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1. Background

There are a number of serious threats facing the world today, but few are more serious than the problem of global warming, climate change, and environmental degradation. We desperately need our leaders to do something to slow down this negative process. President Barack Obama campaigned for his office saying he would be one of the greenest presidents in history and would work hard to create the green economy and green jobs of tomorrow. But now, almost a year since his election, little has changed. There is still no successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol and the United States isn’t doing very much to combat climate change. The government needs to take a number of drastic steps in the coming years in order to reduce our dependence on hydrocarbons, plus change the culture of America to make it generally more green. Only then will we turn back the clock on our environmental problems.

The world’s climate is changing and the consequences are far reaching. When examining this important issue we must be sure to have our facts straight. Even before looking at the consequences and possible solutions, it is necessary to determine what is causing this phenomenon. Some people say climate change is part of a natural process which happens every few centuries and which caused the ice age and other periods in Earth’s history in which the temperature was different. This might be true. But many scientists believe that human beings cause global warming (Coren). They say it is caused by the huge amount of cars we drive on our roads and by our coal plants and our thousands of factories. These people say we have simply not been good stewards of the Earth and are now responsible for the fact that the surface of the planet seems to be warming because of trapped gases. Our fossil fuel use is the main reason those gases are present. Every time we drive a car to school or work, use electricity, or heat our houses, we are releasing carbon dioxide into the air and making our planet hotter. Another important source of greenhouse gases is caused by deforestation, mainly in the Amazon. There is a lot of money to be made in cutting down trees and planting land for animals to use so the animals can be made into hamburgers at the end of the day. Cattle itself is said by some people to be in part responsible for increasing the amount of methane in the atmosphere (Flannery, 201). So much of what we do to stay alive and to make money appears to be hurting our planet, according to scientists who are increasingly vocal about this important issue.   

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2. Current bilateral policy

It is important to remember how much Brazil and the US have in common. Brazil is in someways the US of South America. It is by far the largest country in South America, both in geographical size and in population. It is nearly half of all of South America, with very diverse physical characteristics, and a population of nearly 200 million. It is a democracy, but it is a young democracy, with institutions that are still developing and are still slightly vulnerable. The main language is Portuguese (not Spanish) and there are colonial ties to Portugal. The population is very diverse, with native people mixed with African people, mixed with European peoples. The political system is similar to that in the United States. The President is elected and is head of government and head of state and appoints his cabinet. The current President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is a leftist, but he is also friendly to business. He has so far overseen a great deal of economic growth in the new millennium and also additional labour and environmental protections.

Brazil and the United States both aim to work together to solve the problem of climate change, but there are a number of sticking points. A big issue is that India and China and Brazil have economies that are rapidly growing as is their share of global emissions. They are very reticent about a global climate change regime because they know it will disproportionately affect their economies. Developing countries argue they should have lower standards (Cohan, 89). After all, when Britain and the U.S. were industrializing, there were no standards whatsoever. Why should developing countries today be shackled? That is an argument Brazil will use to tackle any suggestion of a one size fits all policy for this problem. Many countries, including the U.S., Japan, China, and Canada did not follow Kyoto, and do not want to see another unequal policy be passed. Not every country pollutes the same amount, so is it really fair that every country should be forced to reduce their emissions by the same amount? That is a question these foreign ministers must ask. Reaching a consensus is always difficult, but with so many interests at stake—especially economic ones—it’s unlikely much will be accomplished in Copenhagen.

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All of this has to do with economics, and the current global recovery from the financial crisis. For the last two years the world economy has been on the brink of disaster. Many have said that the whole financial system will collapse due to the huge problems revealed by the credit crunch and the failure of banks around the world. In the face of these problems each country has had to find economic policies to try to stave off a serious depression. Many economists believe the crisis began because of a big asset boom in the United States. These economic problems have been a set back for climate change policy. There simply isn't enough money to make the sacrifices required.

3. Recommendation

So what is to be done about this serious problem? We need governments around the world to develop policies that when implemented will slow down or stop climate change. The best policy for all of this comes in two complementary forms. The first requires both Brazil and the United States to reduce  dependence on oil. The second involves a cap and trade system to reduce emissions from harming our atmosphere. I will begin by explaining the first aspect of this policy. Both Brazilians and Americans consume huge quantities of gasoline and oil every year. They drive big cars and they consume many products that are made with petroleum products. In normal times none of this would be a problem. But with so much evidence suggesting that carbon dioxide from the burning of carbon fuels is causing the temperature of the globe to rise dramatically, something must be done. Already we can see this policy moving forward. Car companies are producing more and more fuel-efficient vehicles and many say an electric car is right around the corner.

Another positive aspect is that with the Great Recession in the last few years, one of America’s largest car companies, General Motors, was largely taken over by the government. Hopefully that will mean that they will have more say in what kind of products the company makes and that they will push green technology. The government plainly needs to invest much more in this kind of thing if it hopes to stave off of the worst of climate change. It is very nice to hear that although electric cars are not yet available, many international car companies are heavily promoting what they call green cars.

These companies are developing fully electric vehicles of their own, but for the moment, are emphasizing other technologies. Audi is pushing clean diesel engines, and Toyota is working on a hydrogen-based fuel cell technology that would obviate the need for heavy batteries. Other companies argue that public fascination with electric cars can be made profitable — soon.

If these promises can be realized and American consumers invest not only in their own convenience but also in the future of their country and its environment, with the help of government policy towards such green car companies—such as tax credits—things can be much better environmentally for tomorrow’s generation than for today’s. The fact that the largest oil company in Brazil is state owned allows it to take a lot of responsibility for reducing dependence too. Both Brazil and the United States need to work closely together on this issue. No one country holds the key. One of the key things they can do is focus on other sources of energy.

4. Justification for the recommendation

Because Brazil is home to the Amazon and a great deal of forest, the logging industry is very important to the country. Brazilians love the Amazon and it will be important for my logging country to respect their feelings and do business in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Environmentalism is increasingly important in Brazil. In the recent words of their President:

Brazil’s ethanol and biodiesel programmes are a benchmark for alternative and renewable fuel sources. Partnerships are being established with developing countries seeking to follow Brazil’s achievements—a 675m-tonne reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, a million new jobs and a drastic reduction in dependence on imported fossil fuels coming from a dangerously small number of producer countries. All of this has been accomplished without compromising food security, which, on the contrary, has benefited from rising agricultural output.

Indeed, almost 80 per cent of Brazil’s energy needs are met with renewable energy. This emphasis and culture of environmentalism will be an important one to respect. I don’t want to be seen as the ugly foreigner whose mills and trucks are polluting beautiful Brazil. Indeed, as a foreigner I may be held to an even higher standard. It will be important to live up to this.

A further important consideration is how Brazil is weathering the current global economic crisis. This might not be the best time to invest in developing countries: many of their institutions are not as robust as those in the United States or United Kingdom and may be even more vulnerable to crisis. At first it appeared Brazil would not be badly affected by the crisis and President Lula seemed to suggest it would not reach Brazil’s border. However, this past October problems began to occur. By November, The Economist newspaper was reporting that:

Figures from the central bank show that credit lines to finance trade, normally considered low-risk, are running at about half the level of mid-September. There are reports that farmers are finding it hard to find credit to buy fertilisers and pesticides, which could affect next year’s harvest. Furthermore, consumer credit is becoming scarcer as banks anticipate a rise in bad loans. The monthly payments demanded for everything from cars to football boots are rising. The government is no longer saying that Brazil will be untouched by the rich world’s recession.

Since then things have been getting better. In a country with a mediocre business climate, these new economic problems may be enough to turn off foreign investors, but this may be a good thing: it may allow Brazil to gain a little perspective. That can only help the United States and Brazil deal with the issue of climate change together.

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