June 1, 2002







The Environment

The Kyoto Ice Age:
How global warming went cold

illustration by Daniel Carter

For years, scientists have said global warming will sink Venice and drown Hawaii. But after September 11, American media focused their attention on the attacks, leaving the Kyoto Protocol and global warming out in the cold.

Miraculously, big papers actually covered the Oct. 2001 global warming conference in Marrakesh. But when stories did appear, they were practically buried behind obituaries. Worse, green politicians and activists who normally fight for the press's attention gagged themselves for fear of seeming insensitive: "Environmental groups that earlier this year waged million-dollar ad campaigns against President Bush's energy policies and efforts to roll back environmental regulations have muted their criticism, for fear of appearing churlish or unpatriotic," wrote Eric Pianin in The Washington Post on Oct. 21.

In March, the United States rejected the 1997 Kyoto treaty that legally bound the U.S. to lowering greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent from 1990 levels. (America produces the most emissions of any country - 5410 million tons in 1998, or 25 percent of all global emissions, according to a UN report). But when the time came to hash out details for cutting emissions in October, the administration claimed it was too busy licking wounds to actively participate further complained lowering emissions levels would cripple an already anemic economy.

Many said the protocol pullout was not about global warming at all, but America's refusal to be an international team player.

Even the Taliban thinks so. On Oct. 30 The Post ran a profile of a Taliban terrorist, Salahuddin Khaled: "Khaled's catalogue of complaints against the United States includes the activities of the CIA, the presence of U.S. troops on "holy land" in Saudi Arabia…the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan during World War II and even Washington's rejection of the Kyoto treaty on global warming."

Full text of the Kyoto Protocol can be found at http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/convkp/kpeng.html

- Shirley Dang

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