Since the beginning of this century, the average global temperature has increased by about half a degree Celsius. A majority of climate scientists believe global warming trends will continue well into the century, perhaps at an even faster rate. As studies continue to link global warming to dramatic and catastrophic weather events, including increased violent storms, flooding, drought and shrinking ice caps, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to recognize global warming as a growing problem that must be addressed.

The U.S. is the single biggest contributor to global warming, producing about 22 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the Earth's atmosphere and are slowly warming the planet. Over the last two years, however, efforts to curb these emissions have all but drawn to a halt. Much of the delay can be directly linked to controversies surrounding the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement negotiated in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan. The treaty calls for the U.S. and other industrialized countries to make significant reductions in global warming pollution by 2010. However, the Senate has yet to ratify the treaty. Many senators say they are opposed to the treaty because it does not require developing countries to "meaningfully" participate in greenhouse gas reductions. Last year the House passed several funding bills that restricted the Clinton administration's ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in advance of treaty ratification.

There has been growing support in the White House and on Capitol Hill to establish a credit system for early actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The primary objective of such a credit program would be to reward those companies that undertake early emission reduction activities. Proponents believe that early action credits would effectively encourage reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and could spur research and development of technologies to reduce global warming pollution. Opponents of early action credits, however, argue that such a program would be coercive, effectively penalizing non-participating companies by losing a portion of their future emissions allocations. In addition, they say companies taking early action would likely lobby in favor of ratification of the Kyoto Protocol to gain a competitive advantage. Bills that would give regulatory credit for voluntary early actions have been introduced in both the House and Senate.

For more information on global warming issues and what you can do to help, check out these Web sites:



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© 2000-2018, League of Conservation Voters Education Fund