Whose fault is it that people are paying more attention to the movie “The Day After Tomorrow,” which depicts Hollywood’s ideas about the consequences of climate change, than to the bill Sens. McCain and Lieberman introduced to do something about the threat? One possible candidate is George W. Bush. But even though he formally renounced the Kyoto Protocol, Bush is not the one who pushed the topic out of the news. Nor did the U.S. Senate in its overwhelming vote against the agreement years before Bush was elected. It was really we the people — citizens of the world’s largest producer of the major greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide — speaking through our elected representatives, who decided we’d heard enough about climate change.
Domestic critics decried the agreement because it limited emissions of global warming gases from developed nations but not from developing countries like China and India. Some foes said the treaty would cripple economic growth; others called for more research before emission reductions were mandated.
At best, those arguments seem short-sighted. And if the majority of the world’s scientists are right, our refusal to act will be seen — rightly — as far worse than myopic. The United States is the world’s richest nation. If we reject the Kyoto accord, it is up to us to find other ways to address the threat of climate change.
We have learned in Iraq that even the most powerful nation on the planet can use friends. But if the United States continues to go its own way on matters of profound concern to the global community, we shouldn’t be surprised that other nations turn their backs when we ask for help.