China is one of the biggest producers—and biggest victims—of air pollution. (This smoggy skyline belongs ot Shanghai.) One of the main contributors to China's emissions, factories, are vital to the nation's growth and one of the reasons the country did not sign the Kyoto Protocol.

Photograph by Nigel Swinn, My Shot
  • On December 11, 1997, delegates from more than 150 countries signed the Kyoto Protocol, an agreement to lower the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. The Kyoto Protocol states that industrialized nations will reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to below what they were in 1990.
    The Kyoto Protocol was the first major international effort to slow global climate change. Since 1997, 191 countries have backed the agreement, though the United States has not. Nations in the developing world are not bound by targets in the Kyoto Protocol. Some of these nations, such as China and Brazil, support industrial economies. Some developed nations, including the U.S., Canada, and Russia, have not agreed to emissions targets.
    Perhaps because of its lack of worldwide support, the Kyoto Protocol has been limited in its success: greenhouse gas output has increased since 1997, not decreased. Despite not meeting its goals, Kyoto has been significant as a symbol. It was the first step in the process to combat global warming.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    atmosphere (atm) Noun

    (atm) unit of measurement equal to air pressure at sea level, about 14.7 pounds per square inch. Also called standard atmospheric pressure.

    climate change Noun

    gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Earth's Changing Climate
    delegate Noun

    representative in government or a person who represents someone else.

    developing world Noun

    nations with low per-capita income, little infrastructure, and a small middle class.

    emission Noun

    discharge or release.

    global warming Noun

    increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.

    Encyclopedic Entry: The Greenhouse Effect and our Planet
    greenhouse gas Noun

    gas in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and ozone, that absorbs solar heat reflected by the surface of the Earth, warming the atmosphere.

    industrialize Verb

    to develop large-scale factories and plants (industry).

    Kyoto Protocol Noun

    (1997) international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

    significant Adjective

    important or impressive.

    symbol Noun

    something used to represent something else.