Editorial: Politics still hindering efforts to lessen global warming

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Finally, after nearly two terms, President Bush gets it. Not only does he acknowledge global warming is occurring, but he’s finally joining world leaders in an effort to lessen man’s impact on it. Or, at least he’s going though the motions, which for him is progress.

This is the same president who disputed overwhelming scientific evidence that trapped greenhouse gasses — carbon dioxide and other pollutants — are raising world temperatures.

A three-day meeting of the world’s eight wealthiest countries, the Group of Eight summit, concluded Wednesday with a proposal among the group to cut emissions in half by 2050.

Little result will come of the G8’s recommendations. As environmentalists point out, the proposal is vague, there’s no baseline for measuring progress and the agreement is not legally binding. It appears to be lip service rather than commitment.

Still, the summit shows that world leaders acknowledge the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Some members even wanted an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050.

Developing countries (China, Brazil and India) are not on board with the proposed halving of emissions by 2050, but at least they’re talking with G8 countries about it. It’s the second time those countries — United States, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada, Japan and Russia — have met with the eight poor but developing countries to talk about global warming. Among them the G8 and developing countries produce about 80 percent of the world’s greenhouse gasses.

And even China is saying global warming is real and that even developing countries, such as itself, need to take a leadership role in reducing emissions.

So, while more and more world leaders, including Bush, are recognizing and at least pretending to take action against the threat to the planet, Americans are trending in the other direction.

A Pew Research Center survey in April found that fewer Americans recognize evidence that the world is warming than did two years ago. Overall, 71 percent of Americans say there is solid evidence of higher temperatures across the world, compared to 79 percent who believed this in July 2006.

Why the relapse? Politics.

The issue of global warming has always been political and lately it’s becoming even more so.

Unfortunately, global warming is a partisan issue. Pew Research Center found that 86 percent of Democrats recognize global warming, while only 49 percent of Republicans feel the same way (78 percent of independents recognize global warming).

And the shift against believing the world is warming is occurring mostly among conservatives. The percentage of Republicans believing in global warming has dropped 13 points (from 62 percent) since January 2007.

Further breakdowns of the Pew study show college graduates are more likely than non-graduates to believe in global warming, and younger Americans accept the evidence more readily than do older Americans.

There are many obstacles to lessening the carbon dioxide and pollutants that are causing global temperatures to rise, and in the United States politics continues to be a major one.

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