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A Letter From Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben, Step It Up
This is an invitation to help start a movement–to take one spring day and use it to reshape the future. Those of us who know that climate change is the greatest threat civilization now faces have science on our side; we have economists and policy specialists, courageous mayors and governors, engineers with cool new technology.

But we don’t have a movement-the largest rally yet held in the U.S. about global warming drew a thousand people. If we’re going to make the kind of change we need in the short time left us, we need something that looks like the civil rights movement, and we need it now. Changing light bulbs just isn’t enough.

So pitch in. A few of us are trying to organize a nationwide day of hundreds and hundreds of rallies on April 14. We hope to have gatherings in every state, and in many of America’s most iconic places: on the levees in New Orleans, on top of the melting glaciers on Mt. Rainier, even underwater on the endangered coral reefs off Key West.

We need rallies outside churches, along the tide lines in our coastal cities, in cornfields and forests and on statehouse steps.

Every group will be saying the same thing: Step it up, Congress! Enact immediate cuts in carbon emissions, and pledge an 80% reduction by 2050. No half measures, no easy compromises-the time has come to take the real actions that can stabilize our climate.
(Jan 2007)
Contributor Liz Bryant writes: Though StepItUp2007’s website has been up less than three weeks and the national media launch is still pending, already more than 400 local events have been pledged. This day of climate action will be the first major event of national scope aimed at protecting the climate.

US answer to global warming: smoke and giant space mirrors

David Adam, Guardian
The US government wants the world’s scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming, the Guardian has learned. It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be “important insurance” against rising emissions, and has lobbied for such a strategy to be recommended by a major UN report on climate change, the first part of which will be published on Friday.

The US has also attempted to steer the UN report, prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), away from conclusions that would support a new worldwide climate treaty based on binding targets to reduce emissions – as sought by Tony Blair. It has demanded a draft of the report be changed to emphasise the benefits of voluntary agreements and to include criticisms of the Kyoto Protocol, the existing treaty which the US administration opposes.
(26 Jan 2007)

We’re ruining Earth, scientists warn

Jo Chandler, The Age (Australia)
DROUGHTS will be longer, flooding rains will be rarer but heavier. Cyclones will hit harder. Violent storms and extreme heatwaves will strike more frequently. Evaporation will suck up scarce inland water. Sea levels will creep up half a metre. Oceans will be so acidic that in some places shells and reefs will dissolve.

And humanity, not nature, will be to blame.

This is the assessment of the state of the planet according to what is possibly the most reviewed document in history.

Containing contributions from 2500 scientists, citing 6000 reports and reviewed by 750 experts operating under a United Nations banner, the first part of the report will be released on Friday after line-by-line consensus is reached on its conclusions.

The most important paragraph in the 1200-page report is the strength of the scientific statement on the question that has most inflamed climate change sceptics – what is driving global warming – according to internationally recognised climate expert Dr Graeme Pearman, a former CSIRO chief of atmospheric research.

“It makes a much stronger statement about unequivocal evidence of air and ocean temperature rises, of the melting of snow and ice and the raising of sea levels, and that the effect is from human activities,” he said. The report says the human influence on climate is at least five times that of any natural variation of the sun.
(27 Jan 2007)

UN’s vast report will end the scientific argument. Now will the world act?

David Adam, Guardian
For the hundreds of scientists arriving in Paris this weekend, next week will mark the end of a tortuous three-year process to put everything they know about climate change down on paper. But for the politicians who must read the results, the tortuous process is only beginning. If 2006 was the year the world accepted climate change as a serious problem, then 2007 is the year that its leaders must do something about it.

Friday sees the release of a vast report on the science of global warming written by the experts of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report will contain few surprises – by definition it is based on research already published – but it will add to growing calls for action to tackle the problem.

Such a boost would come at a critical time. Negotiations on a new international agreement to significantly curb greenhouse emissions are currently stalled, but they must make progress this year for any new treaty to come into force by 2012, when the first phase of the existing Kyoto protocol expires. Analysts say any delay could be a disaster for emerging carbon markets, the preferred solution to bring down the bulk of emissions.
(27 Jan 2007)

WTO: Elite ponder threats to globalization

D Ravi Kanth, IPS via Asia Times
DAVOS, Switzerland – The high-profile Davos meeting of the international political, business, economic and academic elite began on Wednesday on the somber note that globalization is facing major threats due to worsening climate change, growing income disparities, escalating barriers to the movement of people, and global political and economic instability.

“We are living in a schizophrenic world,” Klaus Schwab, founder and chief executive of the World Economic Forum, said at a press conference, arguing that “there are so many underlying imbalances, fragilities, and inconsistencies” that need to be addressed on a war footing if the world is to be made a safe place.

He said there are 23 risks that are posing a major challenge to globalization, especially climate change and the stalemate in global trade negotiations. The situation in the Middle East is another major problem that needs to be addressed on a firm footing, he suggested, indicating that Davos is the best platform that can set the stage for arriving at appropriate answers on these global risks.

The central theme of this year’s meeting is “shifting power equations”, which aims to grapple with ongoing changes in the world.

The Davos meeting, which is strongly identified with the super-rich, who have made huge gains from globalization since 1991, has attracted almost 2,400 participants this year. The list of participants reads like an international who’s who in global business and politics.

…Climate change tops the list of issues at this year’s meeting, with Schwab calling for concerted action at various levels, but there is no consensus among the world’s corporate bosses on how to address this issue.

The consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers released a study on Tuesday indicating that 31% of chief executives are “not at all concerned” about global warming and climate change, while 28% are “not very concerned”. The study suggested that only 14% are “extremely concerned” about climate change, while 26% are “somewhat concerned”.

If this is what companies think about climate change, it is not clear what impact the Davos meeting can make on this issue, said an Asian business representative, arguing that the focus on climate change is constantly shifting to emerging economies, particularly China and India.
(26 Jan 2007)
Contributor Steven Lesh writes: “For Mindy Lubber (and the rest of us), there is a danger in seeing what you want to see instead of what is there. There is an obvious conflict between what Mindy reports from Davos and the substance of this article. Draw your own conclusions.”