From GLOBAL to LOCAL
A n evenin g of inspirationa l debat e
wit h the BBC's Joh n Humphry s
Ma y 26t h 1999 , 7.00-10.00p m The Royal Geographical Society 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR
Davi d Korte n
Author of When Corporations Rule the World'
Helen a Norberg-Hodg e
Vandan a Shiv a
Physicist & Author
with an opening Address by Pete r Matthiesse n "America's greatest living writer"
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WORLDWATCH PAPERS No. 129 Anne Piatt INFECTING OURSELVES: How Environ mental and Social Disruptions Trigger Dis ease. 79pp,
No. 131 Gary Gardner SHRINKING FIELDS: Cropland Loss i n a World of Eight Billion. 55pp,
No. 132 Sandra Postel DIVIDING THE WATERS: Food Security, Ecosystem Health, and the New Politics of Scarcity. 76pp,
No. 133 David Malin Roodman PAYING THE PIPER: Subsidies, Politics, and the Environment. 80pp,
No. 134 David Malin Roodman GETTING THE SIGNALS RIGHT: Tax Reform to Protect the Environment and the Economy. 66pp,
No. 135 Gary Gardner RECYCLING ORGANIC WASTE: From Urban Pollutant to Farm Resource. 59pp.
No. 136 Lester R Brown THE AGRICULTURAL LINK : How Environmental Deterioration Could Disrupt Economic Progress. 73pp,
No.137 Michael Renner SMALL ARMS, BIG IMPACT: The Next Challenge of Disarmament. 77pp.
No. 138 Christopher Flavin and Seth Dunn RISING SUN, GATHERING WINDS: Policies to Stabilize the Climate and Strengthen Economies. 84pp.
No. 139 Hilary' F. French INVESTING I N THE FUTURE: Harnessing Private Capital Flows for Environmentally Sustainable Development. 68pp.
No. 140 Janet N. Abramovitz TAKING A STAND: Cultivating a New Rela tionship with the World's Forests. 84pp.
No. 141 John Tuxill LOSING STRANDS I N THE WEB OF LIFE : Vertebrate Declines and the Conservation of Biological Diversity. 88pp.
No. 142 Anne Piatt McGinn ROCKING THE BOAT: Conserving Fisheries and Protecting Jobs. 92pp..
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The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 2. March/April 1999 The Ecologist's Declaration on Climate Change
W • f E, THE UNDERSIGNED, CALL UPON THE
world's political and corporate leaders to take immediate action to prevent seriously dis ruptive climate change. Evidence of human impact upon the Earth's climate is now irrefutable. We have emitted enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to commit the climate to change. I f we carry on as we are, we can expect a rapidly worsening situation that - because of the long life of emissions in the atmosphere - wil l continue for centuries to come. Within a global trend of rising temperatures that could reach levels in the next century that our species has never previously experienced, our climate wil l become more and more unstable, marked by extreme and unseasonal weather. Such climatic destabilisation will have dire consequences for every part of the world, every sector of society and every aspect of our lives. Our health and food supplies will be affected dramatically by increased droughts, heat waves and the spread of disease-bearing insects and pests in response to rising temperatures. Agricultural land and our towns and cities will also suffer substantial damage from rising sea-levels, and increased flooding and violent storms, with huge costs for industry and ordinary people as their homes and livelihoods are destroyed. The scien tists of the UN's Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change predict that millions of people worldwide will die and millions of others will become environmental refugees as a result. The effects of climate change are being felt even now. Global temperatures are rising at a rate faster than for 10,000 years, with the 12 hottest years in recorded history occurring since 1980. There has also been a sharp rise in extreme weather events, with a sig nificant increase in the last 20 years in the frequency and intensity of hurricanes, tornadoes, large floods and heat waves that have left a trail of devastation to infrastructure and agriculture in their wake.
trees, causing billions of acres of South American rain forest to turn into desert before 2050, the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre predicts. I f this and other positive feedbacks occur - and they could well do so within the next few decades - we could find ourselves in a situation of catastrophic, runaway climatic destabilisation.
• • •
Yet the political and corporate response to this problem has been grossly inadequate. To stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations at non-catastrophic levels, the UN's Inter governmental Panel on Climate Change stated in 1990 that greenhouse gas emissions from human sources would have to be reduced immediately by at least 60 per cent below 1990 levels. At Kyoto, however, developed countries agreed to a cut of just 5.2 per cent, to be achieved between 2008 and 2012. Worse, the US Con gress has refused to ratify the US' Kyoto commitment. Even i f the Kyoto targets were met, given that develop ing countries are under no obligation to prevent their emissions from continuing to increase, global emissions would rise to 30 per cent above 1990 levels by 2010.
The extent of climatic destabilisation is likely to be even more severe than previously thought i f greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unchecked. As warming increases, vital natural processes upon which we depend to absorb or contain three-quarters of our greenhouse gas emissions - such as the carbon dioxide-absorbing func tion of the world's forests and oceans - would weaken and even cease to operate. Instead of being net 'sinks', they will become net sources of greenhouse gases.
Hence, i f emissions continue to rise unchecked, we risk releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmos phere as rising temperatures trigger a huge die-back of
We deplore the lack of serious political action to address this issue and we deplore attempts by many large corporations to block meaningful change. For short-term gain, they seem willing to jeopardise the welfare, indeed survival, of a large part of humanity.
• • •
I f catastrophic climate change is to be avoided, we call upon our governments to take the following action with out delay:
• Accept the goal of reducing carbon dioxide concentra-
The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 2, March/April 1999