Speech: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Fellow delegates, I am here to talk to you today to explain global warming and its effects, and why the US must ratify the Kyoto Protocol if we are to reduce global warming. Global warming is the term used about the fact that the Earth is heating up. Global warming is also generalised as "the greenhouse effect". When heat from the sun enters a greenhouse through the glass most of the heat is captured inside and this is the exact same effect that is causing global warming on Earth. However, contrary to a normal greenhouse, the Earth does not have any glass surrounding it.
Instead, the atmosphere consists of several "greenhouse gases" (Natural greenhouse gases include: carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide) that cause the same effect as the glass does in a normal greenhouse. Methane is the result of decomposition of organic waste in landfills. Nitrous oxide is emitted from most types of industry, agriculture and from combustion of solid waste and fossil fuels. The remaining "greenhouse gases" are industrially produced and used for instance in refrigerators. Carbon dioxide is emitted whenever fossil fuels are burned (e.g. oil and gasoline). Since fossil fuels have been the most common energy source in the world for the last 100 years, the emissions of carbon dioxide have grown dramatically.
The last 100 years of meteorological data shows that the average temperature of Earth has increased by one degree Celsius. At first sight this does not seem like that much but when looking at the changes the Earth is going through already that tiny temperature increase is dreadful. Glaciers are melting and abnormal rain patterns are causing severe flooding. Predictions show that if the growth in emissions of the greenhouse gases continues, temperatures on Earth will increase by up to 5.8 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. The highest increase of temperature will occur on the South and the North Pole while the biggest oceans in general will not get hotter. If the average temperature of the Earth increases more it will cause the amounts of ice on the North and the South Pole to melt resulting in sea levels to rise and flooding in areas of low-lying land in the world.
These areas include among others Holland and Bangladesh. Holland has the money to build embankments but a developing country like Bangladesh has not. And, as we all know, despite Holland's flood prevention systems, it has still suffered severe flooding within the past decade. Also, the effects of recent floods in Bangladesh have been catastrophic, with many deaths.
A further increase of the temperature will also cause increased drought in areas already plagued with too much sun, such as Africa. This will hurt the agriculture in developed countries but also in the developing countries. If the world does not act, the result will be more people suffering from starvation. Animals, viruses and bacteria will also have to find new habitats with a temperature they are used to.
The consequence of this is extinction of animals and the spread of new diseases in areas already populated by humans. Global warming is a threat to the health of the humans and animals. However, there is in particular, one country which is obstructing our attempts to stop this phenomenon. The leader of the most polluting country in the world, George W. Bush, claims the Kyoto Protocol is "unfair" because it excludes India and China He said: "I oppose the Kyoto Protocol because it exempts 80 per cent of the world, including major population centres such as China and India, from compliance, and would cause serious harm to the US economy". This retrogressive statement made by US President George Bush in a letter to Republican senators has sparked off a series of horrified reactions from leaders across the world, and from non-government organisations who have condemned Bush for backing off from pre-election promises.
China, have in fact taken steps to reduce pollution, and for that we are grateful. The Indian government, however, has failed to react to this false accusation levelled at the country. In fact, these "population centres" which Bush refers to make an insignificant contribution of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, since they have extremely low per capita emissions. The US, on the other hand, contributes to one-fourth of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. The total carbon dioxide emissions from one US citizen in 1996 were 19 times the emissions of one Indian. US emissions in total are still more than double those from China.
At a time when a large part of India's population does not even have access to electricity, Bush would like this country to stem its 'survival emissions', so that industrialised countries like the US can continue to have high 'luxury emissions'. This amounts to demanding a freeze on global inequity, where rich countries stay rich, and poor countries stay poor, since carbon dioxide emissions are closely linked to GDP growth. The Kyoto Protocol recognises the right of developing countries such as India to increase emissions to meet development needs. However, the US senate has opposed this provision, claiming that it will have a negative impact on the economy. The senate has also opposed any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the US for the same reason.
In his letter, Bush goes to the extent of saying that the US will not tackle carbon dioxide emissions because it is not listed as a "pollutant" under the US Clean Air Act. It is important that the Indian government respond firmly to this statement - because it is an accusation without basis, which does not reflect the responsibility of major polluters to take action first. Also, because India is likely to suffer loses from the impact of global warming if the US does not curb domestic emissions. A recent report by a global body of scientists has found that besides sea-level rise, global warming will have an impact on the Indian monsoon, will lead to the disappearance of the Himalayan glaciers, and will lead to water scarcity in tropical Asia. George W. Bush could not stand the pressure of not doing anything to save the environment and in the first months of 2002 his administration came up with the Clear Skies Initiative that also consisted of a plan to save the Earth from global warming. With tax credits and other incentives the plan was to encourage business and farmers to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.
The target is to lower the so-called intensity of greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent. At first sight this seems to be a much bigger reduction than the one proposed in the Kyoto Treaty but reading the plan closer shows that the term "greenhouse gas intensity" is the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions and Gross Domestic Product. With the Gross Domestic Product of America likely to increase by 30% over the next decade this means that emissions will still continue to grow as long as the economy will do the same. The US attitude towards buying off its carbon dioxide emissions obligations through the payment for other countries to produce more "carbon sinks" such as peat bogs and through reforestation, just re-emphasises that the US is more worried about its own economy than the effects of global warming on other countries, not to mention the US itself. This process of helping other countries who emit a tiny fraction of what the US emit is known as sequestration. The effects of global warming just on the US include: droughts; severe coastal flooding which leads to other natural hazards such as hurricanes and coastal erosion; and also a build up of pollutants within the atmosphere leading to smog.
There really are so many effects of global warming that I do not have enough time to mention all of them. Conclusion The fact that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities cause the Earth to heat up and that this global warming changes the climate cannot be altered. This is a fact that so many scientific reports show the correctness of. Only people with economic interest in remaining a high use of fossil fuels have questioned the correctness. To solve the problem is extremely important. The impacts of the industrialized countries emissions of greenhouse gases will also harm the developing countries.
Therefore it is important that the members of the United Nations were able to agree on a solution to the problem: The Kyoto Treaty. Although it was just a tiny step in the right direction it showed that the industrialized countries at least cared a little about the environment. The US rejection of the Kyoto Treaty shows that the US government cares more about money than about the health of the global environment. The fear of losing money seems to hide the fact that a decision to stop the use of fossil fuels automatically will coddle the development of technologies that will use alternative energy sources. New technology like computing has already created many jobs and the development of alternative energy will do that too. Alternative energy will cause the economy to flourish.
The cut in emissions of carbon dioxide is not the only reason to stop the use of fossil fuels. Cars and trucks emit many other substances that among other things cause asthma and respiratory illness. Therefore it is extra important to start cutting the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, the use of alternative energy will liberate USA from its dependence on oil from the Middle East. Many problems are caused by this dependency: the Gulf War and the much-wanted war on Iraq.
The no to the Kyoto Protocol also comes from the fact that the Republicans's things to the oil and gas industry are quite many. The huge amount donated from this particular industry from countries such as Esso, has of course helped the Republicans in their decision. President George W. Bush's alternative to the Kyoto Protocol also did not present any real alternatives to the environmental situation in the US and the fact that it was voluntary just cripples it further. Right now in the US political arena, there has been no talk whatsoever about Global Warming or the Kyoto Protocol. In fact, journalists have likened the talk of Global Warming in US politics to Bruce Willis in the Sixth Sense, to whom no one talks to because he is already dead. It just goes to show that the US government does not care about environmental issues of this calibre.