News about global warming or issues related to climate change in or, as the subject of this argument about climate change and the United States suggests, because of America is becoming more prevalent. In recent months, concerns about climate change and, specifically, about global warming, seem to have escalated; every day there is a new report about the state of the environment and stories about what individuals, organizations, and countries are doing to prevent global warming and climate change from accelerating. In its most recent report on the state of climate change, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) explained just how severe the problem of climate change and global warming have become: in the period between 1970 and 2004, “global greenhouse gas emissions have grown… 70%” (p. 3), largely as the result of the activities of the “energy supply sector…, transport…, industry…, [and] land use, land use change, and forestry” (p. 3).
The United States appears to bear particular culpability for the significant increase in harmful emissions, as this country’s use of non-renewable resources is disproportionate to the size of the population relative to the energy use and population density of other countries (Johansen, 2002). In short, the United States bears a significant part of the blame for global warming, a portion of which it shares with other producers of global-warming inducing pollution such as India, China and other highly developed or industrialized countries. One must ask, then, whether the United States should be doing more to combat global warming since it has created such an environment. While the answer may seem to be an obvious and resounding yes, there are those individuals and entities, including the current presidential administration, who offer a different perspective. In order to arrive at a clearer understanding of the responsibility of the United States in the international efforts to combat global warming and climate change, it is important to understand the arguments made by both sides of the debate.
Those who believe that the United States should be more actively committed to reducing the threat of global warming tend to base their contention on the fact that Americans’ use of energy resources far outstrips energy use in other countries (Johansen, 2002). The degree to which countries should involve themselves in remediation strategies, then, is visualized as a proportional schema in which the effort exerted should be equivalent to the energy used. Furthermore, advocates of bolstering the U.S.’s commitment to combat global warming and environmental awareness argue that even if Americans’ energy use was not disproportionate to that of the rest of the world, the United States would still stand poised to make a unique and valuable contribution to the arrest of climate change because it has economic, scientific, political, and human resources that many other countries lack.
American scientists and other researchers concerned with the environment have long been involved in pioneering alternative energy technologies, and the widespread use of such technologies may not only decrease our dependence upon petroleum-based energy, but would certainly decrease harmful emissions as well (Elliott, 2003). Observers note, however, that these promising technologies to help the environment tend to get stuck in the research and design phase, rarely gaining society-wide acceptance and use, because the federal government does not support developing the infrastructure that makes the delivery and distribution of such alternatives possible (Elliott, 2003).
There are still more reasons why advocates of increased U.S. commitment to fighting global warming believe that the U.S. should be more involved than it is at present. Because the United States is a politically powerful country, they argue, other countries are likely to follow the U.S.’s example in terms of the position that it takes on climate change and the implications of global warming. In other words, if the United States does not demonstrate concern about the problem of global warming, and avoids full commitment and use of its resources to combat this environmental problem that will inevitably affect every living being on the planet, then other countries are likely to remain ambivalent and inactive also. To date, these advocates argue, the United States has been persistently resistant to international accords and cooperative efforts to not only accept responsibility for restraining the acceleration of global warming through direct action, but to even articulate concerns publicly (Elliott, 2003). As Elliott (2003) contends, it seems that most Americans are not willing to make significant lifestyle adjustments that would be required to reverse, or at least restrain, the global warming trend.