Concluding Remarks

There are some reasons to be hopeful that the global community is beginning to wake up to the problem of climate change. The Kyoto Protocol came into effect in 2005, and the European Union is eager to take more aggressive action after 2012, when the first Kyoto commitment period expires. American corporations that do business outside the United States will be governed by the Kyoto system, and many are increasingly receptive to the idea of a single global system for managing GHG emissions. Even the northeastern states and California, largely ruled by Republican governors, are moving toward adopting their own GHG emissions policies. Meanwhile, the Inuit peoples are preparing a case to present to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, charging that the United States is threatening their existence through its contributions to global warming.

Despite these signs of hope, climate change is a scientifically complex issue that is difficult to address effectively and, in the United States at least, politicians can safely ignore this issue without fear of punishment. It is in part another victim of the war on terrorism. While climate change may be far from the public mind, GHGs continue to build up in the atmosphere, and the risks of climate change continue to magnify. When it comes to responding to fundamental changes in the systems that control life on Earth, denial, distortion, and spin are not viable long-term strategies.73 Eventually, concern about climate change will emerge as an important public issue, and a movement toward creating a law of the atmosphere will gain momentum.

In the meantime it is important to recognize that those who suffer from extreme climatic events are often the victims of greed, indifference, and mendacity. It is human beings and their societies that are largely responsible for the climate change now under way, not nature or fortune. People and nations who willfully evade taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions may one day be called to account.

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