The Kyoto Protocol is a document first adopted in 1997 as a way to address the apparent changes in our climate and reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses produced. These gasses, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, are produced when fuel is burned to power our cars, homes, and even small yard equipment. Greenhouse gasses allow radiation from the sun to pass through the atmosphere where it would normally be blocked and then reflect off the earth. The particles of the gasses soak up heat which then heats up the earth. The more greenhouse gasses present, the more heat radiation is absorbed. This is why the Kyoto Protocol attempts to reduce our production of greenhouse gasses.
The Kyoto Protocol actually went into effect in February of 2005. It was signed by 141 countries, together with all of the largest ones except for the United States and Australia. However, newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed the Kyoto Protocol in December of 2007 immediately after coming into office. Al Gore, a former United States Vice President, praised Rudd for addressing the climate change issue so quickly.
United States President George W Bush did not send the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate to be voted on because he did not think that it would be passed. He believed that it would be too hard for industrialized countries such as the United States, China, and Japan to meet the Protocol’s requirements. He may have been right. Japan, for instance, has been having some trouble meeting their quotas. Their emission of greenhouse gasses has actually increased since they signed on.
What can countries do if they’re having a problem keeping their commitment? The Kyoto Protocol is set up so that countries can buy emission credits from other countries that don’t need them. If Japan had bought credits to make up for its excess greenhouse gasses, it would have cost an estimated 8 billion dollars. The deadline for the first “commitment period” is 2012. There are penalties for the countries that don’t meet the criteria of the Protocol. These countries must make up for their emissions, which could be very expensive. In the second part of the commitment, if the goals are not met, there is a 30 percent penalty added to their shortfall and the countries would not be allowed to sell emission credits to other countries either.
What will the Kyoto Protocol accomplish? Without participation from the United States and inability of other nations to meet their goals, it is difficult to say. However, the Protocol is a step in the right direction. It gives countries goals for which to strive and the guidelines by which to achieve them.
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