Gathering momentum

2007-12-10 00:00

The subject of global warming and climate change is beginning to permeate human consciousness and to become a significant focus of attention in the media. In one edition of this newspaper last week it was presented in a number of different guises, ranging from scepticism on the part of a weather correspondent to alarm about the traumatising effects for young children of some of the more extreme forms of discourse on the subject.

An international conference on climate change, sponsored by the United Nations (UN), has been meeting in Bali. Some are cynical about the apparently endless cycle of summits which, apart from inconclusive debates, entail air travel that increases carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Yet this conference is a sign of a more pro-active stance by many governments and Australia’s decision, under a newly elected Labour administration, to sign the Kyoto Protocol is an indication of this. Indeed, as recalcitrant political leaders, such as Australia’s John Howard and the United States’s George W. Bush, leave the stage, a more positive engagement with global warming and its consequences is likely.

The urgency of the need for change has been underscored by a group of more than 200 climate scientists who have petitioned the Bali conference for immediate and dramatic action. The reduction of greenhouse gases has to start right now, they urge, and emissions have to be halved by 2050. In their view, the planet is fast approaching a global warming threshold beyond which climate change will be severely damaging with rising seas, droughts and extreme weather in various forms.

A similar call came from 150 and more global business leaders, but a disturbing feature is the number of groups with vested interests that are now involved. The “green movement” has become a veritable industry in itself and manufacturers are sometimes making false or conveniently vague claims on their products to be environmentally friendly. What is needed is a careful sifting of truth from falsehood, of authenticity from spuriousness, in an arena where climbing on to a perceived bandwagon can be tempting with profits to be made.

Whatever the truth may ultimately be about the causes and effects of global warming, all should acknowledge that to eliminate human-created pollution of the environment can only be good not only for the earth’s human inhabitants but for the entire created order.

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