Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sweden tops climate change efforts, U.S. near bottom, environmentalists say

The Associated Press
Published: November 13, 2006

NAIROBI, Kenya: Sweden, Britain and Denmark are doing the most to protect against climate change, but their efforts are not nearly enough, according to a report released Monday by environmental groups.

"We don't have any winners, we only have countries that are better compared to others," said Matthias Duwe of the Climate Action Network-Europe, which released the data during the second week of the U.N. climate conference. "We don't have big shining stars."

The United States — the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases — ranked at 53, with only China, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia doing worse. U.S. emissions grew by 16 percent between 1990 and 2004, according to a recent U.N. report.

The index ranks 56 countries that were part of a 1992 climate treaty or that contribute at least 1 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world. The countries make up 90 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

The calculations, performed by the environmental group Germanwatch, took into account emissions levels, emissions trends and climate policy.

About one-quarter of the energy consumed in Sweden in 2003 came from renewable sources — more than four times as much as the European Union average of 6 percent, according to EU statistics. In Stockholm, one-quarter of city buses run on ethanol or biogas.

The country with the worst ranking was Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter. Duwe said the country's policies generally block attempts to reduce greenhouse gases.

"If you try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, you will also reduce oil consumption," Duwe said. "So Saudi oil will be in less demand."

Christoph Bals, political director of Germanwatch, said policy had an enormous effect on the rankings. The U.S. could move up 30 spots if its policies were akin to the U.K.'s, he said.

The United States and Australia are the only major industrialized countries to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which calls for mandatory cuts in greenhouse gases.

The policy of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush on climate change focuses on voluntary emissions cuts by industry and long-term development of clean-energy technology. In rejecting the Kyoto Protocol's mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions, Bush said they would hamstring the U.S. economy and complained that poorer countries also should have been covered.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Monday that, "the president has made dealing with climate change a priority for this administration (and) will continue to." He was not asked about the ranking, but other White House officials had no immediate comment.

Scientists blame the past century's 0.6-degree-Celsius (1-degree-Fahrenheit) rise in average global temperatures at least in part on the accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere — byproducts of power plants, automobiles and other fossil fuel-burning sources.

Some climate conference participants said the results of last week's midterm elections in the United States were a good sign for environmental issues. Americans swept Democrats into power in the House of Representatives for the first time in a dozen years and largely dismantled the Republican Senate majority.

"The U.S. elections are clearly good news for strong U.S. action on global warming," said Jeremy Symons, director of National Wildlife Federation's climate change program. He added that new leadership will "break the conspiracy of silence and denial" on environmental issues.

Not that this should come as a surprise to anyone... I mean Washington is in bed with lobyists, and big business makes all the legislation in this country through one way or another... And given the current administrations view that global warming is "fake science" and their ability to keep top NOAA officials quiet, its not that surprising that it has taken this long for the public to even care... Hopefully things will start to change...

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