Warming Fears Lead to Ratification of Kyoto Protocol||
the world's first major attempt to control climate change, the Kyoto Protocol,
a pact that sets country-by-country limits on greenhouse gas emissions, will become
law on Wednesday with the United States not participating and dozens of countries
far from meeting their goals.
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A ceremony to mark the
start of the Kyoto Protocol will include such speakers as Wangari Maathai, the
recipient of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and in many countries, governments
will hold workshops and events to shape future environment-friendly policies.
problem of global warming|
global average temperature rose about 1 degree Fahrenheit in the 20th century,
according to the National Academy of Sciences. Many scientists attribute this
rise to man-made emissions such as carbon dioxide, which comes from burning fossil
fuels like the oil used in trucks and cars. Gases like carbon dioxide are called
greenhouse gases because they trap heat in the planet's atmosphere, raising temperatures
like a greenhouse that creates a warm environment for plants to grow, even in
Other greenhouse gases are methane, which comes from agriculture
and waste dumps, and nitrous oxide, the gas that comes from fertilizer use. Three
industrial gases, which are used in refrigerators, heat conductors or insulators
- hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride - are also considered
The rise in the world's temperature could cause storms,
droughts and weather-related disasters, according to the Academy of Sciences.
Climate shifts may also disrupt farming and change the life patterns of animals
Kyoto Protocol grew out of several meetings of world leaders to discuss environmental
challenges. An Earth Summit held in 1992 aimed to limit the emissions of greenhouse
gases, but its goals were not met. In 1997, governments met in Kyoto to make legal
rules to curb emissions.
The protocol forces rich nations to reduce the
use of greenhouse gases to 5.2 percent of 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Each country's
goal is determined by how much gas they currently emit. For example, Japan's emissions
of greenhouse gases under the treaty would need to be cut by 6 percent below 1990
levels. The European Union, composed of 15 countries, would have to reduce emissions
by 8 percent. Had the United States participated, its emission total would have
dropped by about 7 percent.
the treaty affects|
treaty was ratified by 140 nations but its restrictions only apply to 35 of them.
Many countries in the developing world said that any mandatory limits would prevent
them from growing their industry and economies as the other countries had been
allowed to do.
a result, the treaty does not cover developing countries such as China, the second-largest
source of greenhouse gases. At its current rate, China will surpass the United
States in emissions by 2030.
The United States was skeptical about countries
like China not participating. After holding up talks in 1997 to include a carbon-trading
program where a country can trade credits for helping developing countries with
lowering emissions, the United States pulled out in 2001. The Bush administration
said the Kyoto treaty "exempts 80 percent of the world from compliance, and
would cause serious harm to the U.S. economy."
United States has tried other methods to combat global warming. Two senators,
Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican,
reintroduced a bill this month to reduce carbon emission levels.
are taking matters into their own hands. California is trying to place greenhouse
gas limits on automakers while nine eastern states are developing a cap-and-trade
program requiring large power plants to reduce their carbon emissions.
late last year, the future of the Kyoto Protocol was unclear. For the treaty to
be ratified, it needed the backing of at least 55 countries and the support of
55 percent of the nations who produce the most greenhouse gas emissions.
than 100 nations accepted the treaty, but it did not meet the second condition
until Russia joined in November 2004 to push the number of nations representing
emissions to 61.6 percent.
For the moment, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Greece,
New Zealand and Canada, which have all signed on to the protocol, are far above
their emissions targets. Spain and Portugal, for example, are 40.5 percent above
1990 levels. It will be very difficult for them to reach their goals without the
help of emissions trading.
Even if some countries do not meet their targeted
emission levels by 2012 the Kyoto Protocol has guidelines in place. These countries
will have to provide updates on their progress and make larger cuts in a second
period starting in 2013.
Evelio Contreras, Online NewsHour