In April 2007, the United Nations (U.N.) and the nations belonging to the Group of Eight have struggled to form a new international treaty on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which is set to expire in 2012.
Meanwhile, research agencies and scientists have released reports detailing the ill effects of climate change that are already visible in the Arctic Ocean and other regions.
As the world's most powerful economy and the planet's leading polluter, the U.S. has a responsibility to enact environmentally sustainable economic policies.
As most of the international community now acknowledges, the planet is warming.
Some climate experts assert that while the planet may be entering into one of its periodic warming stages, global temperatures are likely being driven to abnormal levels by human activities.
Climatologists are increasingly convinced that greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide--which are created primarily by the burning of fossil fuels--are an influential factor in inducing climate change. They say that if the atmosphere were not polluted, the sun's radiation would typically warm the Earth's surface and then bounce back into space.
With the atmospheric concentration of such gases slated to increase in the coming decades, they declared, the planet would continue to get hotter. Consequently, the IPCC report warned, severe droughts and flooding would become more common, glaciers and polar ice would melt at abnormal rates, and both ocean temperatures and sea levels would rise.
The U.S. government does not want to ratify the Kyoto Protocol--a 1997 international treaty that mandates the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions--because it claims that doing so will hurt the nation's economic productivity.
Under the terms of the Kyoto Protocol, industrialized nations are required to limit their greenhouse gas emissions, while industrializing nations--such as India and China--are allowed to freely pollute the atmosphere as they pursue economic modernization.
Do you think that system is fair?