How G8’s decision will affect U.S.

Sarah Gardner Jul 8, 2009

How G8’s decision will affect U.S.

Sarah Gardner Jul 8, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: Global warming being global and all, what happened today at the G8 will inevitably become part of the political debate over climate change back here. Sarah Gardner’s with us from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk to explain how that’s going to happen. Hey Sarah.


Ryssdal: The president went to this summit with a climate-change bill passed by the House in hand. What does this do for the political prospects back here?

GARDNER: Well, it’s not very helpful, obviously. As you said, the House passed this bill, but it passed it by a very narrow margin. It’s going to be even tougher to pass it in the Senate. And some folks believe it will be weaker as a result. Critics of climate-change legislation in Congress will no doubt point to today’s G8 failure, if you wanna call it that, and say, see, see these developing countries, China and India, they’re not willing to sign on the bottom line, why should we commit to reductions in greenhouse gases? China and India, on the other hand, see the rather weak short-term goals in the U.S. legislation as a signal that America isn’t very serious about achieving these greenhouse gas reduction targets, and they’re not happy about it.

Ryssdal: Yeah, the democrats, though, have 60 votes in the Senate. They do have majorities in the House. Does this really weaken the prospects of that legislation?

GARDNER: Well, we really don’t know. Phil Radford who is head of Greenpeace U.S.A. told me today, he thinks the chances now are about 50-50 that we will get a bill by the end of the year. Others are more optimistic. The problem is, a lot of people say it’s sorta of a chicken and egg thing. You’ve got China and India, on the one hand, who want to see more serious commitments by the U.S. in greenhouse gas reductions in the near term. And they want more aid from the U.S. in achieving their own reductions. But the U.S. really can’t or isn’t willing to say what it can do before they see what the Senate will pass. So really it’s all just very bad timing.

Ryssdal: Right, you go first. No, you go first.

GARDNER: That’s right.

Ryssdal: Pan this forward for me for a little bit to the big climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December. There’s this conference, the G8, our domestic political situation, and then Copenhagen in December.

GARDNER: Yes, the United Nations Climate Change Conference is a huge opportunity, of course, for the world to make serious commitments to greenhouse-gas reductions. Climatologists would say it’s the last chance. And many think this G8 meeting in Italy this week is crucial to Copenhagen’s success. Now having said that, there are other people who say, wait, don’t panic, we have time, things can change. This is sort of a pre-negotiation to that meeting. Why would all sides be putting their cards on the table right now? Here is William Cline at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

WILLIAM CLINE: I don’t think that the G8 was expected to be the location for a massive deal on climate. So I don’t see this as devastating.

GARDNER: And as Stephen Beard noted, Kai, negotiators at that G8 meeting are working on alternative language that would enforce a limit on global warming to no more that 2 degrees Celsius. But one French climatologist said today, that’s ecological suicide to pass language about reducing global temperatures, without saying how you’re going to do it. He says that’s just empty rhetoric.

Ryssdal: Sarah, thanks a lot. Sarah Gardner from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk.

GARDNER: Thank you.

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