U.S. fiddles while the ice melts
BUT GLOBAL WARMING MIGHT BE A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
As the worldwide Kyoto Protocol on global climate change takes effect, the United States will be left out in the, um, warmth.
The president of the country that is the largest source of ``greenhouse'' gases -- a quarter of the worldwide total -- is waiting for more evidence that things are heating up.
The Kyoto Protocol is easily caricatured as feel-good internationalism. The treaty will be hard to enforce. It's somewhat hypocritical. While 140 countries ratified it, the emissions limits fall on only 35 industrialized ones.
Hungry for energy
As India and China, two energy-hungry economic youngsters, keep growing, rich countries are supposed to aim for a level of emissions in 2012 that is 5 percent below the 1990 level.
But developing nations can hardly be expected to deny their people the kind of standard of living, now in sight for the first time, that Americans have enjoyed for generations.
Especially if the United States won't even try to cut back.
White House indifference is not shared nationwide. California will limit greenhouse gas emissions from cars. In the U.S. Senate, John McCain and Joe Lieberman are reviving their Climate Stewardship Act, which sets limits on greenhouse gases and establishes a system for trading emissions credits.
Much evidence points to global warming. The 10 hottest years since the 1880s occurred in the 1990s. Many glaciers and the arctic ice sheet are shrinking, meaning sea level will rise everywhere. Rather than recognize the problem, the Bush administration dallies and denies, highlighting the scientific uncertainties.
Not all the data supports the warming theory. Climate modeling is imprecise. But as Britain's Tony Blair said in Davos, Switzerland: ``It would be true to say the evidence is still disputed. It would be wrong to say that the evidence of danger is not clearly and persuasively advocated by a very large number of entirely independent and compelling voices. They are the majority. The majority is not always right; but they deserve to be listened to.'' Great Britain and the rest of the European Union have signed the treaty.
Reductions aren't a strain
Blair argues that rich countries can reduce greenhouse gases without wrecking their economies -- without, in fact, putting themselves to much trouble at all. Sophisticated countries can do good, and do well economically, developing and selling technology that is energy-thrifty and climate-friendly.
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