herman, London, UK
The simple solution is to add a CO2 tax to all American imports. Monies raised could then be used to research and develop technologies for researching and dealing with global warming, paying for land to be re-forested to use as "carbon sinks". Meanwhile, the heavy tariffs would reduce export from the USA, reducing the CO2 emissions used in manufacturing and shipping the goods abroad. The rest of the world cannot make the USA take responsibility for its actions, in the same way as you cannot make another person drive safely on the road. However, the international community can take steps to counteract any harm they are doing to the environment and indirectly charge them the implementation costs through tariffs and taxes.
Can I correct one or two inaccuracies that have crept in to the submissions above? Climate change is a scientific fact, and is being caused by human activity. There is no doubt about it. Those who say there is some doubt about it are almost all paid by oil companies to say that. The IPCC is not paid to say that climate change exists, they are paid to produce good science. Those who argue about the existence of climate change are simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
This really isn't the least bit surprising, anyone who has had the misfortune of living in Texas can appreciate how little this character actually cares about the environment or anything else for that matter. I fear greatly for American relations with the rest of the world. By the time the Bush administration collapses in 2004 it could take decades to repair America's relationship with Europe.
If he keeps going with this level of reckless behavior we could find ourselves in a situation where American diplomats are being expelled and European diplomats are being recalled! What is he going to do next?
Decide to put offensive nuclear weapons on the Canadian Boarder?
Seija Manninen, Kangasniemi, Finland
Once again President Bush has shown that he does not care about the growing environmental problems faced by our planet, but only the profits that can be made in an overgrown American economy and for his oilmen buddies! Along with this isolationist and irresponsible outrage Bush has also promised that he will drill for oil in Alaska's protected wilderness. I am personally ashamed at this moment for the American position on environmental protection and our economic policies that create such a large percentage of the world's pollution and keeps smaller countries economically bound to U.S. interests.
The US imposes trade restrictions on countries that do not comply with its beliefs.
The EU and much of the rest of the world believes in Kyoto, which requires only the most minimal reduction as a start in the campaign to stop global warming.
Trade restrictions on the US would be an effective way of reducing its CO2 emissions.
We all will finance the US anti-ballistic missile shield because we will pay for the environment and the USA does not. If it was necessary for world peace indeed, I would prefer to pay taxes to the US-government directly. On the other hand: Who can force the Peoples' Republic of China or India not to behave as the USA do?
David Mands, Arbroath Scotland
The global warming debate will go on forever. Perhaps many readers should study geographic history and they may discover that the sea level has risen and fallen over the centuries. What has caused this will be debated for centuries to come.
Bush's decision is a huge blow struck against everything that lives on this planet now, or will live on it in the future. Certainly, the Kyoto Protocol is not without flaws, but a better alternative will not be produced as long as the US and its President denies there is a problem. The problem for the rest of the world is what they can do now that the US is backing out - sanctions? How many countries can afford a trade war with the world's largest economy? The US likes being the 'leader of the free world', but this stance, more than anything it has done before, makes a mockery of the whole idea - free world? Unless other governments make some firm stance against the US over this issue, i.e. much more than just condemning it, we are all destined to suffer under a very heavy US yoke.
Emissions are only one part of the problem. Destruction of the rainforests, which also contributes to climate change, is another. But I see little hope when the media warns of impending environmental catastrophe while simultaneously encouraging - chiefly, though not wholly, through advertising - rampant consumerism and waste of natural resources.
Susannah, Sydney, Australia
The whole idea of global warming is hogwash!
We have only been keeping accurate records of
climate conditions for 100-200 years at best. If you
were to look at a city were a weather monitoring
station was 100 years ago and today there is more
city/growth near the site hence the thermal capacity as
well as temperature would naturally increase without
any increase in pollution. We do need to cut down on
pollution in all cities around the world but not on the
pressures of environmental extremists, but sound
We were right to be fearful when Bush won the presidency of the USA. This statement is what we should have expected from somebody of such inexperience in world affairs and no interest in anything other that what is good for business. We all have an obligation to look after the world that we live in for all mankind, not just Americans.
Global warming or not, America does not care. Huge CO2 producing industrial interests are at stake. If the developing nations are to co-operate, America should first agree to reduce her per capita CO2 output to more reasonable levels. I fear for Kyoto.
That we all have a responsibility in reducing greenhouse gases is clearly evident. I also agree that we Americans produce more than our share of them. However, I don't see how the rest of the world can be so sanctimonious about Bush's decision when not a single industrialized country has ratified much less implemented the treaty four years after it was signed. Also, more important than governments ratifying treaties, true reduction in pollution will only come with sustained change in the behavior of individuals. Again, I concede that we Americans need to change our habits. However, as I ride my bicycle to work here in the UK I am crowded off the road by sport utility vehicles and other traffic, not by fellow cyclists.
I would like to ask what would be required for proof? It seems as though there will never be enough proof of global warming to convince the most die-hard sceptic. The complexity of the atmospheric system does not allow such proof to exist.
We can though predict some of the potential consequences of global warming and under the Kyoto Protocol the majority of the worlds governments agreed to the moral responsibility to reduce those risks.
If a country now decides to shirk its responsibilities then they should be subjected to environmental tariffs on the goods they export.
Such predictable comments. So, the USA is responsible for twenty-five percent of emissions? This means that the rest of the world is responsible for seventy-five percent - three times as much. Why doesn't the rest of the world (causing the most pollution), clean up their emissions and set an example to the USA? Even if the USA still does nothing, we will have solved seventy-five percent of the pollution problem.
Marcus Huygens, Sydney, Australia
This decision shouldn't surprise people. In part it is political, the Republicans known for their high regard of big business, but beyond that it demonstrates entrenched American attitudes. To many, but not all, in the US, it is inconceivable that they should save energy, or be concerned about the affects of their lifestyle. Many would find it an affront to change the way they live for such an intangible reason.
In such a huge country, the vast majority of the population is largely ignorant of the world outside and the changes that are definitely occurring. They believe it their right to live the way they do, and that technology will find a solution if it is causing a problem. This is what it is to be American and until these attitudes change, or Joe average starts to feel it financially, the US will place itself and it's people first, as it always has done.
Tom, Perth, Australia
The Kyoto accord was expensive window-dressing, signed by politicians to make them feel and look better. Time to start again.
What should the occupants of the boat do if one or two careless bodies keep rocking it? Every individual in the world finally worries about its survival before it is too late. Patience burst its boundary too, as greediness. I am sure people from the USA will join their fellow-travellers.
I never considered myself 'Green' until I heard President Bush's statement. This was the first time my jaw hit the floor when I heard an environmental statement. Bush's childish 'it's not fair' cry is clear suppression of developing nations to ensure US economic supremacy. I think the US should be sanctioned for its part in the destruction of our children's future.
"There is a whiff of fascism in the air" was stated during the election of GW Bush. Now that he is elected his administration appears unconstrained by the will of the people and the prior commitments of the United States. It is an unfortunate time for the majority of Americans who did not vote for their president and for the world community that can now share their frustration.
Typical, sadly. Call themselves the leader of the free world and when it comes to the greatest threat to civilization they fall back to national interest. The level of the problem is such that even if there is only 1% risk of it happening we need to act. I admit that natural global warming is occurring and this is commonly held up as a reason not to act. But we are accelerating things further. The developing world cannot be a reason for the US not to act. It shows how insular they are - do they really care if 10,000 people in Bangladesh drown? The US can afford the sea defences so they don't care. They will not take note till it hits them. We must take responsibility as individuals. Governments will be too slow to act and we must cut our own consumption. The US economy is so intertwined with ours that we cannot avoid involvement but we must think UK first, Europe second and US last when we make any purchase. Our government cannot have a trade blockade but we as individuals can.
Alex Stanway, Guildford, England
Pure and simple, the United States of America has no obligation to a treaty that it never signed. We did not 'abandon' the treaty as some would have you believe. Let us start regulating human breath as well! After all, we breathe out CO2. You all should stop your whining about CO2 and the harm that the United States has put you all in. "Global Warming" theories are bunk and so are the scientists who have managed to trick the world into thinking that such a problem exists.
Scott Walsh, Seattle, USA
Ilze Gailite Holmberg, Nex°, Denmark
The US is the richest country in the world and it is going to economize on the health of its future generations. All of us are responsible for ourselves. How can the US cite the developing countries which are not taking part in the treaty? Does this programme serve the needs of somebody else? Not the US's as well as other nations' in the world? There is a proverb in Russian "After me there can be just a flood".
Thousands of US citizens will die due to this decision. The most vulnerable ones are the inhabitants of Florida (a revenge?) who will face an increased number of hurricanes, tornados etc.
Why do I not find Bush's views surprising? This is yet another example of the greedy self interest of the rich outweighing the moral and ethical considerations of maintaining the 'health' of our planet. Bush is demonstrating a narrow minded view typical of the West in wanting immediate gratification by further increasing America's wealth, without considering the long term implications of such an action. I am sure his 'special' relationship with the oil barons is at the basis of this step backward in thinking.
Mr Bush is only following American public opinion. The sanctions against the US for trying to get a trade advantage by ignoring environmental issues should be so severe that even the American people notice, not just the current administration.
Rightly or wrongly (and I believe wrongly) the US has chosen to ignore the Kyoto agreement. My worry is that Dubya's stance may be cited as a precedent by other self interested governments. Kyoto took long enough to negotiate in the first place, the actions of the US can only weaken it. We must continue to apply pressure to our own government so that they do not follow Bush's lead.
What is it then, Mr Bush, that you intend to do? The US is great at leading the way, try the environment issue, I'm sure you can make money out of it somehow. I suppose when we've totally exhausted all our resources, we could always eat all that lovely money.
It's irresponsible, selfish, narrow-minded and shows a lack of knowledge and interest in foreign affairs.
Can the US really afford to become a pariah in the world community? Surely the American people care what other's think about their energy policy. Does President Bush really want to see America's reputation fall to an all-time low? Doesn't he realise that this sort of thing just plays into the hands of America's enemies?
It is true that the US produces 25% of the world's wealth, but can we place economics before the safety of people? The damage done from emissions is nearly a hundred years old, so things can only get worse. Floods have been seen in Britain on an unprecedented scale, with the most likely cause global warming. Many lives will be lost in future floods if nothing is done, so shouldn't those who can do something act, or is a few hundred million dollars worth that much? I think the isolationist nature of Americans will have to change before any positive steps can be made. They simply don't realise the gravity of the situation, as they focus solely on the US, not the bigger picture, that is, the state of the world. It is about time that world leaders stopped being the pawns of the US economy and acted decisively and in the best interests of the planet, especially the British Prime Minister.
It is utterly grotesque for Bush to suggest that developing nations, where many people face a daily struggle for basic education, health and welfare, should be expected to cope with even less in order to subsidise the economic prosperity that the US (and the rest of the West) has enjoyed at the expense of the environment. This is especially the case when the average American isn't prepared to give up the third family car.
One of the main pre-requisites for a sustainable capitalist economy is extreme waste. The shorter lived, more disposable an item is the more need to be bought the more that need to be produced. The more energy is consumed in production. The high levels of waste and pollution do not figure in a capitalist model, all that matters is production.
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