After 13 years of negotiations, the Kyoto Protocol on global warming went into effect on February 15. The treaty was ratified by 141 nations, requiring the 34 of the industrialized countries that have signed on to cut the output of greenhouse gases by 5.2 percent before 2012, with targets set for each nation based on their 1990 levels. The United States and Austrailia were the only two major industrialized countries to reject the treaty, together accounting for 30% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
While the Bush administration pulled out of the treaty in 2001 citing a variety of reasons–the fact that rapidly growing economies such as China and India have no obligations under Kyoto, that it may harm US businesses and cost jobs, that similar reductions could be made using a voluntary system, and that the science on climate change is still a matter of debate. These assertions have been widely rejected by the world community as research continues to find that global warming is indeed a fact and that its effects may be felt more rapidly than originally believed, as indicated by recent tempature changes in the ocean. Admittingly, Kyoto is far from perfect, with the scientific community calling for reductions of 60% below 1990 levels rather than the paltry 5.2% agreed upon with Kyoto, yet signing onto the treaty should be a basic international obligation.