G8 Nations Flunk Climate-Change Report Card

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News
July 5, 2005

The international conservation organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has issued "G8 Climate Scorecards" to grade the world's top economies on their efforts to address the climate change brought about by greenhouse gas emissions.

The United States ranked at the bottom of its class, but the conservation organization warns that the other members of the Group of Eight major industrialized nations are also failing to make the grade.

"All the G8 are far from securing a safe and stable climate," says Jennifer Morgan, director of WWF's Global Climate Change Programme. "With clear differences in the level of commitment and efforts to solve the climate crisis, no single country could truly claim to be a climate leader."

The scorecards measure efforts at reducing emissions, boosting renewable energies, and improving energy efficiency.

WWF calculated that the U.S. has the highest greenhouse gas emission rates among the G8 and that the nation derives some two thirds of its energy from coal and oil.

Under current policies, the report says, both problems will only increase.

"The Bush administration is not only failing to deal with the threat of climate change but is also actively trying to water down the G8's efforts on the issues," Morgan said. "If the U.S. is lagging behind, then it's time for them to be left behind."

Other climate and energy experts agree that the U.S. is failing to adequately address greenhouse gas emissions.

"There have been some notable efforts on the state level with mixed success," said Sarah Joy, a researcher at Stanford University's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development. "But the absence of federal management means that the U.S. just isn't making strides toward reducing emissions in terms of real numbers."

Of course, G8 economies are only part of the global warming puzzle. Developing nations like China, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Mexico—which were also scored in the WWF report—are rapidly growing greenhouse gas emitters. Their economic development could offset any environmental gains made in more industrialized nations.

EU Results Mixed

None of the G8 countries reached the highest range of possible grades. France, Germany, and the U.K. fared best. In some respects, however, their scores reflected unsustainable "one-off" occurrences driven by economic rather than environmental factors.

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