Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2007
Online Publication Date:July 2009
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511510830.002
In November 2001, the representatives of more than 140 countries signed the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The pact was intended to be a first step in combating global warming, a phenomenon that scientists were nearly universal in regarding as a major environmental threat.
The set of countries signing the agreement included every country in the European Union, Japan, Russia, China, and Canada, and almost every country in Latin America. The United States was not among this group. President Bush had earlier announced that he viewed the Kyoto process as fundamentally flawed and that the United States would not participate in further negotiations toward an agreement, except as an observer. In other words, as the rest of the world felt the need to confront a major environmental threat, the United States was sitting on the sidelines watching.
This sort of split could not have taken place in 1980. At that time, the United States was tightly intertwined in its cold war alliance. This meant both that the other countries within this alliance deferred to the leadership of the United States on major international issues and that the United States was committed to addressing important concerns that arose within this alliance. It would have been difficult to imagine an issue taking on the same importance across the industrialized world in the seventies, as global warming did in the nineties, only to be largely ignored by the U.S. government.