As we celebrate Earth Day today, we can take some comfort in the fact that any of the three candidates now running for president will have a greater commitment to reversing global warming than the current occupant of the White House.
Last week, after seven years of ignoring the threat of global warming, President Bush announced his goals for addressing climate change that are woefully inadequate. At the center of Bush's proposal was a call for halting the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions -- by 2025.
That is not a real plan. It does nothing more than pass the responsibility to the next president.
Bush's proposal essentially would allow emissions to rise for the next 17 years. But the consensus among scientists who study global warming calls not only for halting the growth of greenhouse gases but also cutting emissions by as much as 20 percent over the next decade.
And that would be just the start. A Senate bill, cosponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Warner, R-Va., would cut emissions 65 percent below 2005 levels by 2050. That bill is scheduled for debate in June.
Bush, in his Rose Garden address last week, said any action by Congress should be contingent on comparable measures by China, India and other fast-growing nations whose increased industrialization now contributes significantly to global warming. But the United States still emits more greenhouse gases than any other nation and has been doing so for decades.
Certainly, any effort to combat global warming must be international in scope and involve all major polluters, including China and India. But that shouldn't stop the United States from setting the course with serious reductions of its own.
The first Earth Day was held April 22, 1970. While that first event was an enormous success, it largely involved college students and environmental activists. Since then, the environmental movement has become far more mainstream as average Americans join citizens from around the world in a growing concern for the future of the planet.
Recognition of the threat has risen as evidence has piled up and scientists have joined in warning that steps must be taken to avert disaster. Last year, for example, a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change left little doubt that global warming is largely man-made. This gathering included hundreds of the world's scientists and representatives of 113 governments. Significantly, it included not only scientists long convinced of the threat of global warming, but also many former skeptics.
Certainly, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will require a global effort. But, as today's activities around the world will emphasize, each of us can play a role in the pattern of our daily lives.
We can make our homes more environmentally sound; drive less; recycle more; use more earth-friendly products; conserve water and other vital resources; work with neighbors to expand community efforts to create a cleaner environment.
But perhaps our biggest responsibility as individuals is to support responsible national policies to rein in polluters and make this a better place to raise our children and generations to come.
Americans must support national efforts to address the threat of global warming.