World View

Waking up to the dangers of global warming


It would be foolish not to see hopeful signs in the conclusion of the Montreal climate talks. Any agreement backed by the Bush administration that is also hailed by green groups, including Friends of the Earth, clearly has something going for it. No concrete proposals were debated in Canada. Nonetheless, it is significant that the United States, India and China -- some of the world's main carbon dioxide producers -- seem prepared to talk about controlling their emissions beyond 2012, when the current Kyoto climate deals run out. If nothing else, it gives the world a platform on which to build better, more meaningful deals. We should not let our optimism run out of control, however. For a start, any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions achieved by 2012 are destined to be painfully small. Each signatory nation has agreed to reduce emissions by 5.2 percent of its 1990 output. But given that the United States, the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, as well as India and China, refused to sign up to Kyoto, there will be no halt in atmospheric change and little chance Earth will stop warming. ...

On the other hand, it is clear the world is hardening in attitude to carbon emissions -- even in the United States. There, 192 cities and 10 states, including California and New York (both with Republican governors), have introduced curbs on greenhouse gases. And there are signs of similar changes in public perception in Europe and Asia. The world is slowly waking up to the danger of global warming. Whether it does so in time is a different matter.

ONLINE: observer.guardian.co.uk/

The death penalty difference in America


There is no more decisive issue than the death penalty ... separating Europe from the United States. Even more than the use of torture or preventive war. If an explanation can be put forward for the American tenacity, this lies within the nature of the U.S. democracy, so profoundly different from European democracies. In a direct democracy, in which the relationship between elected and electors is far more immediate than it has been in Italy until now, if the citizens are in favor of the gallows, their representatives do not have much choice. They can be, and many are in private, horrified. But very few ... have sufficient courage to offer resistance.

Naturally, the key to direct democracy does not help us understand why two-thirds of Americans, and the large majority of those who claim ... to be devoted Christians, continue to believe in the punishment.

ONLINE: www.repubblica.it