Seven years after it was brokered by the United Nations, the Kyoto Protocol went into effect last week, despite lack of involvement by the world’s biggest polluter, the United States. The international treaty ratified by 140 nations sets targets for the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that lead to global warming.
Bush administration officials have complained that the treaty is bad for American businesses, lets developing countries off the hook, and hardly makes a dent in global emissions. Indeed, according to UN estimates, the Kyoto treaty, if fully implemented, would reduce the projected temperature rise of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius by only 0.1 degree over the next century.
“Kyoto is without doubt only the first step,” says Klaus Toepfer of the UN Environment Programme, which oversees implementation of the treaty. “We will have to do more to fight this rapid increase in temperature on our wonderful blue planet Earth. It will be hard work.”
Meanwhile, scientific evidence continues to mount in support of strong action to combat global warming through emissions reductions. At an international conference in England last week, scientists reported that melting glaciers, shrinking Arctic ice sheets, and global changes in rainfall patterns are all attributable to global warming, and the effects are likely to grow worse quickly.