Will the U.S. Impede World's Progress on Global Warming Again?

This story was written by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, and Ali Frick.

The environmental stakes are high for the tropical island of Bali if the global community doesn't move forward to combat global warming. It would likely face fiercer and more frequent tropical storms, a rise in sea levels, and an increase in infectious diseases, among other disasters.

It is therefore fitting that representatives from more than 180 countries are gathered there this week and next for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The primary objective of the conference is to "draft a timeline to discuss the global emission reduction policy that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol," which will expire in 2012.

The United States is now the only wealthy industrialized nation that has rejected Kyoto, and the Bush administration has made clear that it intends to resist binding international limits on carbon emissions at Bali. Show your support here for the United States to play a "positive leadership role" in drafting a "visionary treaty" to fight climate change.

The Bush Administration's Position

In 2001, President Bush broke his campaign pledge to seek greenhouse gas reductions and rejected the Kyoto Protocol to limit global warming emissions; the administration "has not taken any of the UNFCCC negotiations seriously since."

Bush skipped U.N.-sponsored "road map" meetings in September, instead hosting a separate gathering of the world's major emitters of greenhouse gases, at which he pushed them to accept his misguided framework of "voluntary" reductions.

Earlier that month, Bush also convinced leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to agree to a "long-term aspirational goal" to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, instead of binding targets. At Bali, Bush "remains opposed to international constraints on curbing carbon emissions."

In the run-up to the UNFCCC this week, Bush administration officials reportedly "established contact with representatives of the Chinese and Indian governments in an attempt to curb progress on climate protection initiatives."

Luckily, a "shadow delegation of American business and political leaders" are also in Bali to "advocate mandatory limits." This group includes Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), and former vice president Al Gore.

The Real U.S. Position

The Bush administration is more isolated than ever. With Bush's close ally John Howard recently ousted, Australia has taken swift action under new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and signed the Kyoto Protocol. "This is the first official act of the new Australian Government, demonstrating my government's commitment to tackling climate change," Rudd said in a statement issued hours after he was officially sworn in Monday.

Nevertheless, the United States "stood firm" in its opposition when asked by reporters about Australia's reversal. "We do not see eye-to-eye with Australia or many other countries on the signing of Kyoto, that's obvious," said Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns. Last week, officials from more than 150 companies around the world -- worth "nearly $4 trillion in market capitalization" -- signed a petition demanding "urgent measures to cut greenhouse gas pollution at least in half by 2050."

More than 200 climate scientists released a similar petition yesterday, arguing that "there is no time to lose." "Clearly, the U.S. position is much more advanced than the White House position," noted economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York and a special adviser to the United Nations.

Good News From Congress

Bush may be frozen in time, but the rest of the United States is moving forward. Yesterday, led by committee chairwoman Boxer, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted 11-8 to pass the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, which would create a "cap-and-trade system" and require the United States to cut global warming pollution 15 percent by 2020, and emissions 63 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.

Sen. John Warner (R-VA) called the legislation "a chance to give America our opportunity...to be counted on this very very important issue." The House will also vote on an energy bill today that would, among other measures, mandate "a 40 percent increase in vehicle fuel efficiency standards to a fleet-wide average of 35 miles per gallon" and "require that 15 percent of power come from renewable sources by 2020."

Even though this legislation is supported by the auto industry and United Auto Workers, but the White House has indicated it may veto it.

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