Scientists, industry debate anti-global warming plan
October 6, 1997
Web posted at: 1:03 p.m. EDT (1703 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Clinton sat down with
scientists, environmentalists and business leaders Monday to
try to raise public awareness of global warming and to form
policy for an international climate conference to be held in
Kyoto, Japan, in December.
At the Kyoto meeting, the U.S. government is expected to
support binding commitments to reduce national pollutant
emissions, in order to prevent -- or at least slow -- global
warming. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore would like to
cut emissions without antagonizing businesses. It may be an
The theory behind global warming is that burning gasoline,
coal and other fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other
so-called "greenhouse gasses," which form a blanket in the
Earth's atmosphere. The blanket traps heat, and warms the
A L S O :
No consensus on solving global warming
Among global warming's possible consequences: The spread of
drought and disease, and the melting of polar icecaps, which
would raise ocean levels and submerge coastal areas and even
The majority of climate scientists agree that the Earth is
heating up, and that people are partly to blame. The big
debate now is a political one: One side argues that global
warming's catastrophic potential has been adequately proved
and must be kept in check. The other side says the evidence
is inconclusive and that trying to prevent global warming
could wreck the economy.
Scientific uncertainty helps fuel the debate. Researchers
cannot agree on how much warmer Earth might get, or how fast.
A U.N.-sponsored panel of 2,000 scientists found "a
discernible human influence" on global climate and that
doubling greenhouse gas emissions could warm the planet by 2
to 6 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 100 years. This
compares to a 1 degree rise over the last century.
Skeptics contend computer models are unreliable and suggest
that other factor, such as clouds and oceans, could mitigate
Joseph Goffman of the Environmental Defense Fund says the
risks outweigh the uncertainty.
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But industries that might be called on to cut emissions say
conflicting research and unknown risks are a flimsy
foundation for new pollution rules, which could be costly for
both businesses and consumers.
More research is needed, said Gail McDonald of the Global
Climate Coalition, a lobbying group representing U.S.
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McDonald also called the Kyoto conference an "arbitrary
deadline" for committing to emissions reforms "which this
administration has imposed on us. There's no reason for it,"
The administration says those complaining about the cost of
stopping global warming should chill out.
"Again and again and again we've learned -- with acid rain,
with lead in gasoline, with catalytic converters, with all
these wonderful environmental statutes we've had -- that the
predictions of economic catastrophe never happen," said
Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt. "In fact, what happens is
just the opposite. We find that the environment and the
economy go together."
While Clinton decides what to do in Kyoto, other countries
are promoting their own proposals. Europe wants to cap
carbon emissions at 15 percent below 1990 levels within 12
years. Some island nations want at least a 20 percent
There also is the politically tricky problem of developing
countries, such as China, whose carbon emissions are expected
to soar as their economies grow. Under the rules of the
Kyoto conference, binding emissions caps are to be limited to
developed countries, with nations such as China and India
agreeing to reductions later.
Correspondent Natalie Pawelski contributed to this report.
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