THE KYOTO international treaty to combat global warming -- as written -- is a flawed document, and it's unlikely the U.S. Senate would ratify it.
But President Bush's brusque dismissal of the world climate treaty, claiming it will harm the American economy, creates a crisis for both the environment and for U.S. diplomacy.
The president's action threatens to doom the 1997 treaty, which aims to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases below 1990 levels by 2012.
While no industrial nation has yet ratified the treaty, there are strong commitments for joint action in Europe and Japan and in much of the rest of the world. World leaders have called on Mr. Bush to reconsider.
The president says implementing the Kyoto Protocol would worsen the energy shortage and jeopardize millions of jobs and the American standard of living.
That may be true if the economy continues to rely only on fossil fuels -- burning oil, gas and coal that increase carbon dioxide emissions.
But greater energy efficiencies and alternative energy technologies can reduce the greenhouse gases burden.
Mr. Bush rejected the strong pleadings of key advisers in his blunt abandonment of Kyoto. He has reneged on a campaign promise to cut carbon dioxide emissions. He has damaged U.S. credibility in the international sphere.
There was nothing to force the president's hand at this time. The administration made no attempt at modifying the treaty and its mechanisms, at proposing alternatives to the work of years of labored international negotiations.
The Kyoto Protocol is not a perfect solution. But Mr. Bush shows no leadership at home or abroad in walking away from the issue.