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US still holds out on Kyoto
Prof Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
New Sunday Times, November 28, 2004
President George Bush may have won the US election, but he lost when it comes to the Kyoto Protocol. When Russia formally ratified the Protocol recently, it paved the way for the international environment pact to take effect from Feb 16.
The United Nations accord, backed by 126 countries, formally enters into force 90 days after the filing of Russia's papers.
It ends a seven-year period of uncertainty and numerous attempts by the United States to stall its implementation, despite being the world's worst polluter, accounting for more than 35 per cent of the emissions of gases like carbon dioxide.
Other countries that have not ratified the protocol are Australia, Liechtenstein and Monaco. The protocol commits 55 industrialised nations to making significant cuts in gas emissions by 2012.
However, developing countries such as Brazil, China and India do not come under that 2008-2012 'timeframe. This is cited as another reason why the US withdrew.
The importance of the Kyoto Protocol lies in the fact that these emissions are believed to cause the greenhouse effect due to the heat trapped in the atmosphere, thus resulting in global warming.
Consequently, the Earth's climate becomes unpredictable, as a climate change expert says:
"The most up-to-date research suggests that humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will raise global average temperature by 1.4 to 5.8 degree C by the century's end."
Thus far, scientists have reported a number of signals attributed to global warming, including reduced ice cover on lakes and rivers, longer summer growing seasons, changes in the migration of some birds, as well as the spread of many insects and plants towards the ice poles. Indeed, there has been a noticeable shrinking of mountains glaciers and sea ice in the Antarctic and Arctic.
The eight Arctic nations which together are responsible for almost 40 percent of the global gas emissions, have been warned that the summer ice cap will melt completely by the end of the century.
Of the eight Arctic nations, the US is the only one that refuses to ratify the Protocol which further threatens Mother Earth.
The writer is the vice-chancellor of Universiti Sains Malaysia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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