A Decade After First Climate-Change Treaty, CO2 Still on the Rise

Ten years ago this week, the U.S. hopped on board the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the first international treaty on global warming, out of which grew the better-known Kyoto Protocol. President George H.W. Bush signed the treaty at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; it went into effect in 1994. Since then, the U.S. has joined many of its co-signatories in more or less ignoring the treaty’s provisions, which include a call for cutbacks in carbon-dioxide emissions. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the anniversary to call on Russia to ratify Kyoto; with the U.S. having pulled out of Kyoto under President George W. Bush, Russia’s participation is needed if the agreement is to go into effect. “We are quickly moving to the point where the damage [from global warming] will be irreversible,” said Jonathan Pershing of the World Resources Institute. In ominous related news, the Mauna Loa Observatory, perched atop a Hawaiian volcano, has reported record-high levels of CO2 in the atmosphere — 379 parts per million, for those of you keeping score at home.