Preserve or perish

Preserve or perish

The United States likes to see itself as a beacon for the rest of the world. A shining light for all other nations to follow, leading the way to prosperous and happy future. The U.S. leads the world in business, in science and technology and in entertainment; people across the world dream of coming to America and living the American dream. Why, then, is the U.S. so behind on climate change, an issue so vital to the survival not just of Americans, but of every citizen of Earth.

Ask yourself: what are the countries that will probably lead the world in the future? One does not have to think for long to come up with a few good answers: China, India and the U.S. Well, it just so happens those nations comprise the list of major powers that either did not ratify the accords in their own nations, or are not bound by the agreement to lower their emissions due to being developing nations.

Adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, and put into force in 2005, the Kyoto Protocols serve as a legally binding agreement to affect the “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” If all nations were signatory to this agreement, we could see a massive drop in greenhouse gas emissions, which could help save the planet. However, with the U.S. refusing to ratify the protocols, and India and China — the world’s number-one greenhouse-gas emitter — not needing to meet the protocols, the future success of this critical piece of global legislation is in jeopardy.

The U.S. is, indeed, a leader in the world; an example for other nations. Despite this, their reasoning for not wanting to ratify the Kyoto Accords simply comes down to jealousy, because China and India do not have to conform to the same standards.

What of China and India, though? Surely despite their nature as still-developing countries, they should be required to lower their emissions too. I submit that the Kyoto Accords are not what is important here: National and global responsibility is what is important. The people of China and India need to realize that the future of the planet is in their hands — they must appeal to their leaders to create their own stringent environmental standards. Currently, China and India do have emissions standards, but they are not nearly as strict as those in Europe and the U.S. — both of which are still behind what is necessary to curb global warming.

In Europe, the people have already stepped up and are presently setting the best example for the rest of the world. Unlike in America and Asia, the socialist-leaning people of Europe tend to favor environmentalism because of its benefits both to the planet and their wallets. In automobile technology, Europe leads the way in efficiency, driving smaller cars and more diesel cars than the U.S. by a wide margin.

Diesel fuel yields approximately 20 percent more energy per given volume than regular gasoline, making it the perfect fuel for efficiency. Despite this, in America diesel vehicles are perceived as slow, dull smog machines — even though recent advances in diesel engine technology have drastically improved their power and emissions. Europe also leads the way in solar technology, with Germany and Spain standing as the world’s leaders in solar panel production.

There will be no economy to lead if lower Manhattan — the heart of the financial district — is underwater, there will be no entertainment industry to fuel if Los Angeles dries up in a massive drought, and there will be no science and technology to innovate in if the weather is too volatile to leave the house. The U.S., India and China must lead the way toward this future, whatever the cost; because no matter the price we pay, our planet — and its seven billion human inhabitants — are far more valuable.

Frank-Jürgen Richter is the founder and chairman of Horasis, a global visions community. This abridged article was originally published by the Khaleej Times online.