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Playing the Fiddle while the Ice Melts

Global warming rallies and unites scientists, diplomats, politicians, economists and lawyers from almost every country around the world. Except the United States. We spent six long years running in the opposite direction. Why?

It is almost too embarrassing to admit that the United States official position on climate change is (1) the science of global warming is not settled and more time is necessary to study the matter, (2) if there is evidence of global warming, it is not caused by man’s emission of greenhouse gasses, or (3) if man caused or contributed to global warming, the United States will not agree to any remedy that negatively impacts our economy. As an environmental lawyer, closely following this issue since Al Gore was its champion on the Senate floor in the late 1980s, I am out of excuses to tell my European friends why the United States continues to pretend the issue does not exist.

Lately, I resort to the last straw of a desperate man: humor. Oh, and it came easy with the freakish warm weather in New York City. Yes, harken back to last month when we could sit outside eating brunch and I could make you laugh about how it was easier to find a golf course open for business than it was to find a place to ski, or suggest you buy property in Pennsylvania if you wanted beach front property, or remind you how funny Will Ferrell was at playing the W at his Crawford ranch struggling with “the warming thing.” Ahh, the carefree thoughts on the warm days of summer, even if they happen in January.

But the frigid wind of reality effectively clears the mind during the coldest temperatures of year. Humor no longer comforts me on the duality of the United States as the dominant source of greenhouse gasses (i.e., carbon dioxide) and its unique role as the solitary global warming slacker. (Yes, it is true, our friends down under also failed to sign on to the Kyoto Protocol, but do you really want to rest your argument on that point? No, I didn’t think so.)

It is my sincere hope that the United States, prior to regime change in 2008, will at least move toward a national debate of what should be done, rather than whether something should be done at all. I will attempt, in the coming months, to use this space every Thursday to provide you with the highlights of the debate in the United States, provide the basic tenets of the science behind global warming, discuss the relevant diplomatic measures, and referee the boxing match between the developing countries in one corner and the developed countries in the other.

Until next Thursday,


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