WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. summit in September on climate change, one of at least four international meetings set for this year, is already raising doubts about any action being taken before President George W. Bush leaves office.Action? On global warming? By a President who has paid lip service at best (on June 21, 2001, he admitted that the science proving the earth was warming and was created mostly by man was there), and at worst, has gone four-square in opposition to any initiative, including the Kyoto Protocols, that would limit greenhouse gases?
The big question is what will replace the Kyoto Protocol when that agreement to cap greenhouse gases expires in 2012.
The United States has never been part of the Kyoto pact, with Bush having said its economic costs make it "fundamentally flawed." But the president has been vocal recently about the need for a new strategy to curb climate-warming emissions.
Gee, Cap'n Obvious, how nice of you to make this observation!
Several arguments were raised about the Kyoto Protocols, and one could make the case that by allowing China and India to be exempt from them made them fundamentally flawed. However, let's take a look at that.
The United States currently pumps some 20 tons of carbon per capita into the atmosphere right now. China, for example, pumps perhaps 3 billion per capita (with a larger population to be sure, but even factoring that out, it's still only about 9 tons on an equivalent sized population). India's rate is lower still.
Yes, these are growing economies, and could surpass us in the next decade. But in forcing us to comply with Kyoto, Bush could have had six or seven years to this point to develop cleaner technologies, cleaner energy sources, and better use of renewable energy, to lower our carbon footprint, and...here's the big one, folks...to sell to India and China!
Meaning, economic growth for us, something this country has sorely lacked within its borders in the 21st Century (don't be mislead by reports of American economic growth: most of that is predicated on the rise of the global economy and our multinational corporations' overseas subsidiaries upstreaming money to the US). It also means homeland security, national mobilization, and a sense of pride of accomplishment, that America is destined for greatness and doesn't have to rest on its laurels.
Oh, but tax cuts and wars for oil...far more important than the survival of the planet. I keep forgetting who I'm dealing with.
The problem with the Republican love of "volunteerism" is the whole "you go first" philosophy. Yes, many businesses are starting to understand that greenhouse gases, global warming and climatology are important factors that are going to cost us a lot, economically. The problem becaomes the hemming and hawing about what to do about it, and what is the competition doing about it.
The great strength of capitalism, that competition promotes lower costs and greater efficiencies, simply is not applicable to a situation that demands a sacrfice for the greater good be made. The first company who makes inroads into more environmentally conscious productivity will necessarily pay a price that his competitors will not pay, deflating his earnings and making his stockholders very angry, until his competitors decide to take the plunge as well and incur those same costs.
This will not happen fast enough.
If there's any one observation to be taken from last week's bridge disaster in Minnesota, or the infrastructure nightmare that is New York City or any older urban area, it's this: the ounce of prevention that could have, should have, been spent years ago becomes not a pound of cure when applied to critical conditions. It becomes a ton.
Although private enterprises are waking up to the fact that global warming is real and will hurt them badly, the overwhelming costs associated with even mitigating it will scare businesses away from taking the steps needed now.
And yet, those costs are nothing compared to the costs that will be incurred through catastrophic loss associated with global warming and the deterioration of the human environment.
The problem, of course, comes down to human psychology as well. We'll pay through the nose to fix something that gets broken, but we won't pay an "unnecessary" dime to prevent it from happening in the first place. This is what municipalities and states have counted on for centuries, that to ignore a problem is to make it go away.
Bush claims his meeting will be the beginning of a process that will run past the 2008 elections, so even this lip service conference is both politically-oriented (and you wonder how China feels about promoting a Republican election agenda) and designed to run out the clock on the Bush administration, who will pray nothing untoward will happen on their watch (e.g. pray the problem goes away).
Too, the lack of credibility that Bush has with world leaders will hobble, not hamper, any agreement in the first place. One wonders why he is bothering.