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The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol, ratified by more than 140 countries, marked one of the first and the largest international treaties in response to climate change and environmental distress. The main goal, among others, of the Kyoto Protocol was to create a legally binding document that would commit industrialized countries to lowering carbon emissions by 5.2% below 1990 levels. The United States, the primary producer of carbon emissions in the world at the time, never ratified the treaty, rendering it ineffective because the US accounted for a quarter of the total international carbon output. American leaders have continually stated that the Kyoto Protocol could harm the American economy, cost American jobs, and decrease productivity by up to ten percent by 2010. The United States has faced increasing pressure from other countries regarding the decision not to ratify the treaty. The United States claims to be acting in its own interest; however, 42% of people surveyed by Gallup said that the US should ratify the Kyoto Protocol, compared to 22% who said that the US should not ratify the treaty. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed had no opinion. This creates domestic, as well as international, division. As of now, the Kyoto Protocol is the only legal document attempting to address climate change on an international level. By not participating in the treaty, the US is denying responsibility for a problem they helped to create, weakening their ties to other countries that have ratified the treaty, and ultimately causing itself more harm than good. The effects of global warming will eventually cost America millions in damage relief, international aid, and more expensive natural resources (Krech).

Another criticism of the Kyoto Protocol is that it does not require developing countries to lower their carbon emissions. China, now the largest emitter of carbon, is not bound by the Kyoto Protocol to reduce production of carbon dioxide. They are, however, able to take advantage of the funding provision, which states that the group of developed countries must economically help developing countries tackle climate change. India, also a large contributor to global carbon emissions, is under no legal agreement to reduce their levels of emissions.

In the end, the Kyoto Protocol is ineffective in legally binding the countries that produce more than 40% of total carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. Considering the fact that the emissions of both China and the United States increased in the past decade while the emissions of other countries decreased, it seems as though a legal document is necessary in order to actually make progress in reducing global carbon emissions ("Kyoto Protocol...").