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Wringing Their Hands

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World Environment Meet Offers Gloomy Perspective


By James Donahue

May 2005


Environmental groups are expressing disappointment in a preliminary agenda for next month’s annual G8 Summit for industrialized nations because it offers no solutions to global warming and extreme climate changes.


The summit on July 6-8 at Gleneagles, Perthshire, appears to include a host of speeches from a rash of “specialists” about climate change with suggestions about what can or cannot be done. But the agenda omits any effort by the eight participating nations to set a timetable for cutting carbon emissions or any ambitious new targets for saving the planet.


Friends of the Earth complain that the document shows just how little progress there has been made on climate change, even though an organization that eventually evolved into G8 has been gathering since 1975 in an attempt to resolve this growing global crisis.


The eight nations involved in the summit are the United States, Canada, Russia, Japan, Britain, Italy, France and Germany. Conspicuously absent from the membership are China and India, two new members of the world’s list of industrialized nations that share with the U.S. a large responsibility for carbon gas emissions.


The document calls for steps to deal with climate change, the Friends of the Earth statement said, and for international financial institutions to play a role. But it said general suggestions are not backed by a call for binding commitments.


A landmark Convention on Climate Change hosted at Kyoto, Japan, by the United Nations in December, 1997 brought about the Kyoto protocol for collectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions by this year. Even though it was backed by most other members, the United States under newly elected President George W. Bush, refused to sign it, thus stripping the effectiveness of the effort.


The protocol called for a rollback of greenhouse gas emissions by industry that the Bush Administration said would hurt U.S. industry in world competition. The Friends of the Earth argue that the United States has four percent of the world’s population, yet it produces about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.


All eight of the G8 countries combined are responsible for 64 percent of global emissions since 1800.


Also disappointing is the report that instead of discussing ways to reduce gas emissions, the summit will be considering the construction of more nuclear power plants as a possible replacement for coal powered facilities.


While not producing greenhouse gases, nuclear generated plants are not clean. They are costly to build, their live spans are relatively short, and they are dangerous. They produce a waste product of deadly radioactive plutonium and other materials that must be stored in locked protective places for thousands of years. The plutonium also can be used to make deadly weapons, including nuclear bombs.


It seems that the needs of industrial profits are overriding the demand for critical action to save the planet at this most critical moment in human history.

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