The global community is being confronted with new challenges of global change that involve both the scientific and political communities. As John Dutton (1994:78-79) persuasively argues, the challenge facing the scientific community involves the "task of understanding a complex and fascinating system and the responsibility of providing a reliable basis for policy decisions concerning possible modification of human activities in order to mitigate or adapt to global change.'' In the political arena, as Jacobson and Weiss (1998:7) put it, "the actions of other states in implementing and complying with [an international environmental agreement] can also affect a state's compliance with an agreement. To what extent have other countries' noncompliance or compliance with [an international environmental agreement] affected the willingness of countries to abide by the accord?''
Over the last three or four decades, members of the global community have demonstrated a willingness to engage in constructive efforts to establish international environmental agreements across a range of issues. Among these agreements are the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (1973), the International Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (1979), United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (1983), the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987), the Convention on Biodiversity (1992), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and the International Tropical Timber Agreement (1994). Having said this, while the U.S. has played a leading role in the international environmental domain in the past, more recently, the American president (Bush ) failed to sign the Convention on Biodiversity and he signed the United
Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change only after the requirements of the agreement were changed from mandatory to voluntary.
Sadly, the contemporary role of the U.S. regarding international efforts to address global warming and climate change resemble its position in 1992 on biodiversity and climate change rather than its leadership role involving the Montreal Protocol in 1987. Moreover, other major contributors to global warming including China and India remain outside an international environmental agreement. While the scientific basis for political action has been provided by the IPCC and other national and international agencies, political conflict remains within and between countries on this issue.
As far as hurricanes are concerned, what remains is a debate between scientists on the one hand who argue that "human-caused global warming is responsible for raising sea surface temperatures, making stronger hurricanes more likely'' while on the other hand, a small but vocal group of critics maintain the position that "hurricane intensity goes in natural cycles, and say the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic and Caribbean season was part of a high-category hurricane cycle'' (Reuters 2007d). Residents and commercial interests in coastal areas face the consequences of increasingly devastating storm surges and major flooding due to hurricanes feeding off of warmer waters resulting from global warming. As scientists continue to study the relationship between global warming, climate change and hurricanes, world governments face the challenge of finding appropriate means to respond to the global warming problem while at the same time improving emergency management procedures. Ultimately, as Steel, Clinton and Lovrich (2003:70) warn:
Human cloning, global warming, biodiversity protection, and yet unknown issues affecting the biosphere we share with the rest of nature are all going to involve the active interaction of science, scientists, and major political institutions. . . . It seems clear that public education, scientific outreach to policy makers, active debate, and political engagement over policy options all need to occupy a high priority on the public policy agenda for the development of effective environmental policies in our country and elsewhere across the world.
It remains to be seen whether and to what extent appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that global warming will be addressed in order to reduce climate threats including severe tropical cyclone activity.
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