Analysis of the Kyoto Global Climate Conference
December 12, 1997
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in this forum:
A report from a correspondent in Japan. What reductions does the Kyoto agreement call for? Why has "global warming" become a big issue? Why were developing nations excluded from the agreement? Is there consensus amongst global leaders that global warming is for real? How should competing scientific claims about global warming be judged? Can the Kyoto Protocol be ratified by the Senate? Viewer comments.
December 11, 1997:
Two U.S. Senators discuss whether the Kyoto agreement will be ratified by the Senate.
December 10, 1997:
A member of the Clinton Administration reports on the negotiations in Kyoto.
December 9, 1997:
India's Ambassador to the U.S. explains why the developing nations should not be mandated to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
December 8, 1997:
The European Union's delegate to the U.S. talks about the rift between the EU and the U.S. at the Kyoto conference.
December 5, 1997:
A business leader questions the science behind global warming.
December 4, 1997:
A look at the the science and politics of global warming.
November 10, 1997:
An Online NewsHour forum on the U.S. plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
October 22, 1997:
A discussion of President Clinton's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
June 25, 1997:
President Clinton is backing the EPA's push for tougher air quality standards, but critics say they're too costly.
February 18, 1997:
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new clean air standardsthat have been criticized by some industry, state and local officials.
March 6, 1997:
The fastest rise in temperature for perhaps ten thousand years is having a dramatic effect on the brittle ecosystem of Antarctica.
January 4, 1996
British meteorologists report that the Earth's surface temperature was higher than the average in 1995.
Browse the NewsHour's coverage of science and the environment.
EPA on global warming
Global Climate Information Project
Environmental Defense Fund
The Environmental Defense Fund's page on global warming.
Sierra Club's page on global warming
Global Change, a database of articles on climate change.
Laura Wolff of Ferguson, MO, asks:
To what degree is there consensus among the world's political leaders that global warming is indeed a crisis or at least a serious problem about which something? Is the growing consensus in the scientific community fueling consensus among policy makers or are some leaders still saying we don't have to do anything because we don't even know if we have a problem? Has this changed since the Earth Summit?
Prof. David Downie of Columbia University replies:
Kyoto seems to indicate that there is insufficient consensus among global leaders that the dangers of climate change are so severe that they should abandon traditional attempts at positional bargaining. Few national representatives outside of the oil exporting community cast doubt on the existence of a problem. However, fewer still act as though they are truly fearful of the consequences. Even the European Union, which had by far the strongest proposals among the major actors, acted disengenuously as the bulk of its reductions will occur as a result of the reunification of Germany and the steep decline in CO2 emissions in the former Eastern Germany. It will take even more scientific consensus and a continued change in the pattern of economic interests within their countries before many global leaders will act more boldly on this issue.
Prof. Charles Weiss of Georgetown University replies:
Just about all the world leaders at Kyoto understood and acknowledged the importance of climate to their countries. The only exceptions were from a few energy exporting countries. This shows substantial progress compared to the Earth Summit in 1992, at which time the scientific consensus was less definitive and much less well known. But all of these leaders face domestic constituencies that are concerned about the costs and disruptions involved in switching to a more energy and resource conserving lifestyle, and argue that nothing should be done until the scientific evidence for climate change is air-tight. The problem is that absolute scientific proof is likely to take decades, by which time there is a high probability of serious and irreversible damage.