Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our Planet

Posted on December 6, 2009  Comments (7)

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park photo by John Hunterphoto by John Hunter at Glacier National Park.

Tomorrow 56 newspapers, in 45 countries, are taking the unprecedented step of publishing the same editorial. The editorial will appear in 20 languages, as the United Nations Climate Change Conference is set to begin in Copenhagen.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted.

Climate change has been caused over centuries, has consequences that will endure for all time and our prospects of taming it will be determined in the next 14 days. We call on the representatives of the 192 countries gathered in Copenhagen not to hesitate, not to fall into dispute, not to blame each other but to seize opportunity from the greatest modern failure of politics. This should not be a fight between the rich world and the poor world, or between east and west. Climate change affects everyone, and must be solved by everyone.

The science is complex but the facts are clear. The world needs to take steps to limit temperature rises to 2C, an aim that will require global emissions to peak and begin falling within the next 5-10 years.

Few believe that Copenhagen can any longer produce a fully polished treaty; real progress towards one could only begin with the arrival of President Obama in the White House and the reversal of years of US obstructionism. Even now the world finds itself at the mercy of American domestic politics, for the president cannot fully commit to the action required until the US Congress has done so.

the rich world is responsible for most of the accumulated carbon in the atmosphere – three-quarters of all carbon dioxide emitted since 1850. It must now take a lead, and every developed country must commit to deep cuts which will reduce their emissions within a decade to very substantially less than their 1990 level.

The transformation will be costly, but many times less than the bill for bailing out global finance — and far less costly than the consequences of doing nothing.

Many of us, particularly in the developed world, will have to change our lifestyles. The era of flights that cost less than the taxi ride to the airport is drawing to a close. We will have to shop, eat and travel more intelligently. We will have to pay more for our energy, and use less of it.

Kicking our carbon habit within a few short decades will require a feat of engineering and innovation to match anything in our history. But whereas putting a man on the moon or splitting the atom were born of conflict and competition, the coming carbon race must be driven by a collaborative effort to achieve collective salvation.

The politicians in Copenhagen have the power to shape history’s judgment on this generation: one that saw a challenge and rose to it, or one so stupid that we saw calamity coming but did nothing to avert it. We implore them to make the right choice.

Most of the newspapers have taken the unusual step of featuring the editorial on their front page. Even with the overwhelming evidence and tremendous consequences I don’t expect politicians to make the right decisions. We know full well what the choices are. We just decide to avoid the unpleasant choices. To bad so many that don’t get to choose are going to suffer. The politicians will be weak. They will play to those that pay them money. They will delay taking important steps now. We have chosen to elect non-leaders for quite some time. We can’t really expect them to act with courage, vision, wisdom and leadership given who we elect. The politicians are responsible for their failing but we are more responsible for electing them. Some politicians, even now, do possess fine qualities but not nearly enough. Maybe I will be proven wrong, but I doubt it.

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7 Responses to “Unless We Take Decisive Action, Climate Change Will Ravage Our Planet”

  1. John
    December 13th, 2009 @ 6:09 pm

    I don’t expect politicians to do anything positive, either. Sadly everything is about the bottom line.
    Personally i doubt humans are having the reported impact on the planet, the planet has its natural changes and sometimes they may not be good for humans. I don’t doubt that we have some impact and we should make efforts to live more in balance with nature, so on the whole i am behind the climate change movement.

  2. Anonymous
    December 13th, 2009 @ 7:23 pm

    In my opinion developing countries should be counseled by developed countries> it is easy for the developed countries to imply steps which will slow global warming down, like use of proper fuel usage. On the other hand developing countries lack literacy and awareness so it is difficult for them to follow such steps. Also UN should take the initiative and lead countries to cut down the emission of gases which are harming our Atmosphere.

  3. Joseph Condron
    December 16th, 2009 @ 4:46 pm

    One sometimes forgets that it can be very difficult for politicians also.

    There is a culture of denial about global warming and it is still an abstract idea to a lot of people. When the sea levels start to rise and the ice caps melt rapidly, people will begin to take notice. Already in Ireland we have had unprecedented flooding in the West and many people have been forced to leave their homes as a result. When we see the damage, and absorb the bigger picture, constructive action will commence.

    However, you can’t blame the politicians from developing nations, their biggest priority is their people. India, alone, has 400 million people living below the poverty line. (That is a number far bigger than the population of North America.) Their first priority is to provide a decent standard of living to this group.

    To place all the burden on politicians is harsh. They are pressed by vested interests and the career of a politician can be very ephemeral if they make a wrong move. It is a difficult problem. Having said that, we all know of politicians that have no business putting themselves forward to be leaders. However, not all of them can be put in the same category.

    Hopefully, they will find a working solution.

  4. joanne delaine
    December 17th, 2009 @ 9:22 am

    To minimize global warming should be start at home. the government should provide a training how to minimize using a thing that cause global warming. Also the government should add a subject in elementary or high school also in college a subject that teaches the student how to minimize or to prevent of global warming.

  5. Jason
    December 18th, 2009 @ 11:12 am

    I agree with you Joanne, there should definitely be some sort of education beyond volunteer recycling programs that our young people can get involved in. The closest that my school came to that 10 years ago was Agriculture class, and that really wasn’t about saving the environment, but more just general farming.

  6. Finding Huge Sources of Energy Without Increasing Carbon Dioxide » Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog
    March 7th, 2011 @ 4:33 pm

    Bill Gates talking about energy, and climate change, at TED. He is looking at a new type of nuclear reactor using as fuel, what is now nuclear waste.

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