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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Climate change update: November 2006

Kofi Annan is trying to go out with a bang.

Consider these strong statements from the UN Secretary-General`s "Address to the UN Climate Change Conference," Nairobi, Kenya, 15 November 2006:
Climate change is not just an environmental issue, as too many people still believe. It is an all-encompassing threat.

...Global climate change must take its place alongside those threats -- conflict, poverty, the proliferation of deadly weapons -- that have traditionally monopolized first-order political attention.
In the speech, Annan mentions the threats posed by climate c hange to human health, food and water supplies, coastal cities, and vital ecosystems. He added:
Climate change is also a threat to peace and security. Changing patterns of rainfall, for example, can heighten competition for resources, setting in motion potentially destabilizing tensions and migrations, especially in fragile states or volatile regions. There is evidence that some of this is already occurring; more could well be in the offing.
Framing environmental issues in terms of security threats may or may not be desirable, but many policy actors like Annan clearly believe it helps. Consider the repeated comparison to climate change risks and terrorism offered by various European and Canadian environmental ministers.

Finally, Annan had some strong words for the skeptics:
This is not science fiction. These are plausible scenarios, based on clear and rigorous scientific modelling. A few diehard sceptics continue to deny global warming¡± is taking place and trying to sow doubt. They should be seen for what they are: out of step, out of arguments and out of time. In fact, the scientific consensus is becoming not only more complete, but also more alarming. Many scientists long known for their caution are now saying that global warming trends are perilously close to a point of no return...

So let there be no more denial. Let no-one say we cannot afford to act. It is increasingly clear that it will cost far less to cut emissions now than to deal with the consequences later. And let there be no more talk of waiting until we know more. We know already that an economy based on high emissions is an uncontrolled experiment on the global climate.
Annan points out that voters could pressure political candidates to stake out positions and act upon this issue.

Despite some reasons for optimism about the US, I don't recall many politicians talking about this in the midterm election.

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