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The Ecologist

VOLUM E 2 9 N o 2 MARCH/APRI L 199 9

Specia l Issu e o n Climat e Chang e

Contents 55 Declaratio n


59 Gaia' s Feve r

Jose Lutzenberger

60 We'r e Changin g ou r Climate !

Wh o Ca n Doub t It ? Simon Retallack and Peter Bunyard

64 I s E l Nin o No w a Man-mad e

Phenomenon ? Alain-Claude Galtie

68 Ho w Climat e Chang e Coul d

Spira l Ou t o f Contro l Peter Bunyard

75 Misreadin g th e Models : Th e

Dange r o f Underestimatin g Climat e Chang e The Editors

76 Th e Threa t o f Risin g Seas

Grover Foley

79 Ho w Globa l Warmin g Coul d

Cause Norther n Europ e t o Freeze Peter Bunyard

81 Eradicatin g th e Amazo n

Rainforest s Wil l Wrea k Havo c o n Climat e Peter Bunyard

85 Ho w Ozon e Depletio n Increases

Globa l Warmin g Peter Bunyard








A Hungrie r Worl d Peter Bunyard

Huma n Healt h o n th e Lin e Paul Kingsnorth

Th e Loomin g Refugee Crisi s Grover Foley

Th e Economi c Cost s o f Climat e Chang e Edward Goldsmith and Caspar Henderson

Wildlif e i n Dange r Simon Retallack







Th e Internationa l Politic s o f Climat e Chang e Charlie Kronick

Th e Worl d Bank : Fundin g Climat e Chaos Daphne Wysham

Ho w U S Politic s i s Lettin g th e Worl d Dow n Simon Retallack

Corporat e Hijackin g o f th e Greenhouse Debat e Sharon Beder

A n Intervie w Wit h th e Globa l Climat e Coalitio n Simon Retallack

The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 2, March/April 1999 Editorial


4.WHAT SHOULD BE DONE? Fossi l Crunch : Th e Arithmeti c o f Climat e Protectio n Matthew Spencer

129 Makin g Progress Toward s

a Fossil-fre e Energ y Futur e Stewart Boyle

133 Sola r PV : Talisma n fo r

Hop e i n th e Greenhouse Jeremy Leggett

135 Nuclea r Powe r an d

Climat e Chang e Charlie Kronick

138 A Polic y Imperative :

Save an d Plan t Trees Tony Juniper and Sarak Tyack

141 Contractio n an d

Convergenc e John Broad

143 Th e Cras h Programme :

A Solution-multiplie r Edward Goldsmith

147 Lists of events related to climate

change in 1999 148 Hammer-bashing Society: A Parable

for our Times Edward Goldsmith

150 Letters

THI S SPECIA L ISSU E O F The Ecologist is DEVOTE D entirely to climate change - probably the most serious problem we face today As the first part of the magazine shows, i f nothing is done, climatic destabilisation could actually be far worse than predicted, especially i f hith­ erto neglected positive feedbacks come into play and i f the world's tropical rainforests continue to be destroyed. We show, too, that the prospects for life in such a destabilised climate are likely to be dire, as agriculture, human health and whole economies are gravely affect­ ed and as millions of people are driven from their homes. Yet, as the third section of the magazine illustrates, our governments have done virtually nothing to prevent the worst from happening and, all too often, have seemed to collude with vested corporate interests intent on sabotaging meaningful change. We cannot afford to accept such behaviour, and, as the final section of this special issue shows, we do not have to, as there is still a great deal that can be done to avoid the worst.

We are aware that some of the findings we present and scenarios we outline are controversial and are not found in most climate mod­ els. But that is largely because many climatologists are not willing to endorse views - even when obvious to most sensible people - for which they have not obtained what they regard as 'scientific evi­ dence' or 'scientific certainty.' However, no laboratory experiments can provide such evidence or certainty, as it is impossible to repro­ duce in laboratory conditions all the complex inter-relationships over time between our industrial activities, marine and terrestrial life and the atmospheric environment. Nor can such evidence or certainty be provided by mathematical models, as there is no methodology for assuring that they take into account all the relevant variables, let alone all the possible inter-relationships between them. All that climatolo­ gists and indeed scientists in general can establish, and fortunately many admit this, is that a particular thesis is probably true. That is all that we claim to establish in this special issue of The Ecologist, and, indeed, all that needs to be established i f scientific method is to be reconciled with the all-important precautionary principle.

The stakes are far too high for us to take the luxury of time to ponder on whether more radical action is scientifically justified. It took our scientific establishment until 1995 to accept that "there is a discernible human influence on global climate," - almost a century after we were first told by the Swedish chemist and Nobel Laureate, Svante Arrhenius, that the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, as a result of industrialisation, would give rise to global warming. The long delay before scientific certainty could be estab­ lished has meant that it is now too late to avoid some serious climat­ ic dislocation. I f we wait any longer for conclusive evidence to corroborate what we know to be likely, it will be too late to avoid the very real possibility of catastrophic, runaway climate change that - in the century to come - could make much of our planet effectively unin­ habitable.

It is to alert people to the need to avert such an outcome that we are launching this special issue of The Ecologist, together with the accompanying declaration calling upon governments to take immedi­ ate, preventive action. We have certainly been encouraged by the widespread support the declaration has already won, and hope that this will mark the beginning of a successful campaign for change.

The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 2, March/April 1999