Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Global action on climate change (minus America)

The UN-led summit that concluded yesterday evening was the largest of its kind. Roughly 150 countries had delegations present and tens of heads of state were in attendance. Not surprisingly, the United States sat this and other major international climate change meetings out.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged action, stating that the there is now a consensus in the scientific community on global warming, and real action is needed. Britain's environment minister, Hilary Benn, gave a particularly inspirational statement on the matter (h/t FP Passport):

Nobody is really arguing about the science. Everybody acknowledges the cost of doing something is a lot less than the cost of doing nothing. Everybody acknowledges that each of us has a part to play.
This [global warming] is not just an environmental problem. It's an economic, it's a political, it's a migration problem. What are we going to do as a world, I would say, when people start fighting not over politics, but water? What are we going to do when refugees turn up on the shores of your country fleeing not political persecution, but environmental catastrophe? Economically, what are you going to do when the markets that maybe your constituents earn their living making goods to sell into are no longer there because they're too busy swimming for their lives because sea levels have risen? In other words, whichever way you look at it—because, the evidence is clear, in the end it's going to have impacts on all of us in lots of different ways. Now, that makes for a very strong moral and a practical case for doing something about it. And again, it's going to affect all of us wherever we happen to live.

While one should stay clear of hype and sensationalism, especially in a political or unscientific forum, it is important to educate yourself on the truly global issue of global warming. It's something we do have a direct affect on; no amount of money can undo the current and potential environmental damage humans impose upon their planet. I love my six-hour plane rides and stakes off the grill as much as anyone else, but should my luxury cost — whether now or in the future — the well-being of others? Do I have a right as a relatively rich (on global standards) American and human being to contribute to the destruction of my planet and the lives of others? (The same argument can be applied against smoking in public places, with public health substituted for environment.)

I know some people do not share my view that money and wealth are nothing compared to nature and the health of our environment — something you cannot put a price tag on. For those thinking more about money than anything else — including other people — just think about how much more money would be lost or have to be spent as a result of lack of action on climate change. $50 lost in preventing it now could save you $5,000 and the lives of a person or two 50 years from now. It's important to keep a clear head and not worry; but that does not mean apathy is the answer. As I've said in earlier posts, moderation is key.

To read more about United Nations action on climate change, see the UNFCCC website.

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