The following editorial appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on Thursday:
Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who hosted an international meeting on global climate change last week, did a good job of summing up the political problem facing world leaders: "Climate change is a global challenge that demands a global response. Yet there are nations that resist, voices that attempt to diminish the urgency or dismiss the science."
In case you're wondering, he was talking mainly about the United States, or more precisely, about the Bush administration and its obstructionist attitude toward international cooperation on global warming. Without the participation of the United States, which is responsible for a quarter of all the "greenhouse gases" emitted worldwide, no treaty on reducing emissions can be successful.
The Bush administration is alone among the governments of wealthy nations in insisting that voluntary emissions reductions by individual companies and technological breakthroughs could solve the global warming crisis. And it seems that its delegates went to the Montreal meeting with no other goal than to impede progress on anything else.
A modest agreement to resume dialogue almost collapsed after the top U.S. negotiator walked out of the meeting. It was salvaged only after other nations agreed to clarify that the future talks would be "open and non-binding" and would not lead to any commitments.
Compare this with the attitude of Canada, Britain and other industrialized nations, which separately agreed to begin talks aimed at setting new binding limits on greenhouse-gas emissions that would take effect in 2012, when the limits established in the Kyoto Protocol are set to expire.
And it's not just other nations who are shaming the Bush administration. At home, Republican governors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and New York's George Pataki are leading the way by advocating, among other things, mandatory reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions in their states. And the U.S. Senate passed a resolution earlier this year calling for mandatory limits.
The evidence is mounting that greenhouse-gas emissions are causing temperatures to rise, and that the effects of global warming could be devastating. Already, glaciers are melting, polar ice caps are shrinking, coral reefs are dying and coastlines are threatened by rising waters. And scientists are increasingly saying that even emissions cuts on the scale envisioned by nations who signed on to Kyoto may not be sufficient to halt global warming.
That makes the Bush administration's stalling tactics all the more objectionable. It shows a complete disregard for the economic, ecological and human toll it will exact on generations to come.