At their meeting this week near Edinburgh, Scotland, leaders of the Group of 8 industrial nations — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the U.S. — focused on two themes: coping with climate change and relieving the devastating poverty afflicting the continent of Africa.

This choice suggests the two issues have become so urgent that even Washington and other centers of corporate world domination ignore them at their peril. But the likelihood of programs emerging from the summit actually relieving poverty or global warming is about as great as the prospect of foxes creating conditions for long, healthy life in the chicken house.

Consider that the greatest source of carbon dioxide emissions is the U.S. The Bush administration has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, rejecting even its modest and gradual approach to countering global warming. On the eve of the summit, Bush warned again that the U.S. would not accept significant emissions controls.

Consider that the U.S. has been the main backer of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other international banking institutions that have dragged much of the world into their web of unrepayable loans and unmanageable interest rates, destroying the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people and setting off a global migration of the poor and desperate.

Significant progress has been made on debt, under worldwide pressure from debt-ridden countries and debt cancellation advocates. But conditions for debt relief still feature IMF and World Bank demands for privatization of government services, “free” trade that destroys local farming and manufacturing, and spending restrictions.

That the issues taking center stage in Edinburgh have great resonance with ordinary people around the world is shown by the 200,000-plus demonstrators who gathered in that city July 2 to demand policies and programs dealing with the fundamental causes of poverty and climate change, and the audience of nearly a million for the 10 “Live 8” concerts staged around the world the same day.

We in the U.S. have an enormous responsibility to our fellow residents of Planet Earth. Let us work for a world free of the chains of debt and the quagmire of environmental degradation.