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World ‘must act to avoid devastating global warming’

Peter Walker and agencies, Guardian
Devastating global warming can be avoided without excessive economic cost but the world must begin acting immediately, a major UN conference on climate change concluded early today.

The report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative organisation looking at the issue, was hailed by environmentalists as a “road map” for avoiding disaster.

The technology already exists for countries to tackle the issue through the greater use of biofuels and renewable energy sources, and improving overall energy efficiency, the week-long gathering in Bangkok concluded. But only immediate action can cap the average global temperature increase at around 2C, they said.
(4 May 2007)

Climate Panel Reaches Consensus on the Need to Reduce Harmful Emissions

Andrew C. Revkin, NY Times
The world needs to divert substantially from today’s main energy sources within a few decades to limit centuries of rising temperatures and seas driven by the buildup of heat-trapping emissions in the air, the top body studying climate change has concluded.

In an all-night session capping four days of talks in Bangkok, economists, scientists and government officials from more than 100 countries agreed early today on the last sections of a report outlining ways to limit such emissions, led by carbon dioxide, an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal and oil.

The final report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said prompt slowing of emissions could set the stage later in the century for stabilization of the concentration of carbon dioxide, which, at 380 parts per million now, has risen more than a third since the start of the industrial revolution and could easily double from the preindustrial level within decades.

The report, which awaits only formal adoption this afternoon, concluded that significant progress toward that goal could be made in the next 25 years with known technologies and policy shifts, but would still need to be followed by a century-long transition to new energy sources that come with no climate impacts.
(3 May 2007)

This Fatal Complacency:
Climate Change is Already Destroying Millions of Lives in the Poor World. But It Will Not Stop There

Desmond Tutu, Guardian
What if dealing with climate change meant more than a flick of a switch? Would our friends in the industrialized world think differently if the effects of climate change were worse than extended summer months and the arrival of exotic species? Cushioned and cosseted, they have had the luxury of closing their minds to the real impact of what is happening in the fragile and precious atmosphere that surrounds the planet we live on. Where climate change has occurred in the industrialized world, the effects have so far been relatively benign. With the exception of events such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the inhabitants of North America and Europe have felt just a gentle caress from the winds of change.

I wonder how much more anxious they might be if they depended on the cycle of mother nature to feed their families. How much greater would their concerns be if they lived in slums and townships, in mud houses, or shelters made of plastic bags? In large parts of sub-Saharan Africa, this is a reality. The poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh edge of climate change every day of their lives.

The melting of the snows on the peak of Kilimanjaro is a warning of the changes taking place in Africa. Across this beautiful but vulnerable continent, people are already feeling the change in the weather. But rain or drought, the result is the same: more hunger and more misery for millions of people living on the margins of global society. Even in places such as Darfur, climate change has played a role. In the semi-arid zones of the world, there is fierce competition for access to grazing lands and watering holes. Where water is scarce and populations are growing, conflict will never be far behind.
(5 May 2007)
Also at Common Dreams.

Paradox of China’s emissions

Roger Harrabin, BBC
Down a zig-zag alleyway at Red Temple Village in central China, a rotting wooden gate with snapped hinges leads to the courtyard of Zhu Gui Li.

Mr Zhu, who is 80, shares his crumbling home with his bed-ridden wife.

Almost everything here needs mending. Zhu’s clothes are torn. The handle of his ancient handpump drops off as he draws up water. A worn wooden stool tilts at a crazy angle. The earthen floor of the house undulates from decades of wear. The earthen render of the walls is falling off.

When we arrive, Mr Zhu is cooking dinner for his wife on a fire in the ramshackle woodshed.

It is fuelled by dried sweet corn cobs – not fossil fuels. The home has just two light bulbs and an old TV powered by China’s subsidised electricity.

Mr Zhu’s life produces hardly any greenhouse gases. If everyone on the planet lived like him, it would not be a lot of fun but we would not be talking about climate change.

Mr Zhu’s life puts into perspective the fashion of blaming China for global heating – because there are hundreds of millions like him in this staggeringly vast nation.
(3 May 2007)
The report emphasizes the lack of consumer goods. However, happiness is also determined by factors other than commodities: family, community, control over one’s fate, freedom from pollution. Fixating on consumer goods makes it very difficult to solve the emissions problem. -BA