The nonpolitical political issue

Climate change has become a hot political issue. Depending on the political culture of your country, the issue is non-partisan, pan-partisan, or more than a little partisan.

In some countries — such as the U.S., Canada, and Australia — the conservative versus liberal fight on climate change has never been more heated. The defeat of John Howard's government in Australia in 2007 may well be the first election globally in which climate change was a significant factor. New Prime Minister Paul Rudd made ratifying the Kyoto Protocol one of his top priorities, delivering on his election promise within days of becoming Prime Minister. In the U.S. and Canada, parties to the right of the political spectrum have consistently opposed the Kyoto Protocol. (The situation is more complex at the state and provincial levels, however. The governments of California and British Columbia, arguably the most progressive jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada, respectively, both have "right-wing" governments.) At the time of publication, however, things seem like they may change in the States; the U.S. Republicans, led by John McCain, favor action on the issue.

In Europe, however, the fight against global warming isn't as divided along party lines. In the U.K., the social democratic government is in power, and the conservative opposition is challenging the effectiveness of the government's efforts to address the climate crisis. The right-wing president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been very progressive on the climate front. Despite some criticism of his national crush on nuclear power, he's leading the country and befriending environmentalists along the way. His inspiring speeches stress the need for major countries such as China to lead the way in low-emission development. France and China recently signed a joint statement committing to a partnership to help each other reduce harmful emissions.

Perhaps the most influential conservative leadership on climate change has been from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She was Minister of the Environment in the early 1990s when the mandate to negotiate the Kyoto Protocol was just beginning, and Merkel surprised some observers by maintaining the previous left-leaning government's course for greenhouse gas reductions when her party came to power. She also led the European Union in the same year that she helped push for major reductions in energy use. In 2007, she led G8 discussions, keeping a focus on climate change within the G8.

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