To cynical observers of the Washington scene, all this must seem absurdly lacking in political realism. George W. Bush’s administration has spurned the Kyoto Protocol, which allows the United States to continue to produce at least four times its per capita share of carbon dioxide. Since 1990 U.S. emission levels have already risen by 14 percent. The half-hearted measures for energy conservation proposed by the Bush administration will, at best, slow that trend. They will not reverse it. So what is the point of discussing proposals that are far less likely to be accepted by the U.S. Government than the Kyoto Protocol?

The aim of this chapter is to help us to see that there is no ethical basis for the present distribution of the atmosphere’s capacity to absorb greenhouse gases without drastic climate change. If the industrialized countries choose to retain this distribution (as the United States does), or to use it as the starting point for a new allocation of the capacity of the global sink (as the countries that accept the Kyoto Protocol do), they are standing simply on their presumed rights as sovereign nations. That claim, and the raw military power these nations yield, makes it impossible for anyone else to impose a more ethically defensible solution on them. If we, as citizens of the industrialized nations, do not understand what would be a fair solution to global warming, then we cannot understand how flagrantly self-serving the position of those opposed to signing even the Kyoto Protocol is. If, on the other hand, we can convey to our fellow citizens a sense of what would be a fair solution to the problem, then it may be possible to change the policies that are now leading the United States to block international cooperation on something that will have an impact on every being on this planet.

(Peter Singer, One World: The Ethics of Globalization, The Terry Lectures [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2002], 49-50 [italics in original])

Note from KBJ: The key word in this passage is “presumed.” Singer may not like it, but the president of the United States is the president of the United States, not the world. His or her job is to promote the interests of this country. This doesn’t mean that the president will never sign treaties; it means that any treaty he or she signs is a means to promoting this country’s interests.