03 November 2007

Life in a parallel universe

Climate change is an ongoing reality, but many of our leaders would appear to be living in some alternate reality of their own devising. This is certainly true here in Australia -- the current government imagines that we are leaders on climate change and the deputy prime minister doubts the reality of climate change.

But this failure to grasp reality isn't limited to Australia, it is a worldwide phenomenon -- a natural trait of our species. The government of the US is still censoring climate reports, apparently just hoping the problem will magically go away if it is not discussed. Many of the major polluting nations of the world (e.g. India, China, USA) refuse to abide by any mandatory greenhouse gas emissions reductions (as do many who aren't major polluters). Instead, China is building high emission coal-fired power plants as quickly as they can, in large part in response to service the demand from developed nations for cheap consumer goods. Many rich nations are simply exporting their carbon demand to poorer nations like China, and then rationalizing their inaction because China and India are not included in Kyoto.

These actions are a sign of a deep disconnect with reality. It is time for the nations of the world to grow up. Reducing GHG emissions is the only way to limit the extremely high costs of climate change in the future. As a whole, the EU is managing to meet its Kyoto obligations (but not every individual country within the EU...) while maintaining its economy and an exceptional standard of living. It can be done. The nations of the world must act decisively and cooperatively to overcome the grave threats of climate change. Fatalism is not an option.

Make no mistake, the rate of CO2 emissions is accelerating. The effects of this are also becoming more apparent and widespread. It is time for out leaders to stop the denial and make a full acknowledgment of the reality we have created. The knowledge is out there. We may not know the exact path global warming will take, but it is unlikely to be pleasant. The future of our civilization is potentially at stake. Sensible cooperative action is our only choice.

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