Bob Tippee

That a geographic pattern of opinion has become part of the controversy over global warming suggests a what-if mind experiment that might be illuminating.

Europe, as anyone paying attention knows, rightly claims leadership on responses to global warming and has raced ahead of everyone else on the issue. Prominent among "everyone else" is the US.

The Europe Union has led support for the Kyoto Treaty on Climate Change and has its own program to pursue Kyoto targets. Some non-European countries have followed. Some, prominently the US, have not.

The geographic dimension of the controversy has settled into something like this: European advocates for prompt and costly warming responses assert that others, prominently Americans, are behind them on acceptance of the need for aggressive precaution and eventually must come around. Others, prominently Americans, argue that Europeans can tax themselves into economic torpor for questionable purposes if they want to but shouldn't expect others to follow them over the cliff.

The impasse obscures scientific findings that might shed light on what and for what reasons humanity actually should do something about the greenhouse gases it puts into the atmosphere. It also evokes unflattering speculation about motives.

The European side attributes American reluctance to support the Kyoto Treaty to a predilection for fat vehicles. The American side attributes the European urge for action to a predilection for fat taxes.

To some extent, too, anti-Americanism energizes European fervor on the subject. A glance at the European press makes clear that the sentiment exists, which is not to say reciprocal views don't show up in the US.

The question here is the degree to which antagonism toward the US compels European politics on climate change. Hence the mind experiment:

What if the US and not Europe had jumped ahead of the world on global warming responses and acted as an early advocate of Kyoto and its progeny? Would Europe now be wondering if the remedies, given large uncertainty about the likely effects, weren't a bit hasty?

Or is this one of those global warming questions no one is supposed to ask?

(Online Dec. 30, 2005; author's e-mail:

Related Articles

Judge bars Anadarko e-mails as evidence in Macondo blowout hearing

03/21/2014 A federal district judge in New Orleans refused to accept e-mails between Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and BP PLC as evidence in a hearing to determine...

BOEM extends proposed higher offshore liability limit comment period

03/20/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management added 30 days to the public comment period for its proposed higher liability limit for offshore oil and ga...

Begich objects to House Democrats’ NPR-A comment extension request

03/18/2014 US Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alas.) let three US House Democrats know he did not approve of their request for the US Bureau of Land Management to add 30 ...

EPA lifts post-Macondo contract suspension in agreement with BP

03/14/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency and BP PLC reached an agreement that will effectively end the bar on new federal contracts imposed on the mu...

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!


Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected