The European Union and other industrialized countries like Japan, Russia and Canada are taking global warming seriously. They are committing to examining ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through mandatory limits on emissions and other strategies. Though the United States signed the UNFCC treaty (see below), as a nation, it hasn’t taken many concrete steps to back it up. As one of the top carbon emitters in the world, the United States is behind the eight ball in seriously addressing global warming.2
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists:
“In 1992, countries from around the world, including the United States, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—an international treaty addressing the issue of global warming. To date, 192 nations have ratified the treaty.
In 1997, at a meeting in Kyoto, Japan, the UNFCCC was strengthened by an amendment that set legally binding targets and timelines for reducing global warming pollution from developed nations. The Kyoto Protocol entered into force in 2005 and has been ratified by all industrialized countries except the United States and Australia.
The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Therefore, a new framework of deeper emission reductions needs to be developed and approved. Countries hope to leave Indonesia with a "Bali Roadmap" that will lay out this new framework and, for the first time, include guidelines for developing as well as developed countries.”3
2. Federal Action
As one of only two industrialized nations that did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, the United States has not set specific emissions reductions targets. Instead, it relies on polluters to voluntarily reduce their emissions.
Today, more legislators understand the effects of global warming and are proposing different solutions and steps to help the United States reduce its overall greenhouse gas emissions.
That has resulted in a lot of proposed bills. As of mid-July 2007, lawmakers had introduced more than 125 bills, resolutions, and amendments specifically addressing global climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.4 Proposals cover a range of approaches, including market-based cap-and-trade programs.
For a rundown and explanation of current legislative activity, visit the Union of Concerned Scientists or the Pew Center.
You can find a comparison of recent federal cap-and-trade proposals here.
3. State Action
While the federal government debates about the best legislation to reduce emissions, states and entire regions have taken some extraordinary steps on their own. California, for example, recently passed landmark legislation that puts an economy-wide cap on emissions.5 Many other states have passed similar laws. In the absence of federal standards, states are taking matters into their own hands. ....read more