Climate trumps terror in Europe
BRUSSELS — AEuropeanCommission proposal to slash greenhouse-gasemissionsbytheendofthe next decade has highlighted a growing trans-Atlantic split over global warming that is further stressed by a recent poll that shows Europeans are more concerned about climate change than terrorism.
In a major package of measures aimedatcombattingglobalwarming twoweeksago,theEuropeanUnion’s executive arm urged the bloc’s 27 member states to unilaterally cut emissions of greenhouse gases, such ascarbondioxide,byone-fifthby2020 compared with 1990 figures.
It also called on the United States — which has rejected mandatory curbsonemissions—anddeveloping countries such as China and India to joinitinsigninguptoa30percentreduction in greenhouse gases by the same date.
“Europemustleadtheworldintoa new—ormaybe,oneshouldsay,postindustrial — revolution: the developmentofalow-carboneconomy,”Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said while announcing the plan in Brussels on Jan. 10.
“We have already left behind our coal-based industrial past. It is time to embrace our low-carbon future,” he said.
The European Union is currently committed to cutting a basket of six greenhouse gases by 8 percent by 2010, compared with 1990 figures. However, recent data from the EuropeanEnvironmentAgencyshowsthis target is unlikely to be reached without additional measures.
The commission says its new goal can be reached if member states improve energy efficiency, accept competitionbetweennationalenergysuppliers,agreetoproduce20percentof theirenergyfromrenewablesources suchaswindandsolarpowerby2020 andensurethat10percentofgasoline consumed is made from biofuels by thesamedate.Thecommission’splan, which was slammed as “unambitious”bygreengroupsandmembers of the European Parliament, underlines the radically different approaches to tackling climate change in Europe and the United States.
ApollreleasedbytheFrance24TV channel on Jan. 5 showed global warming to be a greater planetary challengethanterrorisminfourofthe five European countries where the surveywasconducted.InFrance,for example,54percentsaidthegreatest challenge to the planet was global warming, compared with 26 percent who cited terrorism. By contrast, 49 percentofAmericanscitedterrorism asthebiggestthreat,while30percent mentioned climate change.
Simon Tilford, an analyst at the London-based think tank Center for European Reform, said Americans and Europeans differed over climate change because “in Europe, global warming is accepted as a fact, whereas for a lot of people in the United States, the jury is still out.”
However, Mr. Tilford said, attitudes toward global warming were changing in the United States and “whoever wins the next presidential electionwilltakeaverydifferentline tothecurrentadministration.”Insimilar polls, such as the German Marshall Fund’s annual Trans-Atlantic Trendssurvey,terrorismhasbeenthe No.1concernofbothEuropeansand Americans since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. Butglobalwarminghasshottothetop of the political agenda in recent months owing in part to former Vice President Al Gore’s film “An Inconvenient Truth,” stern warnings from scientificadvisorybodiesandhard-toignore evidence that climate change is already happening.