Rama Gecas
International Studies Major

The U.S. Refusal to Ratify the Kyoto Treaty

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Why the United States Will Not Ratify the Kyoto Treaty

One of the biggest problems with the treaty is the fact that it has not been ratified by the United States, a country that emits 35% of the world’s greenhouse gases according to the Annex I of the Kyoto Protocol. Although the Kyoto Protocol may be enforced without the United States ratification, this is a significant amount of the planet's emissions.

President William J. Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, but did not ratify it, while President G.W. Bush eliminated the signature completely. Clinton believed that a nation-wise approach with a target in mind to reduce greenhouse gases was the best way to deal with human activity-induced climate change issues. However, he was not completely won over by the treaty and Senate refused to sign it without further negotiation. According the Global Climate coalition,  "The Clinton administration acknowledges that the protocol is a 'work in progress,' does not meet the requirements set unanimously last year by the Senate for signing the Protocol, and is not ready to be submitted to the Senate for approval."

According to President Bush, his specific complaints about the Kyoto Treaty include, “a serious harm to the U.S. economy,” which would cause a “more dramatic shift from coal to natural gas for electric power generation," (Bush). According to Bush, “Coal generates more than half of America’s electricity supply,” (Bush). Bush's main reason for pulling out is the economic impact it would have on the United States if they were to reduce emissions, especially on the coal industry.

How the Coal Industry Would Be Affected from Ratification

Carbon dioxide is produced when coal, or other fossil fuels are burned, or combusted. Fossil fuel combustion is a process that most industry in the United States used to produce energy. Fossil fuel combustion accounts for the majority of carbon dioxide emissions by 5000 Tg. So, if American industries were to cut down on fossil fuel combustion, that would mean a sharp decrease in the need for coal. The coal industry would suffer greatly as millions would lose their jobs. Because 51% American electricity is powered by coal, and electricity provides heat, price of heating would skyrocket and so would electricity bills (EPA). President Bush wants greatly to avoid this economic disaster.

Another complaint posed by President Bush is that there is a, “lack of commercially available technologies for removing and storing carbon dioxide,” (Bush). 

President Bush states the existence of an “…incomplete state of scientific knowledge of the causes of, and solutions to, global climate change,” (Bush). Bush believes that there is not a concrete and fundamental basis to sign the Kyoto Treaty due to the lack of proof of global warming.  

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) has been set up to research, record, and analyze findings of global warming. According to the IPCC's document "Principles Governing IPCC Work":  

"The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation. IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy, although they may need to deal objectively with scientific, technical and socio-economic factors relevant to the application of particular policies. Review is an essential part of the IPCC process. Since the IPCC is an intergovernmental body, review of IPCC documents should involve both peer review by experts and review by governments."

True, there is abundant evidence which leads to the proof of global warming's existence, however for President Bush, findings of the IPCC are not enough to sign an international agreement. 


Contact Information
Email: rgecas7@naz.edu

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