Notes: On July 23rd, 178 countries approved the Kyoto Protocol with the aim of reducing greenhouse gases with the goal of stopping the warming of the earth's climate. The United States refused to do so and was actually booed by representatives of other nations. The United States says among it's reasons for not signing that third-world countries are not required to reduce their output of greenhouse gases to the same extent as first-world nations.

Most credible climate scientists do in fact believe that the earth's atmosphere is warming because of the greenhouse gas effect. The effect is caused by carbon dioxide which has the quality of preventing the sun's radiation from reflecting off the earth and thus increasing the earth's temperature. While there are many sources of carbon dioxide, the burning of fossil fuels is believed to be the largest contributor. Raising the earth's temperature by even a small amount is thought to be potentially disastrous, raising the levels of oceans and wrecking agricultural growing seasons. Some believe that because the United States is located on middle latitudes it will be among the last countries to be effected, and though not roundly discussed, may be a political factor in when the country will move on the problem.

A novel side note: We've all heard about the melting of Arctic ice because of the warming climate. I had assumed that this is what would raise the levels of the oceans. I asked several friends and they believed this also. But, according to Bill McKibben, writing in the New York Review of Books, this is not so. The melting of Arctic ice will not raise the level of the sea any more than melting ice cubes raise the level of liquid in a glass. Instead he writes, "[T]he projected rise in sea level of at least a foot would result mostly from the thermal expansion of hotter water." 07.29.01