Al Gore won national recognition because of his effective and ongoing campaign to alert the U.S. and the world to the dangers of global warming. His campaign has garnered him, among other things, an Academy Award for his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth” and the Nobel Peace Prize.
I accept the likelihood that global warming has been building as a result of human activity, and in particular, the creation of greenhouse gases — primarily the result of fossil fuel use. However, because the world has been heating up and cooling down for millions of years without human help, some doubt remains.
That's one reason I have not joined the efforts to criticize President Bush because he, along with the U.S. Senate, have declined to support the Kyoto protocols.
That treaty effectively imposes severe limitations on the use by developed countries such as the U.S., Japan and Western Europe, of oil and coal which are primarily responsible for creating greenhouse gases, while exempting from mandatory reductions the so-called developing countries such as India and China.
The implicit rationale for the disparate treatment of developed and developing countries is that the latter need an opportunity to catch up economically with the former.
China is now the second largest user of fossil fuels — immediately after the U.S. — having surpassed Japan which formerly held that position. Both China and India are today advancing industrially and commercially. They are adding to their countries’ gross domestic product and share of the world markets, while the U.S. is losing market share.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 28, 2007, “According to Goldman Sachs, the United States’ share of global gross domestic product fell to 27.7 percent in 2006 from 31 percent in 2000. In the same period, the share of Brazil, Russia, India and China — the rapidly growing emerging markets referred to as the BRICs — rose to 11 percent from 7.8 percent. China alone accounts for 5.4 percent.”
According to The New York Times of Feb. 27, 2008, James L. Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, said “the United States could accept a binding treaty if it included mandatory steps by China and other big developing countries as well."
"An acceptable pact," he said, "would have all the world’s economic powerhouses, established or emerging, agree to a long-term goal for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions at some point, and commit to take measurable, verifiable steps domestically in the short term.”
I believe that our position is responsible and fair. The U.S. is way ahead of other nations in standard of living, yet we still have a significant sector of our population living below the poverty line. Why is it acceptable to punish the U.S., its rich, middle and poor classes, reducing our standard of living and employment levels so that other countries can rise in theirs while we fall in ours? If we want to voluntarily assist other countries in dealing with their poverty levels, we should do so and in fact, we do.
The U.S. is still the world’s dominant donor of food aid.
Most Americans, and I am among them, are not for a world government that might have as its ultimate goal a single standard of living for the people of this earth of which there are now more than six billion. Yes, we have been fortunate in achieving our current standard of living. But I don’t believe that we should agree to be punished for that by other countries sitting in envious judgment.
To those who say we have succeeded on the backs of others, I say, there are very few countries, if any, that have not engaged in irresponsible activities equal to or worse than those perpetrated by the U.S.
Overall, I believe Americans can be proud of our contributions to the rest of the world. Foremost in my mind is our having saved Europe and Asia in World Wars I and II from an Axis victory, and the Marshall Plan that followed World War II.
Now, we are told by The Times in its report on March 2 that something is happening environmentally that was unexpected, “The world has seen some extraordinary winter conditions in both hemispheres over the past year: snow in Johannesburg last June and in Baghdad in January, Arctic sea ice returning with a vengeance after a record retreat last summer, paralyzing blizzards in China, and a sharp drop in the globe’s average temperature.”
We have also been told over the last few years that the polar bear’s very existence is in danger because of the disappearance of ice floes and the danger of bears drowning while swimming from one ice floe to another. What should we make of The Times report, “The shifts in the extent and thickness of sea ice in the Arctic (where ice has retreated significantly in recent summers) and Antarctic (where the area of floating sea ice has grown lately) are similarly hard to attribute to particular influences.”
Conditions of global warming and global cooling seem to confront one another, so what’s a poor layman to do when deciding what remedies to support?
I am for being cautious and seeking to reduce the greenhouse gas buildup as a matter of public policy. I believe we should do so in a manner that requires all countries to make mandatory reductions and that includes China and India, as well as ourselves. I do not believe that we in the U.S. should adopt a masochistic policy that sacrifices the economic welfare of our own people.
There are people worldwide and within our own country who believe the U.S. to which so many people across the world would like to immigrate, should self-sacrifice and accept inequitable, onerous policies for itself, e.g., have open borders while other countries control theirs, reduce our standard of living by reducing our use of energy (fossil fuels) while leaving others unrestrained in their pollution. I do not share that view.
There are those who will say that my view and the present policy of the U.S. is selfish. I think not. Sacrifice should be universal and proportional. This is simple fairness, and not selfishness.
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