The June 4 United Nations World Environment Day conference in San Francisco was a fresh reminder for Americans who care about the environment of the Bush administration’s failure to take action against global warming.
The conference welcomed dozens of mayors from around the world. The mayors attended the conference to discuss the future of global environment, with a specific focus on building strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
There has been growing momentum for an international response to the global warming crisis since the crafting of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. Today, over 140 countries have signed on to join the treaty.
Despite the wide popularity of the treaty across the globe, President Bush continues to oppose it for its potential “economic burden.” The Bush administration’s failure to take a serious stance on global warming has far greater implications then just environmental concerns.
Unlike the United States, which sees the protocol as an economic burden, Japan and the European Union are trying to use the protocol to develop new economic opportunities.
The forced reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the Kyoto Protocol means there is a need for new environmentally friendly technologies. While Japan and the E.U. are on the cutting edge of new technologies and subsequent economic benefits, the United States is further distancing itself from the rest of the world.
There will come a day when U.S. hegemony is over. This process might come over a long period of time, or it could come in the very near future. How long the United States remains the most powerful country in the world depends on policy decisions currently being made by the Bush administration.
The United States is currently the world’s hegemonic power for three reasons: military superiority, economic superiority, and the consent of the rest of the world that we are indeed the world’s “leader.”
We can already see our economic superiority slipping away, as the economies of China and the E.U. continue to grow. With the growing influence of globalization, new economic powers like India will emerge and begin to compete more often with the United States.
This will leave us with our military advantage and the consent of the world. The actions of the current Bush administration are quickly losing us that consent. The war in Iraq, our withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, and our refusal to sign onto the Kyoto Protocol have all led to us losing respect as a world leader.
Instead of being the leading voice in the battle to combat global warming, the president has made us into one of the only two dissenting voices in the industrialized world (the other being Australia). Instead of being viewed as a “world leader,” the United States is beginning to be viewed as a nation one-step behind the rest of the pack.
When our economic leverage is gone, and the consent of the world has been lost, only our military might will remain. And the more frequently the U.S. is forced to use that power, the weaker that power will become.
Perhaps losing our economic advantage over the rest of the world in the age of globalism is inevitable.
But we don’t have to lose our role as a world leader. We can be a shining light and an example to the rest of the world. We can lead the fight to combat global warming. We can lead the fight to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can be a leader.
Or we can sit on the sideline, watching the rest of the world pass us by until war is the only thing we have left to show that we still matter to the world.
Marcus Afzali is a senior political science major.