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Exactly what the world does not need: a showdown between the Earth's long-time polluters and its up-and-coming polluters.

Just as the consensus is growing worldwide that global warming exists, that it is largely caused by humans emitting CO2 into the atmosphere and that dire consequences are only avoidable with immediate action, developed and developing countries have begun serious head-butting over who must act first.

The planet, its inhabitants and their way of life can't survive this irresponsible game of "chicken." And why are we not surprised that our very own George W. Bush is behind the deadlock at the G-8 summit?

Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have in turn denied the existence of global warming, covered up or slashed scientific reports and the testimony of climatologists about what its effects are likely to be, and tried a variety of tactics to delay taking any action that might hurt their Big Oil buddies they call "the economy."

The latest example: A former Environmental Protection Agency official has said Cheney's office succeeded in deleting several pages of testimony on the health consequences of climate change. Cheney feared the testimony of the head of the Centers for Disease Control might make it harder for the administration to avoid regulating CO2.

The Group of Eight leading industrial nations - the United States, Japan, Russia, Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Italy - the countries responsible for bringing the world to the brink of climate-change catastrophe, have endorsed a milquetoast goal of cutting world emissions of greenhouse gases in half by 2050, but set no short-term goals that would require immediate action. They want developing nations, including China and India, to act now.

Developing countries say the Big 8 should take the lead by reducing their emissions by up to 45 percent by 2012, compared with 1990 levels, and by up to 95 percent by 2050, and should also help them meet emission-reduction goals.

Both groups are right. The world's wealthy nations must lead the charge against global warming, but their efforts would be undercut if emerging powers such as China continue to build hundreds of coal-fired power plants and do not regulate and reduce carbon emissions as they expand their economies.

If the world community does not unite against climate change, every nation on Earth will feel the pain of rising seas, severe weather patterns, drought, hunger, fire and floods. We simply can't wait to see who blinks first.