Over the last twenty years scientists and the general public have become increasingly concerned about the prospect of dramatic climate change exacerbated, or even triggered, by human activity. The amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases discharged into the earth’s atmosphere increased throughout the twentieth century and the nine warmest years on record have all occurred since 1990. While the implications of the greenhouse effect remain largely unknown, concern over the issue led to international support for a treaty that would reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the world’s industrialized nations. From December 1 through 11, 1997, representatives from more than 160 nations met in Kyoto, Japan, to negotiate binding limitations on greenhouse gases for the developed nations pursuant to the objectives of the Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992. The negotiated treaty, referred to as the Kyoto Protocol, called for the signatories to reduce their overall emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008–2012. Although the United States, the world’s largest producer of these gases pulled out of the treaty in 2001, the treaty was ratified on November 5, 2004 when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the treaty, which had required ratification by at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in 1990.
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