Russian Duma Approves Kyoto Protocol

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:05 PM EDT

( - The Russian Duma (parliament) approved the Kyoto global warming treaty on Friday, prompting congratulations from environmentalists who blast the United States for not following suit.

"History was made in Moscow today," said Katherine Silverthorne, director of the U.S. Climate Change Program at the World Wildlife Fund.

She said Russian approval of the Kyoto Protocol makes ratification all but certain - thus launching the first global effort to address global warming, which the WWF describes as "the most serious environmental threat of our time."

Environmentalists say Russian ratification means the United States will stand virtually alone among industrialized countries in failing to address climate change. "And as the rest of the world begins adopting climate friendly technologies, American businesses are in danger of being left as far behind as a Model T at NASCAR," Silverthorne said in a press release.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, a number of U.S. companies are taking steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because they are concerned about maintaining their competitiveness.

"They understand what politicians apparently do not: that the transition to sustainable, renewable and non-polluting fuels is inevitable and that reducing CO2 emissions is simply part of a smart business plan," Silverthorne's statement said.

The World Wildlife Fund said it is committed to working with such companies to help stay competitive in the "post-fossil fuel future."

"To end its growing isolation, guarantee the long-term competitiveness of its industry and ensure that our children inherit an environmentally livable world, the United States needs to join the coalition to stop global warming," Silverthorne said.

The protocol comes into force once 55 countries have ratified it - including enough industrialized countries to account for at least 55 percent of total 1990-level carbon dioxide emissions.

The United States -- the world's largest carbon dioxide emitter of CO2 - has refused to seek ratification of the treaty.

Washington withdrew from Kyoto in 2001, arguing that limits on greenhouse gases would be too expensive to implement, harming the U.S. economy -- with adverse effects on American workers.

President Bush also argued that the agreement did not place emission-reduction demands on developing countries, even though some -- such as China and India -- are among the world's heaviest polluters.

Some scientists question whether global warming really is taking place to begin with -- and whether the Kyoto Protocol is an effective solution.

The National Academy of Sciences, in a 2001 review of current scientific thinking on climate change, found that "a causal linkage between the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the observed climate changes during the 20th century cannot be unequivocally established."

The Kerry-Edwards campaign, in a document outlining their plan for clean coal, says there are problem with the Kyoto Protocol.

But the document says Kerry, as president, would "offer an alternative to the Kyoto process that leads the world toward a more equitable and effective answer, while preserving coal miners' jobs."

See Related Articles:
Kerry's Strategic Ambiguity on Kyoto (4 Oct. 2004)
Russian Officials Still Divided over Kyoto Protocol (29 Sept. 2004)