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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 10:35 GMT 11:35 UK
Kyoto: Was the US right to ditch the deal?
Is 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, and 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?

We have been debating this topic in our programme "Talking Point on Air", broadcast by the BBC World Service and webcast by News Online. Use the form at the bottom of the page to add your comments to the debate.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Select the link below to listen to Talking Point On Air

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    Your comments since the programme

    President Bush is right to put his people's prosperity first

    Derek Tipp, England
    While I believe we should try to keep pollution to a minimum, I think it is foolish to imagine that we can control the world's climate. President Bush is right to put his people's prosperity first. No sane politician could do otherwise. I accept that there is evidence that the world is getting warmer at the moment, but it is impossible to predict the reason. We know that the world's climate has changed dramatically many times long before man arrived. It would be foolish to think that we are masters of this planet. One large volcanic eruption can have more effect than all our carbon dioxide emissions.
    Derek Tipp, England

    How can anyone seriously think President Bush wants to destroy the future of his children. We have a leader that is not going to bow to pseudo-science, on the chance that "Well what if it is real?" We have a better chance of an asteroid smashing into the planet than we have of polluting ourselves into extinction.
    Bryan Welborn, Beaumont USA

    I'm not remotely surprised at George Bush's action. He is unfortunately reflecting the views of a significant proportion of the US population. Certainly his views reflect that of the people of Texas who are unimaginably wasteful with energy. I mean is it really necessary to use a tumble dryer for clothes when the outside temperature is 38c? What about a washing line? And most cannot imagine life without their cars, 8-lane highways, strip malls etc, and will do everything they can in order to be able to drive a hundred yards instead of walking it. If only people were less wasteful where energy is concerned.

    The irony is of course, that if global warming is allowed to continue at its present rate vast regions of the US itself will be underwater. Florida is already at risk, as are many of the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico such as south Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama and South East Texas. Perhaps when it is too late people will realise that cars are really no substitute for land.
    Jasmine, Austin, Texas (ex-UK)

    I think that American society is very over-developed. Their food is over-processed, their cities are inaccessible for pedestrians; they have precious little in the way of public transport , their cars are too big and their gas is too cheap. Leaving aside the scientific evidence of global warming, the Americans are consuming more than their fair share of the world's resources and giving us more than our fair share of their pollution
    Lynda Wallace, Britain

    America refusing to sign up will encourage environmental complacency from other nations

    Ian Ritchie, Scotland

    We must cut direct emissions from non-renewable sources as well as invest in the development of new technologies in order not to offload environmental problems on the future generations. America refusing to sign up will encourage environmental complacency from other nations and should to be ashamed of their stance in this.
    Ian Ritchie, Scotland

    Bush must surely realise it's his descendents too who will be receiving the real bill for his policies.
    Harry Richards, Sydney, Australia

    Why should my people (Somalians) care about a global warming when they have not enough food. Let them burn their trees, to get a coal for their cooking. I do not know whether Mr Bush is right or wrong to ratify Kyoto agreement, but if he thinks it's not good for his people, he is right to do so.
    Bile Sharmarke, Somalian from Oslo, Norway.

    As a UK and US citizen who lives in Bermuda, I can be embarrassed sometimes by a US world view that is professedly just " in the US interest" whether it be oil reserves or global warming. As a US tax payer, I expect US leadership to act with a global consciousness. If science documents the cause of global warming, I expect the US Government to display global leadership. No man is an island.
    MAK Kirkland, Bermuda, USA

    I have lived in both developed and developing countries. There is no question about the commitment of Americans to a cleaner environment. A lot more is done here than in any other place. Environmental studies is not an exact science. How can we be sure that the effects we're observing aren't cyclical over thousands of years? How can we trust people to predict the climate over hundreds of years when they can't even predict tomorrow's rain?
    Santosh Madhavan, Tacoma, WA

    I will make a simple point. In free market capitalism, growth is infinite. The problem that arises is the fact that resources are indeed finite. We blindly pursue million dollar happiness, all the while destroying the earth's capacity to sustain life. Bush's arrogance is infuriating. We must consider whether America's exploitative and self-motivated method of acquiring wealth is a responsible approach to the future.
    Morgan Wheeldon, Halifax, Canada

    The singer Sting once wrote "I hope the Russians love their children too", ten years ago for the nuclear threat. Should he sing "I hope the American love their children too" for the pollution threat?
    Jean Noel, Frankfurt, Germany

    If President Bush doesn¿t want to reduce greenhouse gases, that's fine, as long as he agrees to accept refugees from countries that flood as the ice caps melt and the water level rises.
    Bob Unkie, New Zealand

    My feeling is that the US President is turning a blind eye to the issue. He is doing his job as the "President of the United State", protecting the interests of his people. But this is at the expense of not only of the well-being of the rest of mankind, but the long term future of Americans!
    Low Joo Keon, Singapore

    Many of us here in the US do care

    Claudia, Parmelee, SD, USA
    Know that many in the US are hoping and praying that the rest of the world will go forward and do what is correct and right for the life of our planet and our future generations. We have created a sick materialistic consumer society and it is killing our children and will kill many more before it is over and done. I manage to live a good life, and spend less than $30.00 a month on my electric bill. We have computers in our home and even a TV and VCR, but use florescent lights, built our walls of thick straw and watch TV only a few hours a week. We plan our weekly trips to town carefully to reduce the number of times we have to drive that 30 miles. We grow as much of our own food as is possible. We are not of some strange religion. Just believe in not taking more than we need so as to have enough for everyone. Many of us here in the US do care.
    Claudia, Parmelee, SD, USA

    A message to Andrew, Ohio, USA who says that European water is not clean and US water is. Why in certain states in the US are pregnant women advised not to drink the water as it causes miscarriages? I have been drinking tap water in Britain all my life with no ill effects!
    Kath, Wales, UK

    I think that on this issue the Bush regime seems to understand things in very narrowly defined economic terms. If Kyoto is an "economic issue" for them then we should confront them on these terms. The rest of the Kyoto signatories should proceed with its implementation then impose tariffs on US exports, as American non-compliance with this environmental treaty now constitutes unfair industrial subsidies.
    Pete, Ottawa, Canada

    I think President Bush did the right thing. There is little evidence that global warming is occurring and hardly anything to suggest it is being caused by human activity. In the short-term the US needs more energy to avoid major problems. In the long term, as Keynes pointed out, we are all dead anyway.
    Peter M, London, UK

    Much work remains to be done

    Kurt, St. Louis, MO, USA
    First of all, for those of you advocating trade sanctions against the US please remember that trade is a two way street that hurts both sides in the dispute. For fragile democracies and markets all over the globe that must be taken into account. I too share your concerns about the environment in which we live but let's not become irrational. Human-influenced global warming remains a theory though admittedly evidence mounts to support it. The new administration in Washington has expressed concerns about aspects of the Kyoto Treaty but never said it was abandoning all efforts to reach a consensus on the environment. Much work remains to be done and a trade war will only damage efforts to reach that consensus.
    Kurt, St. Louis, MO, USA

    The catastrophic impact of a changing climate on our future is the dominant issue of our time. We should take President Bush's decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol as a challenge, to show that other countries can reduce their pollution without depending on his country for initiative. Remember the old proverb about crises and opportunities?
    I. N. Dyson, Swansea, UK

    Despite what the message from my compatriot in Alaska suggests, many Americans, especially those in their early thirties and younger, are very environmentally conscious, and are appalled by Bush's decision to ignore the Kyoto Treaty. However, I do not believe that American politicians will reflect Americans' opinions on environmental preservation; and I wish the world would realise that and quit hating us because of our government. Since the high costs of campaigning filter out many virtuous politicians, Americans are given a government that is mostly comprised of wealthy businessmen, who will concede almost nothing, economically.
    Jeremiah Pulvers, Syracuse, USA

    It is a country like any other with the same responsibilities and obligations

    David, Australia, Sydney
    I find the arrogance of the US staggering and the pathetic kow-towing over the Kyoto and missile shield plans worse. I personally am inclined to go with the EU all the way on this. America needs to learn it is a country like any other with the same responsibilities and obligations of any other state. I hope the EU takes this opportunity to distance itself from the US and become a world leader on the environment and human rights. God knows, it is needed.
    David, Australia, Sydney

    So what now? America has decided to return to isolationist politics and put their interests first. Do we still cling to the special relationship now? It is not only the most indebted nations that need rebuke from the UN, but also that most rogue of governments, the United States. If they do not sign up to the Kyoto Treaty they will be damning the rest of the world to wallow in the effluent of their success.
    Ben Patient, London, UK

    There is no "Kyoto Treaty" that the U.S. obligated itself to. Only the U.S. Senate can ratify a treaty. The Clinton Administration agreed to comply with the Kyoto provisions knowing full well that they would be out of office before their implementation. Clinton knew that Kyoto had and has no chance of ever being ratified by the U.S. Senate. The U.S. will and should do what is in its best interests. U.S. environmental laws and its environment continue to be the strictest and cleanest in the world. When the rest of the world catches up to where we are today, we may be prepared to listen..
    G.R. Hildebrandt, Eagle River, Alaska USA

    So implementing the Kyoto treaty would hurt the US economy, would it? Perhaps the nations that have ratified the treaty should refuse to trade with the US (or any other signatory nation) until they do. I wonder which would hurt the US economy more. This is just another example of the United States reneging on a signed treaty. Is it any wonder why so many countries distrust the US.
    Leo Moran, Dargaville, New Zealand

    It is very easy for European countries to criticise the USA for its decisions regarding Kyoto. The USA and other New World countries are some of the largest producers of natural resources which demand high energy to process. European countries have higher populations and far fewer natural resources which unfairly skew the per capita emissions statistics. The media also has a habit of influencing those who are less scientifically educated into believing man's influence on global warming. The fact is, in a geologic time scale, the earth is warming at a normal rate and this has been ongoing since the last Ice Age. I think that CO2 emissions should be reduced and deforestation limited but facts surrounding Kyoto and the environment and economies should not be judged in ignorance.
    Martin, London, UK

    The power shortages in the US are a direct result of energy being too cheap, causing people to waste it. If people in the US were more responsible with their energy usage and became more energy efficient, there would be no shortages and encouraging energy efficiency is exactly what Kyoto is all about!
    Alan, UK

    As a Brit living in the US, I find it interesting that rest of the world use this issue to bash America. Please talk about how the ozone layer has the potential to repair itself, and perhaps you ought to remind the Europeans that humans have the power to evolve!
    David Tew, New York City

    I really do despair. All this talk of the science being unfounded is irrelevant to the main problem. We are depositing massive amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere, we are killing the rain forest and we are endangering the lives of our children. It's true that asthma has increased dramatically over the last 5 -10 years as a result of increased pollutants in the air. We are damaging the environment! When people say that the Earth will adapt and survive - they may be correct. But, who's to say that it will still retain an atmosphere suited to oxygen breathing life forms.
    Richard P, UK

    I'd like to correct the assumption that Bush is taking actions with the support of the American public. Recent polls indicate a clear majority believe that global warming is an issue and that the US should do something about it. Having said that, I think that the Europeans and Great Britain in particular should do the whole world a favour and stop being the lapdogs of the US. I have to give credit to the French for not joining the irrelevant body that is NATO.

    Kyoto is the first step (albeit a very small one) towards addressing real world problems created by industrialised nations. I read of fears of the spread of US consumerism and cultural annihilation, but yet consumption of US media, fast food and other lovely export continues unabated. Perhaps the shunning of the environment will finally be the impetus to resist the American cultural juggernaut that the Old World has needed. Vote with your pocketbooks, whether there is a compromise or not, your local economies deserve better than another burger joint.
    Sean, Oakland, CA, USA

    It is precisely because climate change is global that all countries need to reach a consensus

    Alex W, Oxford, UK
    Whether or not it has been "proven" that the climate is warming, it is obvious to the meanest intelligence that radically changing the composition of the atmosphere cannot be a good thing - and this is exactly what we are doing. As for those people who say that the rest of the world should not interfere with US internal matters, I agree - but it is precisely because climate change is global that all countries need to reach a consensus - it is no use the rest of the world decreasing CO2 emissions if the US, responsible for 25% of them, is going to increase. The economic argument is also false: the long-term cost of climate change will be immeasurably higher than the short-term savings in low energy taxes.
    Alex W, Oxford, UK

    I have visited the USA many times and indeed spent a wonderful year living there in my college days a decade ago. However, my intention is not to return to the USA until Bush is removed from office. That could be a four year wait. So be it. May be if there was a collective boycott of US goods and services the people who voted in Bush, might see that his narrow minded, tunnel vision on the environment will actually end up killing them and their children and not just the rest of the world.
    Mark Patterson, Nottingham, England

    An interesting point from JB, UK, when he mentions 'This is especially the case when the average American isn't prepared to give up the third family car.' But this isn't about easy convenience for the masses, JB, it's about the greed of fuel-producing corporations. Valid and cleaner alternatives to fossil fuels have been available for decades...the only reason we haven't seen them is because the guys selling gas don't want us to.
    Mark Roberts, London, UK

    Bush's decision regarding the Kyoto Protocol is just another example of how corporations are running the US government. Bush is just the government representative of the oil industry, and he will never have any interest in reducing CO2 emissions. Harming the economy (the world's richest) is his excuse for inaction.

    In order to refocus George's attention beyond the bottom-line, I believe international tariffs on American products would be needed, thus putting a cost on this "appearance of being engaged," which does not even exist at this point. An international fund would be needed to counteract the inevitable backlash of tariffs from the US on all other international goods (remember the American tariff on French cheeses because they placed a tariff on our genetically engineered, hormone-treated meat products?). Money is the only thing that matters to Americans, so tariffs would be needed to gain attention to this matter.
    M Plante, Massachusetts, USA

    The US election was fundamentally about a choice between irresponsible business interests and more responsible social interests. The many Americans who voted for Bush are now getting what they chose - a president who will go down in history as irresponsible.
    Jonathan Kerr, Horsley, UK

    First, I find it incredibly egotistical to assume that we little human beings can be responsible for any change in the world's temperature. 50,000 years ago my part of Ohio was under 20 feet of ice in the last ice age. It's gone! Yes, there is global warming, but every winter when it gets down to -20 F I wish I had a little more of it. This last winter was the harshest winter in 50 or so years, according to the BBC, in Siberia. I'll bet they wish they had some of that global warming too. A couple of good volcanoes can put more "green house gas" into the atmosphere in a few days than we human beings can in a decade.

    The Kyoto Treaty would have financially punished the US for being economically successful, not because it was polluting the atmosphere. The anti-industrialism and anti-Americanism that I heard from people annoys me greatly. Their short-sightedness and desire to punish the US for its success never ceases to amaze me. In the same sense, those people who think that the US is the root of all evil are short sighted. The world economy is so integrated that if the US economy was crippled by the imposition of these absurd and non-productive emission restrictions, the Great Depression would seem like a picnic. We have a saying here, "All politics are local." And as such, when unequal restrictions are imposed on one nation, another nation will simply step forward and assume the dominant role.
    Dr. George F. Nafziger, US

    I think Phil M from LA has just summed up all the problems in one paragraph. Americans are not interested in the outside worlds "meddling" as they see it, as opposed to the restrictions that the US impose on the rest of the world. Let us hope there aren't too many in the US like Phil.
    Scott, UK

    How small-minded Bush and the US have become...the world's' largest producer of pollutants and it blatantly refuses to wake up and realise that preserving the dollar will destroy the environment. Economic reprisals are DEFINITELY in order. Perhaps the world could donate a new brain for Bush?
    Greg Chapple, Vancouver Island, Canada

    Short-term economical considerations prevail over long-term policy

    Karel Postulart, The Netherlands
    The Bush administration has shown itself to be very conservative. The largest country in the world is consolidating her position rather than boldly taking the lead in the development of renewable energy sources. Money rules. Short-term economical considerations prevail over long-term policy to secure the world in having a proper environment for humankind to live in. My say therefore is that the step taken by the USA is the cowardly act of a short-sighted administration. If this step is an indication of what is to come next, then we may brace ourselves!
    Karel Postulart, Zaandam, The Netherlands

    Please don't condemn the American people for the selfishness of a person whose power has gone to his head.
    P.Currier, So. Milwaukee U.S.A.

    According to the World Bank, the United States emits 22.9% of world total CO2, but produces 28.8% of world goods and services. So: reductions in US emissions would INCREASE world emissions, if world production of goods and services were to be maintained. Efficient reduction of CO2 would require that reductions be obtained in economies that emit CO2 less efficiently.
    Frederick Keady, Chicago USA

    It is important to note that the US didn't pull out of Kyoto, George W. Bush did. Mr Bush is generally despised here in the US and is arguably not a legitimate representative of our country. While he may occupy our White House for the next four years, it would be best if the world's leaders simply ignore him until we can replace him with a legitimate leader with the intellectual capacity to understand the importance of the Kyoto agreement. In the meantime we Americans apologise for any inconvenience George may cause.
    Dr. JR Cates, Oregon USA

    It's high time we imposed sanctions on the US

    Nick, England
    It's high time we imposed sanctions on the US. If sanctions halted economic activity (thus pollution) elsewhere why not in the US? After all, Europe has the highest GDP in the world, so it would be interesting to see how it'd be if they lost the European (and why not the Japanese as well) markets.
    Nick, England

    I deeply regret the decision made by President Bush on not practising the requirements stated in the Kyoto Protocol. The release of gases produced by burning fossil fuels is widely known as a cause of global warming. The USA releases about one fourth of the global total of carbon dioxide being released. Therefore, the USA's support in decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases being released is essential. President Bush claims that the Kyoto Protocol will harm the interests of the USA. However, global warming is a threat to the whole world as well as the USA. It is needed for all citizens on earth, including President Bush, to cooperate and focus their efforts on controlling global warming, otherwise the living environment of our children - either from the USA or other parts of the world - will come under threat. I firmly believe that this is not a scenario President Bush would like to see.
    Leonard Tso, Hong Kong

    This is a world that is here for all life, not just humans and not just the humans that live in the US! Can't George W see that, as the most powerful man on the planet, he - along with his followers - has a right and a commitment to make this world healthier now and for the future? Our kids and future generations are not going to have as diverse and amazing a life as we have because of what we are doing today, and what has gone before. He is obviously in politics for himself and can't see past his own White House lawn. George W and the rest of the politicians MUST wake up and see they can help the earth.
    Jonathan Morris, Deeside, UK

    Why doesn't the rest of the world prove to us why we are wrong?

    Jimmy McGill, New Albany, USA
    Why do not the other countries included in the treaty go ahead with it? Surely, if the results are positive, then the conclusive evidence should convince the US to curb its emissions. There are Americans who care, who also support our President. Why doesn't the rest of the world prove to us why we are wrong? Personally, I have a suspicion, and agree that we need to cut back on our emissions. I just do not think we need to back ourselves into a corner agreeing to a specific amount over a certain period. I think we should set our own goals for reduction and follow those internally. Since the American economy drives many other world markets, I believe it in the best interest of the world's economy for us to remain semi-flexible.
    Jimmy McGill, New Albany, MS, USA

    I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms against President Bush's reprehensible decision to abandon the Kyoto Accords. It appears to me that President Bush is a friend of big business and no friend of the environment. I remember only too well and recently the presidential election and the question that was raised as to whether or not it was wise to have two "oil men" (Bush/Cheney) in charge of the environment! The answer was no then and remains no today. I question whether the President's environmental intellect extends past his elbow. President Bush has done immeasurable harm to the international movement to curb global warming and has "thumbed his nose" at the American people, our allies abroad, and the environment. His decision is short-sighted and completely irresponsible. It is incumbent upon the nations of the world not to let President Bush escape the responsibility of his regrettable decision on Kyoto.
    Dennis Baum, Dallas, USA

    Three cheers for President Bush. We reside in the United States of America, a sovereign nation. We Americans are fiercely independent and will set our own air quality standards. We do not need to have our guidelines set by other nations. The environment in the United States is perfectly fine. Rather than wagging a finger at America, let us take a look at Europe a moment. We do not see dying forests in Europe - your forests are already dead. Our water is clean, yours is not. Perhaps it is the world who needs Kyoto, and not us.
    Andrew, Ohio, USA

    Bush is paying back his pals and paymasters in the oil industry. This is without any regard for his country or anyone else's. His outlook is "I'll be dead in 40 years, so the future can take care of itself". The E.U. must take a lead and press on regardless and hope either world pressure, or a change of president, will get the USA on side. Finally for an American (the world's no 1 polluter), to attempt to put some blame on the Third World is nothing short of blasphemy.
    Mike Lyons, London UK

    I fully agree with Kyoto and I wish it success

    Elijah Shutt, Pennsylvania, USA
    I believe that George W. Bush is not doing an effective job of representing the American people. Sure, we did elect him as our president in the last election, but it was by a very close margin. I would also like to remind the people of the world that G.W. is a by-product of the oil companies residing in Texas, which is his home state, and while in office I'm sure he'll do what he can to remain in their favour. The elder George Bush had a better concept of politics than his son G.W. does, and I feel that we, the American people, have forgotten the fact that because of his father, G.W. has led a "sheltered life." He has not been exposed to the outside world by hardly any means. I believe that this is a quality that would be required to run a country as powerful as the United States. I fully agree with Kyoto and I wish it success.
    Elijah Shutt, Halifax, Pennsylvania, USA

    Mr Bush's action is the latest in a long line of imperial American dismissals of international views. He has done me a service by convincing me that I am a EUROPEAN not a little Englander with a so-called special relationship with the US.
    Vernon Moyse, Kings Lynn, England

    I would ask President Bush, "Is it that whatever does not favour America is none of her business or that the rest of the world can go to blazes?" It is good to love one's country dearly but suppose a country in the Middle East had made that remark, the US would have been there in a jiffy to enforce conformity. I know that Bush is having to contend with a downward plunging economy but at least he could have told the rest of the world that cutting down emission of CO2 will affect US economy even more negatively but that his administration is prepared to do their best. Even if Bush's best turned out to be not good enough, at least we would be happy that he was trying. But to just tell the rest of the world point blank that he would not do anything about it, is very unpolitical!!!
    Temitayo Omole, Nigeria

    Once facts can be agreed upon, then co-operative actions can be put in place

    Guy Scott, Cary, NC, USA
    The USA has been on the forefront of pollution controls since the beginning of the environmental movement in the early 1970's. I believe that the concern with global warming will also cause my fellow Americans to act. However, it is also important to note that what needs to be done is ACT, not rally behind a protocol that has not been ratified by the EU, let alone the Asian countries. I believe that the most constructive path will be for the EU representatives to meet not only with their US counterparts, but also key members of the US Congress along with key members of the National Academy of Sciences. Once facts can be agreed upon, then co-operative actions can be put in place.
    Guy Scott, Cary, NC, USA

    Isn't it about time to reflect the emissions contribution of producing nations in the form of an eco-tax on all products, based pro-rata on their relative emissions compared to the average of all countries. It shows, legitimately that whilst one country, such as the USA, may not value environmental impact, other countries or trading blocks do? If done transparently and applied equally to both internally produced goods and imported goods, such a measure could be seen as a bold step to internalising a measure of far-away global polluters, rather than simply a new protectionist trade barrier.
    Matthew, Suffolk, England

    It may well be that the rest of the world has concern over President Bush's decision to boycott the emissions agreement. But I wonder what they would do given the problem he has with the energy crisis in the US at this present time?
    Bobby Jack, Riyadh KSA

    I have to agree with those governments that are protesting against Bush's decision. This man has so many ties to Big Oil and energy interests that I've taken to referring to his administration as the Oil Reich.
    Jim Hill, Fairfax, California, USA

    If everyone is so concerned about the Kyoto Treaty and its so-called benefits, why don't the "would-be" participants go ahead without US involvement? Let's see how these countries handle the sky-rocketing energy prices and the dour effect such booming costs will have on their economies. Those countries will soon be begging the US to help them financially and militarily.
    Scott, Nashville, TN

    Isolationism is a prescription for disaster

    Richard Caiander, Northampton, MA USA
    Regarding the ascendancy of GW Bush to the presidency: it happened as the result of down and dirty legal wrangling. Let's hope we do better in 2004 - and in the meantime - hang on for the ride. Regarding the guy from Los Angeles who is "sick and tired" - well, frankly, I'm sick and tired of self serving people like you who want to avoid any collective responsibility for making this place, planet earth, a better place for all beings. Isolationism is a prescription for disaster: The stakes are too high. It's high time we started using our "advanced technological development" for the good of all.
    Richard Caiander, Northampton, MA USA

    In today's Boston Globe is an article touting the wonderful things that will come to my home town (Salem, Mass.) as a result of PG&E adding new coal burners to the Salem electric power plant. No mention of the doubling of CO2 and mercury emissions...the story reads like a little propaganda rag for this big corporation. Sadly, this is the direction the US press is headed, blinded by lies.
    Alan Hanscom, Salem, Mass., USA

    It is a great idea the US back down and leave the table

    Geoff Trousselot , Hobart, Australia
    It is a great idea the US back down and leave the table. If they are not interested in participating, then they will only compromise final decisions. The end result is not as important as the culture that environmental laws nurture. Any country not interested, should not impede the aspirations of more progressive and demographically sensitive nations.
    Geoff Trousselot , Hobart, Australia

    What President Bush is doing is totally irresponsible to the whole world as well as the USA. The USA is a country which releases a lot of greenhouse gases. Therefore, it is essential for the help from the USA to fight global warming.
    Leonard Tso, Hong Kong

    America refusing to sign up will only encourage environmental complacency from other nations

    Ian Ritchie, Scotland
    We must cut direct emissions from non-renewable sources as well as invest in the development of new technologies in order not to offload environmental problems on the future generations. America refusing to sign up will only encourage environmental complacency from other nations and ought to be ashamed of their stance in this.
    Ian Ritchie, Scotland

    I would like Patrick to speak about the emissions that the US is producing compared to underdeveloped third world countries, because I suspect that everyone is not held accountable to the same degree. And I would like to make a statement on the comments of the person in Denmark. Riding bicycles and walking makes sense in places like Denmark, and San Francisco, where I live, but it would be absurd to attempt either in a Chicago winter or a Dallas summer.
    JP Revel San Francisco, CA USA

    Your comments during the programme

    Kyoto may be useless as a measure, but it is an important symbolic starting point

    Robert Daley, Australia
    Kyoto may be useless as a measure, but it is an important symbolic starting point. For the Bush administration to toss it aside in such a contemptuous fashion sends the message to us all that we can do likewise. The "greenhouse" effect is hotly debated, but it is merely one environmental problem. Rainforest depletion, pollution of the sea and air, over-fishing, are all issues worthy of our concern. If the world does not do Kyoto, we'll keep polluting the planet as much as we ever have - and by the time our descendants get another agreement together when the situation is really urgent, it may be too late.
    Robert Daley, Australia

    However minimal the effect of human activities on global warning may be, it does not justify the careless burning of fuels here in the US. I see several people here commute to their workplace in recreation vehicles that can hold at least 10 people. Very few people consider car pooling or other energy efficient modes of transport. This will be the case unless the price of gasoline goes up several fold here.
    Makesh Kothandaraman, Pennsylvania, USA

    How can 5% of the world's population that produces 25% of the worlds carbon emissions just ignore the possibilities of a catastrophic future for our children. Quite a scary scenario is facing us.
    Mr Ange Jukic, Australia

    Comments that nobody has yet ratified the agreement are irrelevant. There is no requirement for anyone to ratify it until the next summit. However, all those nations (except the USA) that signed up to the agreement at Kyoto have already done much work towards it. The UK has a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 12.5% by 2010 and is set to exceed that target. By 2012, the UK will have reduced CO2 emissions by 23% on 1990 levels. As such, by moving to a low carbon economy, the UK and other nations taking these measures, will be less affected by fluctuating oil prices and will be able to export low carbon technologies to countries such as the USA.
    Alan, UK

    I hope our government leads the way in a country run by sustainable power

    Jonathon Rotheram, Bolton, UK
    Let the US go ahead with it's ideology on the none-existence of global warming, let them build more CO2 producing power stations and cars. I'm only young, and looking to the future and the fact that at the current rate of consumption there will be no fossil fuels left to burn! And at that time the USA will be "stuck up the river with no paddle". I hope our government leads the way in a country run by sustainable power.
    Jonathon Rotheram, Bolton, UK

    As a UK and US citizen who lives in Bermuda, I can be embarrassed sometimes by a US world view that is professedly just "in the US interest" whether it be oil reserves or global warming. As a US tax payer, I expect US leadership to act with a global consciousness. If science documents the cause of global warming, I expect the US government to display global leadership. No man is an island entire of itself.
    MAK Kirkland

    By "tearing" up the Kyoto protocol, Bush has made USA the dirty man of the world

    By "tearing" up the Kyoto protocol, Bush has made USA the dirty man of the world. I hope enlightened Americans do everything possible prevail upon Bush to do the right thing and cut down on CO2 emissions.

    President Bush is answerable to American voters and if he perceives the cost to business will upset them he is unlikely to be swayed by world opinion. World Trade Regulations may prevent governments from imposing sanctions, but pressure might be brought to bear if the environmental organisations could get an effective public campaign to "Buy American Last" going. I would be prepared to pay a slightly higher price for non American goods as part of a widespread movement and think many other people would too.
    Chris Lucas, Hong Kong

    EU environmental ministers argue ecologism to be a stimulation for economism rather than the contrary. I would like to adjust that without fearing the US, but fearing FOR the US, Kyoto (the K-word "The Times") is not only of international interest, but - crucially -also in the national interest of the US itself.
    Johannes Sondermann, Berlin, Germany

    President Bush's less than astute move will probably manage to gather in for the United States a disproportionate share of the opprobrium. With 25% of the total emissions the US will likely get 90% of the blame. The resulting animus could cost the US in financial market issues, the resulting economic downturn could, ironically, be a lot more effective in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere than the likely prognosis for the Kyoto process.
    Tord Friiso, Norway

    A substantial minority of respondents - and most from the US - declare that "Global Warming science is bunk" and so, sadly, it may be in the best interest of concerned parties in Europe and the UK to raise money for an educational fund to teach Americans basic global warming science and to counter American ignorance. We may be rich, but we are wallowing in the deepest intellectual poverty.
    Bruce Wilson, Boston, USA

    Your comments before we went ON AIR

    As an American, I'm as distressed as any European about this recent turn of events

    Michael Schoenholtz, Connecticut, USA
    As an American, I'm as distressed as any European about this recent turn of events. But it saddens me to see people referring to "America" as though all Americans were united behind this president! Let's talk about Bush's attitude - not the attitude of all "Americans."
    Michael Schoenholtz, Connecticut, USA

    G W Bush is wrong to put the economic wealth of a nation before the problems with the environment.
    Simon Wareham, Sheffield, England

    George Bush has attached a greater value to economics than to the environment. This is a short-term solution that will generate a long-term headache. He claims to be doing it in the name of the American people. I wander just how many Americans wish to see Mr Bush export the environmental tragedies of Texas into the rest of America. Is he attempting to create one big Texas? Let Europe show him the way.
    Charles, Aberystwyth

    It's a disaster and the most worrying piece of news in decades

    Roger Horne, Harrow UK
    It's a disaster and the most worrying piece of news in decades. The science is now clear, common sense confirms the science. Kyoto would be in US long term interest. I suggest a boycott of US goods and holidays.
    Roger Horne, Harrow UK

    Never mind George, you'll be long out of office by the time New Yorkers have to catch a yellow gondola to work. And they thought ostriches were the only creatures to stick their heads in the sand!
    Richard Tagart, Antwerp, Belgium

    The planet may actually be better off with Bush out of the Kyoto treaty

    Julian Edmonds, England
    The planet may actually be better off with Bush out of the Kyoto treaty. Any deal that he would have been prepared to do would be so watered down that it would not have required the USA to make genuine reductions in energy use at home. The rest of the world should still go ahead and sign the treaty and bring it into effect, and start reducing emissions while the USA's international reputation suffers.
    Julian Edmonds, Slough, England

    Bush is proving that he is the best president that big business could buy.
    MM, San Diego, USA

    Please know that not all Americans support Mr. Bush or his decisions. There is a sizable group of Americans who oppose his policies, and not all are Greens or Democrats. I would like him to sign the treaty even though I know that it will force us to tighten our belts. There are economic concerns to be sure, especially in the coal states and Texas. Let's not kid ourselves: global warming has scientific backing. Heck, some of our scientists were behind the research that proved it. But if we would like a future where Alaska is not reminiscent of the Balearics of today, we need to act now.
    Matt, Atlanta, USA

    Economic sanctions against the USA might just persuade him that global warming is here and now

    Allister, Barbados, WI
    Bush does not care one bit about global warming. It's as simple as that. Economic sanctions against the USA might just persuade him that global warming is here and now and is affecting people all over the world. Ignore it at your peril Mr Bush, if a global anti US campaign gets going, how many Americans will stand by your view that it is best for the economy.
    Allister, Barbados, WI

    This is really disappointing. I think it is yet another indicator that the new President is not representing popular opinion but has collapsed before the country's business interests. A fortnight ago he declined to complete a peace treaty with North Korea that his State Department had spent ages negotiating, preferring to adopt a policy of confrontation and build the 'so-called' NMD (which will transfer a fortune in public money to some selected companies). The attitude to global warming is the same. It seems this man cannot do anything unless it involves a substantial payment to big business. He is going to give America a terrible reputation.
    Roger Houghton, Sheung Wan

    Whatever your opinion on the theory of global warming, you have to give Bush credit for being consistent. Much better than the liberals out there driving 15mpg gas guzzlers with "Save the Earth" bumper stickers all over them. Kyoto is just another way of masking our universal consumerism, a form of denial.
    Steve, St. Louis, MO

    To all you Brits who are so outraged by the fact that Bush has "vetoed" a treaty that doesn't exist ¿ how come you are not outraged at Blair because the UK has not ratified this "treaty?"
    Rich Vose, California, USA

    The US is as self-obsessed as ever, why should the rest of the world be surprised that Junior is opposed to the Kyoto agreement? All he cares about is making a good name for himself in improving the US economy, it doesn't matter if that after his rein of power that the world turns to chaos.
    Fraser, UK

    Dubya apparently doesn't care to consider the intent of the Americans who elected Al Gore in the popular vote, not to mention the millions who voted for Nader. So perhaps the only hope for concerned, intelligent Americans right now is the outrage of the rest of the world. I sincerely hope, and expect, that the rest of the world's leaders will not let him off the hook. And I would expect that in four years, Americans will not either.
    Ian , Detroit, USA

    The failure to lead on such a global issue is in line with the behaviour of other declining super powers through history.
    Simon Bowers, Adelaide, Australia

    Yes, Bush made the right decision...why should just the US and Europe bear the burden?

    Jiri Soska, Brno, Czech Republic
    Yes, Bush made the right decision. Although the threat of greenhouse emissions seems real, why should just the US and Europe bear the burden of cutting them? To my knowledge, India and China produce a significant part of the worlds CO2 and despite this, they have no obligation to reduce them - according to Kyoto. The present suggested regulation would stifle the US economy while allowing other powers to grow economically and militarily and eventually threaten the US. What the world needs is another agreement, distributing the burden on all nations proportionally. And to put an end to the antinuclear hysteria and switch to nuclear energy, which is much cleaner than fossil fuels.
    Jiri Soska, Brno, Czech Republic

    Bush says that respecting the Kyoto accord would hit the US economy. But, economies are just as global as pollution. Let all of us who believe that the we can't stand idly by and let the US pollute a planet that belongs to all of us, act in our own small way. There are enough of major US companies that can be hit in their pocket outside the US
    Joe Ryan, Paris, France

    I believe the world should for now follow the Kyoto accord regardless of the US position. The Bush administration should be given some time to present a viable alternative to the treaty as it pledges to, no official sanctions against the US should be taken until that time. However, America should definitely feel the discontent of the world's public and we should start boycotting US products wherever possible right away.
    Petr Kutilek, Prague, Czechia

    President Bush made the right decision to pull out of the Kyoto Treaty. Only one country on earth has ratified it, that being Romania. The major polluters of the world, the People's Republic of China and Russia, should on their own shut down their earth-destroying industries. At the very least adopt United States/British environmental and labour standards.
    Andrew Hoover, Walnut Creek, California, USA

    President Bush's decision is scandalous

    Lemaigre, Brussels, Belgium
    President Bush's decision is scandalous. He is denying the duties of the US as the leading country of the world and human rights. He is also abusing of his power. His politics are "short term" minded. How can we trust the agreements of the US in the future?
    Lemaigre, Brussels, Belgium

    As an American living abroad more than 40 years, and having seen in the 1950's the massive scrapping of electrified transportation systems in US cities at the behest of the motor and oil industry, it is not surprising that Americans have no choice: they are prisoners of their cars. In suburbia, which hardly even existed in the late 1940's, one is committed to the automobile just to survive. But there is hope in the form of the more than 30 light rail systems running or being built. Hardly anyone outside the USA even knows that there is a change going on: Electric Trains are "in" again.
    Roger Severin, Vienna, Austria

    It's always sad to see a leader who sacrifices the welfare of his nation, and his planet for the dictates of those interest groups who financed his rise to power. Too Bad Mr Bush. I thought you were more savvy than that.
    Mike, Hamilton, Bermuda

    Bush is merely standing up for his country. When was the last time Tony Blair did the same?
    Ray Marsh, Brisbane, Australia

    USA, as one of the world's last superpower, should lead the way as a member of the global community. And yet, they are using their might to show that the world can go to hell, America will do what it will, even if it means not ratifying the treaty. I wonder what the Bush administration will be up to next?
    Mandy L, Singapore

    Don't success and responsibility go hand in hand?

    Simon, Marlow, UK
    Don't success and responsibility go hand in hand? No-one can doubt the economic success of the US, so why does it see fit to ignore or absolve responsibility for the by-products of that success? Bush fills me with worry and I am greatly saddened by his decision to abandon Kyoto. I hate feeling so powerless to do anything about this. Please wake up America!
    Simon, Marlow, UK

    As usual, the US do whatever they want. How can they protest about the French not following the world agricultural policy (by banning their hormone beef) when they refuse to follow the Kyoto treaty? Once again, if Europe could get its own economic and military independence thanks to the euro and by leaving NATO, no doubt that the US President would take Europe's disagreement into account.
    Martial C, Toulouse, France

    It's interesting to see how many comments from people in the USA are defending Bush, it reflects the character of the nation as selfish and self obsessed. The real heart of this issue is not what will happen to the world in 30 years' time but how green issues are affecting people now, can all these people seriously say they prefer living in a world that is choked to death with greenhouse gases, when solar and wind power would provide a cleaner and more breathable society. The motor car is a cancer that has been killing this planet for the last 50 years, and no-one cares because of the selfish nature of a society that wants everything their own way. The USA care more about having access to 24 hour fast food restaurants than they ever will about saving the planet, I can't believe people are surprised by Bush's decision.
    Ben, London

    Frankly speaking, I'm embarrassed for the human race and for being on the same planet as this callous individual. He has denied himself the right to the "sapiens" part of our name. This is a prime example of the dangers of power without control.
    Nazir Kazi, Manchester, UK

    In the developed nations we all have to rethink the way we live

    Choi, London, UK
    The USA ditching the Kyoto deal just confirms the arrogance and selfishness of the Americans with total disregard for the rest of the world. They are the largest consumers in the world of natural resources, in comparison with the developing nations and their population size, and as such should be expected to pay the cost. Whether global warming is a natural cycle or a ecological catastrophe waiting to happen, one thing is for certain that in the developed nations we all have to rethink the way we live, and should not allow the US to use their usual bullying tactics to dissuade the other leaders and get away it.
    Choi, London, UK

    Les Barker's comments sum up what many feel is the main problem with the US ... in that they can't see past their own noses and take responsibility for their actions. Humanity has raped the planet's natural resources and caused damage that will take thousands of years to repair ... all for the sake of money. When we reach breaking point you can bet the US will blame communists or 'rogue states' - it's never their fault is it?
    the analogue collective, Scotland

    The agenda goes much deeper than we currently see and I am certain is a classic set up of problem-reaction-solution, that will eventually show Bush in a glowing light to his own voters and to the wider - less important? - people of the world. Throughout American history and that of the great nations of history there has always been a need to create outrage so a solution can be provided and a hero created, whether that be an individual or a nation. This situation is simply another example of that and whatever the agenda, you can be sure that we (collective)will be oh so pleased with the eventual solution provided by Bush, once enough reaction has been stirred.
    Steven, London, UK

    Human emission of so-called greenhouse gases may be one component affecting global climate variations, although this cause-effect relationship has never been clearly demonstrated. Even the south pole western ice-sheet slide (melting) has been shown to be a cyclical effect caused by pressure of built-up ice thickness. Keep in mind that the Earth is still bouncing back from the previous ice age and as such is constantly in a process of slow change. Naturally we should not waste our valuable natural resources but as far as emissions are concerned, I am more fearful of the toxic pollutants that we all dump into our oceans and emit into the atmosphere. These can cause disease and kill our planet's animal and plant life. Our economic resources (such as we are willing to expend on environmental issues) would probably be better focused in these areas.
    George Milton, Baltimore, USA, and Rome, Italy

    Some of the comments made say there is no proof that Global Warming is caused by humans. What are the odds for this gamble? Would those who doubt the evidence be willing to go down the bookies, make a bet on it, and use their homes as capital? Because that's what the US government is doing except they are using all our homes for capital.
    David, Leeds, UK

    Since the US acts as the world's greatest champion of free markets, let's apply a free market solution to the problem of green house emissions. Allot to each human being on the planet an equal share of allowed carbon emissions, and let these be freely traded. The result will be that the US will have to buy the right to pollute from countries with large populations, such as India and China, which are not using their full quota. If they are going to pollute the planet's air, let them pay the planet's people for it.
    Anuj Dawar, Cambridge, UK

    Its example will play into the hands of any other government which is too weak to take on board its environmental responsibilities

    David Hazel, Fareham, UK
    The US is wrong to back down on its international commitments in this way. As the nation which likes to be seen to be the world leader, its example will play into the hands of any other government which is too weak to take on board its environmental responsibilities. However, is anyone surprised? Americans seem completely ignorant of any issues outside of those which directly affect their country and themselves. Most of them probably couldn't find Kyoto on the map. Is the deal dead without them? No, because all that is needed is for some other country (e.g. France) or group of countries (e.g. the EU) to step into the leadership vacuum and take up the reigns.
    David Hazel, Farereham, UK

    First the Americans were anti communists, then they were (are) anti Islam and now they are becoming anti human being, by not ratifying the Kyoto treaty. By always interfering in other countries' internal affairs which suits their interest, they have a nick name of international policemen. By having such nick name they should lead the world to have a better world for not only the future generation of the world but also for their future generation.
    Ishtiaq-E-Alam, India

    It is saddening to realize that all the effort put into reaching the Kyoto treaty never resulted in an actual, signed agreement. Otherwise, it would be politics as usual for other countries to respond through tolls and sanctions. This treaty, a rare case of international agreement, was based on trust; trust which one government chose to break. Sad, but true.
    Jon Nykänen, Helsinki, Finland

    If George W Bush and the American people don't think the Kyoto Treaty is in their interest, then they won't have to wait much longer to prove how much it is. The short term attitude of this man I hope doesn't reflect the attitude of the American people. They need to read the article written by one of their countrymen, Chief Seattle, about the damage he could see being done and the outcome. The evidence is all around us if we want to see it, or do we need proof from organisations who are sponsored by the people who have an economic interest in keeping the status quo?
    John Ireson, United Kingdom

    The current treaty was short sighted in the first place

    Dan F, UK
    The current treaty was short sighted in the first place. Why should countries that have the potential to pollute more than the US does now, be given a free rein to do so? Surely every country in the world, developing or not, should have a limit of one sort or another imposed? If they don't, the likes of China or India will, with no ceiling on their emissions, churn out greenhouse gases with impunity and as they are trying to grow quickly, will do 'emit' all the faster! The end result will not be a reduction, as any reduction by the West will have been cancelled out by the spiralling emissions from the unregulated countries. The treaty should include every nation or no-one.
    Dan F, UK

    For Americans, it's going to be a very long four years! If Bush is rocking the boat already, I fear for what the Western world will have to put up with during his term of office. I so wish that Al Gore got the job, and I think many Americans feel the same way.
    Adrian Brett, Reading, UK

    How many coal miners would have to lose their jobs for Bush to meet the Kyoto target? Thousands. It would be a case of what happened here in the 1980s on a far bigger scale. The reason the UK is on target to meet Kyoto is because we made the right decision to move to natural gas, but it wasn't painless and plenty of people thought it was wrong to close all the coal mines. Sure, US gas-guzzling cars don't help, but the fundamental problem is their use of coal. As I recall, the left-wingers who are now criticising Bush so vociferously didn't take too kindly to the 'decimation' of the coal industry. This is the harsh reality of a policy where realism is not as stupid as it seems.
    Peter Oakley, London, UK

    I keep reading that Bush wouldn't enact the Kyoto treaty. The fact is that there is no treaty for him to enact. A US President cannot enforce a treaty that hasn't been ratified by the Senate. Period. His statements changed nothing. If the Senate passes the treaty then and only then do his actions on this matter have any effect.
    Patrick, Glendale, USA

    Dr Yadvinder Malhi, UK
    "Kyoto will not solve the problem but it's a start"
    Lisa Cox, US
    "The US has an obligation to the rest of the world"
    Thomas Bomer
    "We shouldn't just point the finger at the US"
    Adrian Watts, UK
    "Bush's legacy is going to have knock-on effects"
    Vladimir Dvoretzky, Bulgaria
    "A rich country like the US should do more"
    Christine White, USA
    "I don't think anything is going to happen without Kyoto"
    Jean Owen, US
    "Other nations are trying to hurt the US's industrial structure"
    See also:

    29 Mar 01 | Science/Nature
    28 Mar 01 | Science/Nature
    29 Mar 01 | Americas
    07 Mar 01 | Science/Nature
    24 Feb 01 | Science/Nature
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