The Guardian UK reported today on the failure of rich nations to lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the article, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said, “Looking at the politics of the situation, I doubt whether any of the developing countries will make any commitments before they have seen the developed countries take a specific stand.”
This is a big problem, especially considering that the United States has repeatedly refused to sign any international climate agreement that does not include developing nations. This decision does not rest solely in the hands of the President, however. When Bill Clinton signed on to the Kyoto protocol in 1997, the ratification was overwhelmingly voted down in the Senate because developing nations were not covered. There is a vicious cycle here that must be broken, and since we can’t control the policies of major developing emitters like India and China, it’s up to the U.S. to take the high road and step up to the challenge.
Europe is already doing quite a bit, and the Guardian cites Germany and the U.K. as examples of positive change, but progress in these states doesn’t include emissions from aviation and shipping.
Pointing fingers from either side gets us nowhere, but as long as developing countries can point to developed ones and talk about a lack of commitment to reducing emissions, the major changes that are needed to curb global warming are not going to happen. It is called global warming for a reason, and if we want to get everyone on board, we’re going to have to lead by example.