The United States is the world's largest industrial economy. It uses more energy than any other nation and is the greatest producer of greenhouse gases. Thus, no treaty such as that to be signed next month at Rio de Janeiro in a multinational summit on global warming could succeed without the cooperation of Americans. A compromise treaty, worked out after long, contentious negotiations between European and U.S. diplomats and environmental regulators, has opened the way for President Bush's participation in the summit.
U.S. economists had fought the treaty as a danger to economic rebirth, noting that too-tight controls on carbon dioxide emission could choke off the country's drive out of recession. Environmentalists, supporting European proposals for mandatory cutbacks to 1990 levels, fought just as hard for strict controls. But if this country is a premier polluter, it also is the premier source of environment-cleaning technology.
Thus, a world summit conference on global warming with the American leader still sitting in Washington would have been a guaranteed debacle. The compromise treaty language finally settled on recently falls far short of what the environmentalists had sought. It does not commit the signatories to a definite target -- limiting emissions of carbon dioxide to 1990 levels, as the Europeans wanted -- or to a definite timetable for reductions.