According to the reading, the George H.W. Bush administration was hesitant to sign the Kyoto Protocol due to the fact that there was extensive disagreement on what responsibilities and emissions targets that the United States should have been reaching (Howe, 2014). To be specific, the reading on page 187 says, “In the United States, the debates that sank the Kyoto Protocol were mainly extensions of the domestic debates over the UNFCCC. Arguments about the U.S. position on negotiating, signing, and ratifying the UNFCCC in 1991 and 1992 bled into arguments between 1993 and 1996 about the nation’s responsibilities for implementing that treaty, which in turn informed arguments over the U.S. position on negotiating, signing, and ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Again, disagreements over the U.S. position on targets and timetables and on developing-world responsibilities played out in the language of scientific uncertainty and economic risk.” (Howe, 2014). Basically Howe is trying to say that the US failed to sign the Kyoto Protocol due to already existing disagreements about the earlier UNFCCC agreement that spilled over into discussions about the Kyoto Protocol. At the same time American conservative politicians who were backed by companies such as British Petroleum (BP) , Dupont, Ford and many others attempted to portray the science around climate change as unproven (Howe, 2014). To be specific, according to the reading, “Congressional Republicans, backed by industry representatives like Michael Barrody of the Global Climate Coalition (whose members included British Petroleum, Shell, DuPont, Ford, and General Motors, among others), offered a multifaceted response that built upon the twin pillars of scientific uncertainty and economic precaution. First, according to political conservatives’ reading of the IPCC first assessment, the science was not yet “in.” Conflicting theories suggested that climate change may not be that big of a problem if the rise in global temperatures occurred at the low end of the predicted range (which conservatives suggested was likely); that climate variation might simply result from “natural” environmental processes, not anthropogenic increases in greenhouse gas concentrations; and that the global climate system might have a self-correcting mechanism that would counteract the more extreme cases of greenhouse warming.” (Howe, 2014). To put it simply conservative politicians with their natural resource industry backers attempted to discredit the scientific consensus on climate change by arguing that the research was only in its infancy or that climate change was a naturally occurring force outside of the control or influence of humans. In either case, conservatives tried to downplay the importance of scientific findings in order to ensure that emission caps such as those advocated by the Kyoto Protocol were not introduced.
I believe that the United States resists international climate change agreements for a wide-variety of reasons. I believe that one cause that is more subtle and overlooked is the geography of the United States and where Americans live. What I mean is that I believe that the geography of the United States is much more resilient against the consequences of climate change due to our higher elevations and large forests, etc. As a result, it is harder for Americans to actually notice climate change compared to say someone who lives in French Polynesia or somewhere else in the Pacific. I also believe that some climate change policies may frustrate the interests of many Americans-especially those who advocate for a totally free-market economy with no regulation. Many people who believe these things may see emissions caps, etc as inconsistent with their economic philosophy and may as a result deny that climate change is happening in order to further justify their own pre-existing beliefs.
- Howe, Joshua. The Curve: Science And The Politics Of Global Warming. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2014.