This is a complex question, but there are some main reasons the U.S. has not participated in some important environmental pacts. The U.S. did not sign the Kyoto Protocol at the initial meeting because China would not sign at that time. China saw the Kyoto Protocol as a limit on its industrialization because its carbon dioxide levels were sure to increase profoundly from its 1990 levels following the years of the treaty. The Chinese also thought it was unfair that developing countries (including other countries such as India and Brazil) may have restricted growth and industrialization under the Kyoto Protocol when the western world was able to industrialize (and pollute) freely.
The United States opposed signing the treaty when China refused, seeing China as a potential top polluter in the near future (China has surpassed the United States as the top emitter of Carbon Dioxide since the treaty) and thought it would undermine the progress of the other countries under the protocol. The U.S. also saw the restrictions in the protocol as a threat to its own economy.
In addition, climate change is a more debated topic in the United States than in most of Europe, where the consensus is that climate change is occurring and human beings are causing it through pollution. The polarization on the topic and the recent economic decline in the U.S. has deterred the support of environmental pacts as the focus has shifted to the economy and jobs, though there are many that believe supporting environmental pacts and technologies can improve the economy.
Many members of congress work with and are funded by corporations that would have to pay for environmental upgrades. ALEC is an organization where corporations draw up model policies and legislation that are then voted on by lawmakers. In effect this means that corporations have more access to our lawmakers than we do. This same thing happened in ancient Rome before the fall, people no longer felt like they had access to their government officials. ALEC is only one example of corporate collusion.
Obama is not immune from this corruption. In fact, British Petroleum spent a great deal of money funding Obama, so there is no reason to think that Obama would enforce environmental regulations that oil companies would have to pay for. Especially during an election season, when he will be trying to get as much funding as he can. In fact, Obama has recently blocked improved air quality regulations from the EPA. The executive branch is responsible for signing treaties with foreign governments, and neither Obama nor any U.S. legislator, attended the recent international climate change conference in S. Africa. In short it is corruption, elitism, and a total lack of democratic redress of government that is preventing U.S. officials from signing environmental treaties.
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