Organisations campaigning on climate change need to learn the lessons of the anti-slavery and anti-apartheid movements, says Ann Pettifor. By focusing on individuals rather than governments, initiatives such as the recent Energy Saving Day are bound to fail in their bid to reduce emissions, she argues.
Could the US civil rights movement be a model for climate campaigners?
Climate change is the issue of the day.
Scientists finally agree on the threat to the planet posed by rising temperatures. Books on the subject proliferate.
Campaigners, like those at Plane Stupid, do amazing things to bring it to public attention.
Big business frets too. The world's giant investment funds join green groups in demanding drastic action.
Paul Hawken, author of Blessed Unrest - How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being, writes that "there are over one - maybe even two - million organisations (worldwide) working toward ecological sustainability and social justice".
And yet... and yet... there is no real climate change movement. There is no organised effort leading society towards a legislative framework that would urgently drive down greenhouse gas emissions across the board, and begin to sequester carbon dioxide.
Not in the UK, or in the US, or internationally. The "movement" that Hawken refers to is, he notes, "atomised" and "largely ignored".
Green organisations... fail to highlight the need for the kind of change that can only be brought about by governmental action
Yet in September 2007, a public opinion survey from Yale University (in conjunction with Gallup) found that "nearly half of Americans now believe that global warming is either already having dangerous impacts on people around the world or will in the next 10 years".
The authors noted that this was "a 20-percentage-point increase since 2004", representing "a sea change in public opinion... and a growing sense of urgency".
If there is a "growing sense of urgency", why isn't there a climate change movement in the US?
Low level lighting
The reason is that green organisations focus on individual ("change your lightbulbs") or community ("recycle, reuse, reduce, localise") action.
They fail to highlight the need for the kind of structural change that can only be brought about by governmental action.
Governments helpfully collude in this atomisation and fragmentation of action and reaction.
Throughout history, social movements have focused on the need for government action.
The anti-slavery movement sought to change laws that permitted slavery.
Campaigns against the Iraq invasion failed - should they have tried harder?
The suffragette movement only ensured votes for women once discriminatory laws had been displaced; the anti-apartheid movement was only successful once apartheid laws had been removed.
In the US, the black civil rights movement campaigned from 1947 until the introduction of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act to end discrimination in certain spheres.
Today, as the UK government's hesitancy in dealing with Northern Rock reveals, governmental action is unpopular and out of fashion.
Not just with big business and neo-liberal economists, but also with anarchists and many green campaigners. Minimal government is now ideologically dominant.
The failure of anti-war demonstrations to halt the Iraq war is often cited as evidence of the failure of governments to respond to such popular pressure.
However, as the civil rights movement demonstrated, a successful campaign does not stop at one defeat. It moves forward inexorably over time, in pursuit of its legislative goal.
The population at large instinctively understands that they alone, or even in community, cannot deal with the threat of climate change.
They are acutely aware that while individuals may take action, others may become "freeriders".
Parliaments fiddle while the planet burns, and individuals are pressured to take responsibility
They know a fair legislative framework is required to share the burden of adjusting to climate change equitably between rich and poor.
Burden-sharing has several dimensions; between those who live in Bangladesh and those who live in Zurich, those who drive 4x4s and those who cycle, those who take foreign holidays and those who do not.
In the UK, Ipsos Mori polled public attitudes to climate change in July 2007.
Seventy percent "strongly agreed" or "tended to agree" that "the government should take the lead in combating climate change, even if it means using the law to change people's behaviour".
Green organisations in the UK support the government's very cautious climate change bill by lobbying for a stronger legal framework - but not much stronger.
The call by UK NGOs for 80% cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 - now accepted by government - lacks ambition, and underestimates the urgency.
Furthermore, the call for action by 2050 is so distant that the government feels under no pressure.
Growing scientific evidence of accelerating greenhouse gas emissions, melting icecaps and the shrinking capacity of "sinks" to absorb emissions means we need bold, urgent action by government to drive down emissions to zero.
Britain's only Christian campaign dedicated exclusively to climate change, Operation Noah, pressures government to take much more radical action - to cut emissions by 90% by 2030, not 2050.
We may not have got it right, but we are trying to pressure government to act urgently, and to mobilise society in the way that Jubilee 2000 mobilised millions of people to cancel third world debt.
In other words, we are pressing for governmental action by a deadline.
To succeed, climate change campaigns first need first to unite - at both national and international levels.
Secondly, they must unite behind a radical goal that requires structural change, regulation and enforcement that will urgently drive down emissions and sequester carbon dioxide.
Thirdly, they need to exercise leadership by mobilising society in a concerted way behind this goal. This will intensify pressure on politicians and governments.
It ain't easy, but it has been done before; witness the Jubilee 2000 global campaign.
As things stand, the movement remains disparate, atomised and marginalised.
This frees politicians to expand airports and increase road capacity.
Parliaments fiddle while the planet burns, and individuals are pressured to take responsibility for global climate change by "switching off at the wall".
And so, inevitably, the Titanic's deck chairs are rearranged - and energy use goes up, rather than down, on Energy Saving Day.
Ann Pettifor is executive director of Advocacy International and campaigns adviser to Operation Noah
The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website
Do you agree with Ann Pettifor? Do environmental groups focus too much on individual actions, forgetting the political picture? Do governments encourage this as a way of deflecting attention? Can individual or community actions achieve the kind of society-wide emissions cuts that scientists believe are necessary?
This is utter nonsense. Ms Pettifor clearly has no knowledge of the work done by environmental NGOs to influence Government, and can't have done any research - or she would have quickly found out that all of the gains that have been achieved in the UK on climate have been led by green organisations.
If it weren't for the green movement lobbying and talking to Government and Parliamentarians, there would be no Climate Change Bill, no Draft Marine Bill, no Energy Bil etc etc. I am a lobbyist for a large environment charity. Our work is focused on changing legislation as it is unanimously recognised that it is really only national and international policy that can halt climate chaos.
Now that we have succeeded in getting the environment to the top of the political agenda, our challenge is to make sure that Government takes the right action, now. Ask any Defra Minister and they'll tell you we're getting through - however willing they've been to listen.
James MacColl, Londn, UK
An article in this morning´s newspaper about the state of the Meditteranean Sea: it sums it all up. The Med is turning into one of those ponds you see in parks: devoid of life and full instead of coke cans and plastic bags. You can have your unsustainable lifestyles, your big cars and your foreign holidays, you can lay waste the forests for ethanol, you can be seduced to buy more and more of that which makes you happy. You can overconsume to your heart´s content, but use the Earth´s resources unwisely and you will have to face the results of those choices. Simple and scientific: cause and effect.
We degrade our environment and will have to take the consequences.
A conclusive argument for the existence of man-made climate change - over and above the natural fluctuations exerted by sunspots, volcanic activity and local weather events - is made by looking at those people and organisations who preach climate denial.
Invariably, they are selfish, greedy, boorish, impatient, loud, arrogant, comfortable. Their arguments are founded on their individual rights to continue to live as they do. They wrongly consider that their erroneous facts and dodgy statistics equate to a balancing or counterveiling body of evidence that should be accorded equal respect, air-time and column inches to the established climate change point of view.
They should be less transparent if they want to be taken seriously.
Ultimately, I believe that the best arguement for changing our behaviour is that it is impolite and inconsiderate not to do so. It is like not standing up to give your seat to an old lady on a bus.
Jonny, Buntingford, UK
In general I agree with what was said in the article. Government can, and should, play a pivotal role. When a majority of a nation's people agree on something the politicians should follow, not vice-versa. The argument that there is too much government is a smoke screen. If we want less government lets level the playing field by doing away with the subsidies towards big business, or better yet lets give subsidies to everyone. Government works when it is for the people bu the people and not in the pocket of businesses. Look at history: the Manhattan project was government, the federal highways (in the US), the Civilian Conservation Corps (in the US), getting a person into space/onto the moon,... Government can work. We the people need to spend less time blaming whatever is in vogue (via the media) and spend that time on keeping our elected officials under a microscope.
On another note, one, plus, million "environmental" organizations is a lot. Imagine what would happen if they were to consolidate. Sadly these organizations are categorized, compartmentalized, and weakened because of their lack of organization.
Håkan, Maine, USA
We can huff and puff about lightbulbs and biofuels until we're blue in the face, but the ultimate problem is too many people and too few resources. When the green movement start protesting outside maternity wards rather than airports, I might have some respect for them. I'm demonised and taxed to the hilt for owning a (small) car, yet inflicting decades of future resource demand on the planet is somehow ok and is actively encouraged?! Hardly fair. If resources and consumption levels are the problem, the easiest solution is less people, but nobody has the spine to say it.
Phil, Watford, UK
"Scientists finally agree on the threat to the planet posed by rising temperatures."
I'd love to be able to agree with this statement as it stands but I just can't. The concensus (if there truly is such a thing) seems to be a political one rather than scientific. I suspect we'd all be a lot better off if the politicians got right out of the equation and gave the scientific community a clear voice with which to properly debate all this. Then we might actually learn something.
Dave Ogman, Doncaster
What if the tipping point really was in the 1980's? If our environment changes and economies collapse, don't we deserve it? Perhaps we are the generation that must bear witness to the un-making of our world so that our grandchildren can understand and live more carefully. Biodiversity will recover after a very very long time. It always does. Our world is quite old.
Adrian LeCesne, New Haven, Ct
I found Philip Strong's comment, "When the previous generation was faced with the threat of nazi expansionism, governments directed firm and coordinated actions" very interesting. Because, of course, they didn't - at least, not until it was already too late. Their appeasement of Hitler during the 1930s allowed the war that eventually broke out to become a global conflict that killed tens of millions of people. We may only hope that world governments' inaction over global warming does not have similarly dire consequences.
James Kane, Manchester, UK
I think Ann makes some very telling and useful points in this article. Having worked in and around the environmental movement for 17 years I hear a lot of echo's of the truth in what she says. And to be honest have witnessed many in the movement not living up to the practices they preach to others.
However, Ann - like many others who raise these points - fails to provide answers to the fundamental question. In a democratic society like ours how do we get the bold political leadership we so desperately need? A lot more could certainly be done in terms of an aggressive and sustained national debate; backed, dare I say by some political consensus. But as Ann herself points out "Minimal government is now ideologically dominant." and "...governmental action is unpopular and out of fashion." So as soon as the government sets a clear direction (which will mean changes for us and how we live our lives) people squeal and politicians of all hue simply run away. Dropping the 2p rise in fuel and the opposition to road charging being two recent cases in point.
So how are we going to square the circle? Perhaps, rather than portraying this as an either or debate, it should be portrayed as both.
Stuart Singleton-White, Reading, UK
Unfortunately, politicians rarely give real leadership. They are managers sailing the fickle winds of public opinion, only able to do what has sufficient public support. If they did what was really required to tackle this environmental crisis, we'd chuck them out. Just look at Ken Livingston and his road charging scheme.
What is required is a sea change of heart and mind in our relationship with the natural world and it's resources. Only when we realise that we're destroying our life support machine will we be prepared to let politicians take the difficult, but necessary decisions.
Stephen Spain, York
No government can seriously address climate change and a host of other serious international problems within the framework of the global neo-liberal financial system where governments have little or no control over their economies instead its rule of globally mobile electronic money by international financial speculators. Any government that challenges the existing 'race to the bottom' of removal of environmental and social regulations and corporate tax cutting, they know, will be punished by economically disastrous capital and corporate flight- to other nations NOT doing so. Only international action can work.
I believe the strategy of "The Simultaneous Policy" is the only one I have seen so far with a chance of solving this problem, www.simpol.org
Tony Harvey, London, UK
Dave of Boston writes: 'Think about what you do in a given day that requires CO2 emissions in one way or another: what you buy, what you eat, where you work, what you do at home, etc. Now cut that by 80%. Sorry, but it's just not going to happen. That is, unless we all go back to living like it's the 1600's or something.'
That completely misses the point. Of course, most of us, acting individually, cannot cut our CO2 emissions by 80% even by 2050.
But acting collectively, TOGETHER, and with support and guidance by governments, and technological initiatives by innovative corporations, we can - and we can almost certainly do it at less cost than the vastly expensive 'adaptation' measures that would be required to make human life tolerable under the drastically changed climatic conditions that unchecked global warming will produce. (see Nicholas Stern's report for a first stab at estimating costs and benefits, or the more recent McKinsey report).
There is no reason why, if we act now, we should see a reduction in our long-term living standards. Technological change, sensibly harnessed, can bail us out.
But to make that happen, we need the political will to act.
For a little encouragement, check out Al Gore's latest at:
Al Gore: New thinking on the climate crisis
There is a big difference between asking people in the North to sign a petition and tell them that to get rid of the third world's debt would cost only a few quids per person (as in the Jubilee 2000 campaign), and asking them to get rid of their foreign holidays, big cars, imported goods and food. That is why it is much harder to build up a green movement. Criticizing other organisations can be useful sometimes (but it might be incompatible when one asks at the same time for "unity"), but one could rather recognize that all the different environmental organisations are trying their best, with their different sensibilities, to change both individual behaviours and the structure of society. Changing individual behaviours is also a way of walking the talk and showing commitment, in a way that simply signing a petition or asking the government to take action does not. No organisation, no individual, no motivation is perfect.
Vic King, England
Nonsense. Not all scientists agree on the global warming threat.
The green movement should not aspire to be like the anti-slavery or anti-apartheid movements. These were movements to free people, quite rightly to. The Green issue has not been proved.
It is a new excuse for tax.
Can you imagine the uproar if the Government started the green bandwagon? They would be accused of scare-mongering!
Matthew Davies, Barry
This 'green issue' would make forecasts of inpending doom a lot more sense if mankind was somehow to blame for a global climate cooling and consequent reduction of CO2. Warmth and CO2 are essential for life to exist. The geological and historical record repeatedly confirm that periods of elevated temperature (all naturally caused) promote a rise in CO2, as the biomass thrives and cycles this gas. The whole Quaternary period of the ice age has been characterised by abnormally low CO2. Ice and frost represents a massive threat to most life forms.
Dick, Rye UK
I agree with Ann that governments need to lead action if it's to be anything like big enough to deal with the issue but governments will only do things if they think the population will buy into them. Personally I find the idea that driving a car, or doing many of the other things we take for granted, increases the number of bangladeshi flood deaths each year horrifying. However, the comments posted by others suggest that there's still a lot of work to do before people will accept that something far reaching needs to be done, so carry on trying to stir up the public conscience!
David Cooper, Bridgnorth, UK
First off - the overwhelming majority of the scientific community do agree that climate change is happening and that human activities are the main contributor to the current event. I know this because I am currently doing an Earth Sciences degree that involves climate change, and try as I might I just can't find any climate sceptics. I know that there are about 500 scientists from various fields who signed a declaration denouncing climate change earlier this year, but like I say, the overwhelming majority would disagree with them. So there.
Secondly, for the information of Mr Taylor from Glasgow, Volcanoes do not produce 10x the carbon dioxide per year that humanity does, temperature has been recorded very reliably since the '50s and clearly shows increase and the moon is not made of green cheese.
Third and finally, nuclear would be a better solution if they would build thorium reactors instead of the uranium ones we get now. Uranium as usable in normal reactors will be running out in 50 years at current rate of use anyway. However, thorium reactors produce fewer weapons-grade byproducts, so we won't be seeing any of those until the uranium runs out, I suppose.
One reason why we need collective action to encourage governments to act to mitigate climate change is that it is clearly asking too much of most people to understand the issues or, individually, to take the necessary remedial action.
Most people's knowledge and understanding of science and the nature of scientific evidence is simply too limited for them to grasp the enormity of the environmental changes we face. People like Chris Bowie and Stephen Taylor do not understand the evidence or the dynamics of climate change. Short-term fluctuations in surface temperatures do not contradict the long-trend towards catastrophic global warming. The overwhelming weight of scientific opinion is that global warming is real and is, to a significant extent, attributable to human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. The evidence to 2006 was summarised in the IPCC 4th report, and most subsequent evidence is that the warming trend and its consequences are more alarming than the IPCC consensus suggested. http://realclimate.org/ offers a summary.
So we need governments to lead the struggle against climate change, and movements to give them courage to do so. Now!
Want governments to take green action? Vote for the Green parties in your country.
I am sorry that Ann Pettifor has decided to single out my Ban The Bulb campaign and Energy Saving Day for criticism. The Ban The Bulb campaign has successfully made the case for using regulations and legislation to phase out energy guzzling technologies, where good alternatives exist, and alter tax systems to remove perverse incentives to buy cheap, but wasteful technologies. Following this campaign 30 countries, including Australia, China and the 27 member states of the EU, have agreed to phase out incandescent light bulbs within the next few years. The EU has also announced plans to cut the VAT on energy saving products. Further Energy Efficiency measures are also on the agenda in a way that they were not before. In addition, bans (which were once a dirty word) have also been proposed for other polluting items such as plastic bags and patio heaters. In the build up to Energy Saving Day I spent two years inviting businesses, charities, religious groups, scientists, government agenci!
es and individuals to work together on shared goals and to do what they could to help tackle climate change. I also asked everyone to be ambitious and to help send clear signals of their support to politicians and business leaders. In the end, it was very hard to raise awareness of E-Day because of the celebrity and gimmick-obsessed media filter that all such projects have to pass through and the difficulties associated with getting lots of different organisations to offer their whole-hearted support to something new and independent. Even so, I have since noticed many more people talking about the merits of co-operation and saving energy and feel I did the best I could. There are many organisations that are totally failing to achieve anything when it comes to tackling climate, even thought they sit on top of lots of power and funding, so I feel proud of what I have achieved from my bedroom with the assistance of a computer and some focused passion.
Dr Matt Prescott, Oxford
Excellent article. The answer is SIMPOL http://www.simpol.org.uk/. This organisation identified the need for collective action and is a grass roots initiative which allows everyoine to feel valued and effective. Everyone who applauds this article should join TODAY !!
julie lowe, Sheffield
A typically ill-informed, alarmist view from yet another green fanatic claiming the planet is burning. Well it isn't, and Ann Pettifor's hectoring should be ignored for the dreary nonsense that it is. Does the BBC have an endless supply of these shrill busy-bodies on tap?
I am afraid that as long as corporations can offer big bucks into private bank accounts in foreign banks, and people can only offer their votes, the people's interests will be doomed.People, on the other hand, can refuse to buy anything but compressed air driven cars. they can also ride motorbikes, using almost no gas for commutes.
Al Miller, paterson, nj. usa
every day more and more research comes out which shows that the science is not setteled and i like many are just not convinced. The most powerful force on this planet is not the historically normal climate change but the ecnomic growth which is lifting many millions of people around the world out of poverty and i do not want any lefties pretending to care about the enviorment and know nothing of the real science to end that.
Yes, I agree with Ann that structural change is needed. However, governments no longer wield the "real" power to do that. Multinational corporations hold sway over structure. After all, a corporation is actually a piece of paper with legal standing. A corporation has no heart or conscience. Corporate goals are almost completely pragmatic and materialistic. I, along with many, have seen people cheat and steal in the name of "the company" that would never do such in their own right with their friends, family and community. What corporate board will agree to cutting back on growth and profit whilst companies in China and India take up the slack? Corporate charters simply do not have the structure to allow this. How do you make an emotional appeal to a charter? We perhaps hold onto the idea that humans have "inalienable rights" respected by governments. However, with so many people, the "political worth" of one person is greatly diminished. I do regret that I cannot be !
firstname.lastname@example.org, Hartland, Devon UK
I partially agree with this article. The problem I think is that this should not be JUST a green movement. Rather it should be a Social Justice and Anti-Capitalist movement with a special green focus. The only way to bring everyone together is to make it something from below - something that resonates with the poorest of the poor. Climate change won't resonate unless it is connected to their feelings of exploitation.
Its not a coincidence that Evo Morales in Bolivia and the Zapatistas in Mexico are highly climate conscious.
The only real change on climate issues will come as a pro-poor movement - otherwise it'll just be a bunch of relatively privileged people working with businesses to have them pollute just a tad bit less.
And no, the jubilee movement was not so successful because the same issues they are against as still happening in full force.
Jared, Cape Town, South Africa
This is absolutely correct. I would add only one further, supporting point, which is the misguided obsession of many of my fellow "greens" with sin and shame. Raising a stink about celebrities who have big houses, ride in big cars or rack up lots of air miles plays well to scandal-hungry media. But it's a completely wrongheaded approach. Neither SUVs nor incandescent light bulbs nor food miles are the problem. Increasing concentration of greenhouse pollutants in the atmosphere of our world, as a whole, is the problem. The solution is to reduce this to a safe level. In aggregate, nations and individuals must be responsible for staying within our "fair share" of that safe level. The end. There is absolutely no reason to determine that some uses of this "fair share" are wrong and evil, while others are totally immune from criticism. Out with prescriptivism. In with living--within our means--as we individually choose to.
Matthew Kuhns, Elyria, Ohio, U.S.A.
Did you ever consider that the people of the world are consciously taking on this responsibility precisely BECUASE their governments have failed them in this important issue?
Sam Walker, Columbia, SC, USA
The masses will probably always be stuck in the cycle of denial and despair which breeds inaction. Those of us who are able to move forward do so because we love the moment and hope that people will continue to love the moment seven generations from now. NAFTA is an example of the limited power held by the world's governments. It is the corporations which now define the matrix. Therefore, voting with our money, getting off the grid, and prayer that love will win is the only course of action possible. Two words: Ephimeralism & Permaculture. Blessings & love in solidarity.
I blame mass media today. People have become so comfortable that they do not care about attending a protest. They are disillusioned with apathy. Watching TV all day will do that to a person. Especially now when our president will not listen to more than half our his countries people. I dont blame people thinking that the only way they can make a difference is individually.
Thomas, Tuscaloosa, AL
I agree strongly with Ann Pettifor's article. I hope that all the people I heard say 'voting doesn't change anything' while out canvassing the other day for the Green Party, don't really believe this. It's symptomatic of the emphasis on the individual instead of society which has been brainwashed into us. We have been taught to find private, individual solutions to public problems. Environmental groups are simply doing the same. Governments have themselves given away much of their power through privatisation of public services.
My grandfather was a South Shields miner who took part in the Jarrow Hunger March, and was a Labour Party member for twenty years. If he had lived long enough to see his only granddaughter graduate from university I don't think he would have said that voting doesn't change anything. Nor would my father, who left school at 15.
If you don't like your leaders, get involved with a political party, or stand for the parish, Town, District, City or County Council yourself. Make suggestions or objections to local plans. Write to Ministers, MPs, hell, run for Parliament yourself. It's a slow, sometimes heartbreaking task, but eventually things do change.
margaret devlin, Bream, UK
Unfortunately politics isn't a compulsary subject at school. If it was then people might realise they should be demanding much more from their own politicians and councillors while they are in power rather than leaving them to their own devices until its time to vote. Everyone moans about Gordon Brown, but I wonder how many of the moaners know the name of their own local councillor or their councillors views on the issues that matter to them.
Malcolm Parker, Hook, UK
The green agenda will not gain traction from government until there is some unanimity about what they are trying to achieve. At the moment, there is just a cacaphony of noise.
If the issue is genuinely about CO2 levels, then anything that reduces CO2 should be on the agenda - sequestration, nuclear, re-afforestation, wind, solar etc etc. Problem is, the greens don't agree to nuclear; they protest deforestation, but most don't seem to buy re-afforestation or carbon sequestration; some groups don't like dams for hydro; some groups won't accept wind farms (the noise scares the trees); everyone apparently sees solar as being the solution, despite its huge cost, ability to only achieve a fraction of our total needs. No-one considers the effect of reflection on birdlife.
We have a ludicrous situation where people think that turning off the lights for an hour and sitting in candle light is a partial solution - fact is you can't turn off a coal-fired power station for an hour, and the candles produce yet more CO2.
When the overall green movement is able to demonstrate a clearly thought-out agenda, governments will start to listen.
Darryl Sparrow, Sydney Australia
Global warming is different in that people suspect it will require significant changes and possibly significant sacrifices from everybody. So nobody is quite sure they want to contribute to the cure, or even be forced to contribute along with everybody else.
Bill Mosby, Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.
As someone says, talk about shooting the messenger. Why not also "there are none so deaf as will not hear?" or " don't expect anyone to listen to you if their job depends on them not doing so" I don't think there's anything wrong with the greens and they way they've been conducting their campaigns, most greens fully understand the over-arching principles of sustainability. They have been talking about th limits to growth, pollution, acid rain, overpopulation, over-fishing, global warming for years. They have been offering alternative wasy to run our economies on a truly sustainable way for an equal number of years. The problem is that our whole economy is based on unsustainable growth predicated economics, we have built a whole $65 trillion dollar world economy on it. Its like a cancer, or an addiction, it has taken deep root, and the rich and powerful who have benefitted most from it are not going to give it up without a mighty fight. Much of the criticism of the Green's !
focus on the detail is not valid, the reason we are looking at power saving lightbulbs or carbon offsets or whatever is because society would prefer to do this as a "feel good" and basically diversionary measure, anything, anything other than face up to the reality of the problem, and the fact that we won't deal with it without making rather larger sacrifices than disposing of incandescent light-bulbs or recycling newspapers. Our inability to deal with the rather simpler problem of oil depletion proves my assertion well enough.
John Monro, Wellington, New Zealand
Democracy won't save the planet because when survival is at stake people will always act and vote selfishly.
Bringing the Earth back into equilibrium will take much much more than shallow homage to low power lightbulbs!
Reversing the effects of the unbridled release of 100 million years worth of accumulated carbon over the last 200 years would require another 200 years of equal effort to put it back into the ground again and take it out of the short term carbon cycle. This of course is unimaginable, and couldn't even be achieved over the next 10,000 years, so we are stuck with the consequences of what we have done.
However, let us not lie down and die yet. Oil will run out anyway, so let's use some of what is left to create cleaner alternatives, and keep the rest in the ground for emergencies and pretend it has already run out.
Perhaps even if we could cover the entire Earth with billions of trees, it wouldn't be enough to absorb the CO2 already released from fossil fuels.
Perhaps some massive energy efficient engineering could also be devised to sequester this excess atmospheric CO2 and bury it?
Andrew Haveland-Robinson, Budapest, Hungary
Anne Pettifor is partially right.Napoleon is reputed to have stated that there is only two ways to motivate troops (substitute that for people) and that is interest and fear.With so much going on in peoples lives,interest is being overwhelmed by many issues unless it affects many people on a personal level. That leaves fear as the motivating factor.Climate change is now proven to be real and the follow on affects are not being promulgated forcefully. Along with rising CO2 emissions and climate change is atmospheric oxygen depletion as a result of burning so much of it by human activity and not being replaced fast enough by plants,trees and the oceans.Some reports put the level below 15% in the centre of some cities and that is scary.If oxygen depletion can be proven absolutely then that will be the greatest factor in bringing climate change to the fore because of the fear factor. Oxygen levels below 15% means no combustion, below about 10% no air breathing life.'The 5 great e!
xtinctions of life on the planet in the last 500 million years have occured when atmospheric oxygen levels were at their lowest in each 100 million period',cited from Peter Ward,Professor of Biology at the University of Washington,Seattle in his article "Breath of Life" New Scientist 28/04/07.
The answer: as much electric powered transportation as possible, recharged from sources using renewable energy.
The writer is a retired airline pilot,previous director of the New Zealand Airline Pilots' Association and a qualified meteorologist.
Captain David Clemow, Auckland/New Zealand.
Sweet Jesus Christ theres a lot of idiots commenting.
OK. Climate change is happening, and it is very likely that it is caused by humans. Yes there are spikes and dips but look at the TREND. It's higher than it should be, and is probably caused by us. If the chance that it is us is so high isn't it worth spending money? You all have fire insurance right?
Second. Ann Pettifor is right, we need a united national then international movement that identifies global warming as the threat and proposes ONE solution to tackle it. Greenpeace need to forget about nuclear and focus on the most pressing issue.
Third. Yes, of course the piece is onesided. THATS IT'S JOB. It's supposed to be provocative and inspire debate.
Fourth and most importantly: when you raise something's price, people buy less of it. If you put a price on carbon business can factor that into the price of oil or plastic or whatever, people will buy less of it, and emmissions are reduced. "Acting locally" doesnt work, we're too lazy.
We need to persuade the government to force us.
Haydn Belfield, Brussels, Belgium
Ann Pettifor's second sentence spells out the real problem. "Scientists finally agree on the threat to the planet posed by rising temperatures. Books on the subject proliferate." Scientists do NOT agree. temeperatures have NOT risen since 1998. But she is right in stating that books on the subject proliferate. Is it not possible to have an informed, intelligent discussion on this without Pettifor's type of evangelical sermonising.
Andy Cunningham, melbourne, Australia
I agree with thopse who are frustrated by lack of action on Global Warming. Let me introduce a crtical variable. We are approaching the end of the great Oil Party. That is going to cause problems that will be brought home to every single person on the planet. Of course the poor nations will suffer most as gas prices rise as the supply runs down. Using corn for Ethanol just jacks up the price of food.
The Oil that's still out there will be far more expensive to extract. After 150 years of abuse, the Planet is about to hit back. Plan for the big bust comming. Go plant a garden of veggies so you got something to eat.
Robert Schrank, Center Moriches NY. USA
Atomisation of the Green Lobby may actually be for our own good at the moment. You gain a wider acceptance based on what works and what doesn't personally and practically. It's not too difficult to go more Green, but to listen to a politician sounding off on Green issues is more frightening than the practicality. I just wish we could offset the cost against our increasing tax burden here in the UK. We have a small industry ready to take on the problems once the UK Gov has made a mess of it and we've finally run out of North Sea Oil Revenue in 2020.
Philip Searle, London
the reason campaigners say "it's not enough" is because it's not enough. look at the statistics - 80%, 90% cuts required. and that also requires governments to act on the large-scale problems that are beyond individual [consumer] action. why act without perfect scientific certainty? because the consequences of changing our way of life, and finding it was unnecessary, are less than the consequences of doing nothing and suffering long-term planetary disaster.
steve collins, london england
Governments won't do anything significant to drive down greenhouse gas emissions until there is a major disaster in the West- London flooded, massive hurricane damage in Florida, relentless drought in Spain, thousands dead in prolonged heatwave. By that time it will be too late to do anything that will stop our current lifestyles going down the pan. There are just too many climate change deniers who can't face the reality of the changes in lifestyle that would be needed now to stop the worst happening. . Only a major technological breakthrough that can combine sunlight and atmospheric carbon dioxide and water to produce a liquid hydrocarbon that could replace fossil fuels offers any hope for a future much like the present. But don't bet on it.
Dave Parker, Bishop's Stortford, UK
"Scientists finally agree on the threat to the planet posed by rising temperatures. "
No they don't. There is no absolute consensus in the scientific world at this point as to whether the Earth is in a warming trend or cooling trend.
Either way it is cyclical and has been in recorded history.
The statement is deceptive at best.
Jonathan, Charleston SC USA
I don't think it's necessarily an either/or between individual actions and societal/governmental actions. The free rider problem is real; but if nobody is willing to take the action solo, then nobody will be willing to do it after a law is passed. So there is a need for some actions to be taken at the individual level first. If individuals can and do carry out the action in significant numbers, then it is plausible that with a law in place, more would do so. Also that once the individual actions are widespread enough, there would be support for the national (international) laws.
R. Grumbine, Washington, DC, USA
I feel nothing will happen till a large worldwide cataclysm brings about a monumental shout from the people. Maybe when all the reefs die, when there is widespread famine or huge storms every month. What must be understood, is that there are still people in power who don't give a----- there attitude is well I won't be here so why worry. We can't even stop making war amoungst ourselves or rid ourselves of Nuclear weapons. If anything this Global Climate issue may bring an end to war, and after that we may be able to resurect whats left of the planet. This may be a good thing which will unite the entire World at last.
John Duczek, Kapunda, South Australia
Regrettably, my country's president chose not to promptly implement the Kyoto accords and so neither China nor India, the other two largest producers of greenhouse gasses, would implement the accords either.
I am hoping beyond hope that Mr. Bush will be replaced by a more visionary leader who jumps on this issue like a ton of bricks. If we stop CO2 production now, it may still be too late, but by 2050? Ridiculous! By then we shall all be "enjoying" beach front property.
Matt Bartruff, Oroville, California USA
The author of this article has failed to mention a significant section of the 'green movement' that does address concerns at a governmental level:the Green Party. Though the name of the party has slight variations in its name, depending on its location-global greens are united in their approach to making green reforms through local and national goverments.
/>Jason Santo, Southwestern Ontario, Canada
I often see people (such as Stephen Taylor) say things such as 'it is a fact that human beings contribute only 3% to worldwide CO2 production, volcanoes produce 10 times this'. It's sad and problematic that people quote and believe facts that are not facts at all. It's very time consuming to refute all such claims, but it must be done, one claim at a time. The generally accepted scientific figures show man producing about 150 X the CO2 that is produced by volcanoes (http://tinyurl.com/3hasm). But don't take my word for it, learn to do some real research before spewing your views.
Nevertheless the article makes a good point. It is clear that it is very difficult to get individuals to make sacrifices when they see freeloaders getting away with nothing. This is the best argument for legislation. We may also need to reframe the argument. Oil, coal and gas WILL run out. Many of our raw materials will also run out in the near future unless we recycle them. We need to learn to become more efficient before that happens. It's in all our interests to develop the technologies and adopt the mindset to do this.
Fergus Kane, London
As this chain demostrates, many people are not yet ready to act as individuals. They, in effect, advocate that we ignore the threat and 'roll the dice' (hoping it proves to be a false alarm). Considering what is at stake this hardly seem a wise, or even prudent, response. For the sake of future generations there is a moral imperative to act. When the previous generation was faced with the threat of nazi expansionism, governments directed firm and coordinated actions, often with profound impact on people's lives. Surely this generation can now make the few small sacrifices (or adjustments) that seem necessary to respond to the current threat. It is now right to look to governments (as our highest authorities) to show the wisdom and leadership to safeguard our futures.
Philip Strong, Barcelona, Spain
Thanks. This is such a wonderful article in many ways. It reminds of how important it is to take responsible action and aid these causes rather than sit idly by until something tragic happens.
Those of us who care about the environment need to continue to put pressure on governments since they have the political will and if they truly care can make a positive change. It's also good to be reminded that change doesnt come immediately but we must keep trying and eventually we do succeed. Look at the example you give of Dr.Martin Luther King. It took a while but we got there eventually.
Aura Collins, Guyana
I am a conservationist, yet Ms. Ann comes across as your typical Big Government liberal elitist.
Also, there is no small Government in the USA, it dominates our lives. Be it at the Federal, State, or local level. So please, with the we don't have enough government. Give me a break!
I WANT TO BAN THE AUTOMOBILE and they call me a libertarian.
Marcus Aurelius, Amherst, Ma, USA
For those who claim that human beings contribute only 3% or slightly (insignificant amount)to emission of CO2, I have to say that the Earth has its own cycle which deals with naturally emitted CO2 (the phytoplankton in the ocean are taking care of alot of the CO2). The problem here is the fact that the mankind is now adding more CO2 to the atmosphere which changes the balance. Think about the rivers and lakes that are disappearing, as soon as we humanbeings start interfering with the natural cycles, changes will take place and there will be consequences.
An Environmental Chemist, Florida, United States
Imagine a world without pollution. World needs green goverments. They will save a lot of money and resources. Let's start with human popullation.
I have become very cynical about the role of government and climate change. The Australian government continues to make the right noises, for example signing the Kyoto protocol. But on the ground it is business as usual or worse. For example, at the moment we are fighting tooth and nail the construction of a massive pulp mill in the Tamar Valley which will consume 10's of thousands of hectares of our old growth forest and spew massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. Massive forestry burn off's take place in Tasmania and our air is the foulest on the planet at certain times of year. I think we are being deceived and for governments and big business it is business as usual. But they expect the the man in the street to make the changes. I hope the BBC publishes this and please give this issue exposure it deserves. The world needs to know what is going on in our island. For readers, information about this mill can be found at http://tapvision.info/
ncan Grant, Launceston Tasmania
A scientist's response to a number of comments such as "i still personaly side with the scientist who are not believing that the planet is doomed.", "This article starts by claiming that scientists agree that climate change is a fact and that the human race is largely responsible.....this of course is not true", and "Only last week prominent climate change scientists admitted they had 'got it wrong'".
No, sorry, and please do not speak on behalf of the scientific community. The consensus of the scientifc community is that global warming is occurring, it is causing climate change, and the overwhelming cause is the increasing emission of greenhouse gases because of fossil fuel consumption. We are agreed on that.
Peter Roopnarine, San Francisco
Stephen Taylor from Glasgow suggests in his comment that since humans only emit a small percentage of the total CO2 going into the atmosphere each year, we must just have a small effect on CO2 levels. Where he gets his numbers from I don't know, but what he fails to mention is that human emissions are on top of the normal emission/absorption of the earth-sea-air system (which includes the occasional volcano eruption), and thus we're responsible for the increase in CO2 in the air.
Quite how some people can believe they know better than an independent panel of top climate experts, is beyond me.
James, Guildford, UK
Human-induced climate change can be equated to obesity. The root cause lies in over-consumption.
The solution can be found in the simple concept of supply and demand. The greater the demand, the greater the strain on our resources needed to fill the supply. Since economies are driven by demand, governments have no incentive to act until individuals reduce their demand on global products and resources.
Be the change.
The article makes a point that should be heard loud and clear, and that should inspire these fractured groups to unify around a POLITICAL message. It's been a source of frustration for years: I am a filmmaker who made a film for the Live Earth campaign but was disappointed that the message I put forth about power generation was drowned out by Live Earth's consistently consumer oriented approach that totally avoided governmental/political/macro action. Rather than focus on a change in the power grid, for example, there was endless talk of lightbulb switching and hybrid driving. No matter how many bulbs you change, if the world's energy needs are increasingly met by coal, nothing will change. We must start voting green, start protesting green, and really force the issue!
Gabriel London, Los Angeles, CA
No-one does anything, because everyone knows there are only two things that would make any difference: 1) stop producing electricity and 2) stop using internal combustion engines.
M. D. Dunderdale, Nõo, Estonia
I think this piece is very correct. Individual people can only do so much in a world where huge internaitonal corporations can lobby governments for favorable treatment and their scale of economy allows them to out-price a more eco-friendly and smaller firm, whcih would be easier for the "little guy" to influence. Goverments should step in to control business/industry-related greenhouse gas in conjunction with citizen efforts to get people to "turn off at the wall".
Also, in Buffalo, NY - an old steel city near Canada - a new wind farm opened a year ago on the contaminated site of an old steel mill. The 8 turbines were put up within a year of the announcement and look very futuristic.
Dan, Buffalo, NY USA
This week's survey says it all: we care about the environment but not enough to do something about it - or even pay a bit more tax. We ridicule Nero for fidlling while Rome burned, but what about us - flying and burying our heads in the sand while the planet fries. We are a disgrace - our grandparents risked or gave their lives for our (small) country in the 1st and 2nd World Wars, and we don't even lift a finger for our entire planet.
Sid Smallface, Barcelona, Spain
We really need the US and Britain to take a lead on this as we did with CFCs, but with Bush and now Boris in charge I fear we are all doomed.
Amy Gibson., London.
I do not care whether climate change is real or not. It will prove through the decades.
But what I DO see is an urgent need for the protection of the environment as a whole. And I'm tired of people not doing anything because they argue over the reality of climate change.
whether climate change or not - our environment needs protection. the better the sooner.
and even if it proves one day that climate change does not exist or is not caused by humans - if the whole issue has prompted actions to make the world greener, it has my blessing.
though i agree with anne pettifour's sentiments, it needs to be pointed out that it was th christian religion that introduced the belief of çoncecrated ground, whereby only ground blessed by a priest was concidered sacred; all other ground was fair game for exploitation...
this belief has caused more environmental damage than any other, and desperately needs to be addressed before any change becoes possible...
niall o'draighnean, limousin, france
There's a saying, "Think globally, act locally". If you scale this down further, one can translate it to, "think government-ally, act individually". It's hard enough to change one's own habits, forget about changing a society's. Having said that I should be shutting down my computer to save the....
Sriram Krishnan, Cape Town, South Africa
Anyone who thinks that it is even possible that we can reduce our CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050, without a global economic collapse, is seriously delusional.
This recent opinion piece froom the Wall St. Journal says it nicely.
It makes much more sense to prepare and adapt to the effects of global warming, than to try and prevent it by cutting emissions. I know that goes against the hysterical ideology of the GW alarmists, but it is the only rational option. More government control over our lives is NOT the answer.
Think about what you do in a given day that requires CO2 emissions in one way or another: what you buy, what you eat, where you work, what you do at home, etc. Now cut that by 80%. Sorry, but it's just not going to happen. That is, unless we all go back to living like it's the 1600's or something. And doing that by 2050 is just based on today's world population. If you take into account what it will be in 2050, the feat becomes even more impossible.
This article appeals for government imposition as opposed to persuasion. This is wrong and counterproductive. Removing discrimination against blacks or cancelling third world debt is an altogether different kettle of fish to imposing a different lifestyle on all people. It is naive to equate these issues with climate change. Living sustainably and fairly with future generations entails a radical lifestyle change for all which politicians are loath to impose and electorates unwilling to accept especially when the jury is still out on 'man made' climate change.
John Zammit, Valletta, Malta
One of the most widespread exhortations to reduce use of transport is to 'leave the car at home and walk or bike' .... yet we still have road priorities that give the advantage to car users! Make cars give way to cyclists , make residential streets one-way to motor traffic and slow them to 15mph and you will begin to transfer the advantage to those who leave their cars at home. That is relatively low-cost to implement and will drive into public thinking the need for changing how we live. John Maclaren, Daventry.
Environmental activism largely ignored social issues for so long and the two are largely connected, as if just two sides to the often worshiped perverbial coin. I believe that greed and corruption, everywhere, not just UK or USA are mostly to blame. And I agree that it's difficult for those who came before to tell those coming now "you can't do this or that" especially when their growing economies are largely fueled by overseas investment grown out of bad policy that stubbornly will not relent. I feel sorry for the children who will have to clean up after us. They never asked for this. On the hopeful side, I do believe technology, once freed from the grasp of political & corporate greed will make great positive impacts to give us all enough hope to turn this around before it's too late. I just wish there were more Americans who thought about their actions rather than evaded reality and flitted along in their "pods" from one pod to another with ipods on their heads and !
their bellies filled with unnatural, overprocessed manufactured food watching tv to numb them into ever-increasing detachment from humanity and the beatuy in the world.
Jill, Santa Barbara, California
Of course I agree with Ms. Pettifor, and i think anyone who doesn't see the writing on the environmental wall is either in a state of denial or a religious zealot hoping to meet Jesus in a rapture hotspot. Or too busy to care. Big business has cleverly made the cost of living so high in the over-developed world, that we scramble to keep up and there's not much time left for full-on participatory democracy. Meanwhile Darth Cheney and TweedleBush drive the colonial agenda like it's 1965. Our failure to stop the Iraq War is a tragedy because there's no solving the Environment Crisis without first solving the War Problem. War is the most terrible destroyer of both the natural kingdom of life and the spirit of man. It will take real leadership by a new kind of leader, someone like Barack Obama, to see our way out of this trap and convince the coddled consuming masses to stop for a day, a week, a month, and let nature return to some balance. There are too many people on Earth to c!
onsume at the levels we are told is OK. Business and government must wake up to the call or we're "toast".
Owen O'Toole, Los Angeles, CA, US
I completely agree that it is more effective for governments to change peoples habits through integral campaigns which combine publicity, law enforcement etc. However, I would argue that too much disparity would be created if it was left up to goverments to come up with individual objectives. A master plan should be divised through the UN or such an international organization which can create aligment and then each country should adapt in accordance with guidelines which make it feasable for them.
Natasha Stubbs, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
What do you mean by climate change? It is way too woolly. Do you mean global warming? Problem is there hasn't been any for a decade. So you don't have any climate change either. You just have weather.
Wotan, Dumfries, Scotland
If Global warming is the biggest threat to our world, the we need more nuclear power, more solar power, and we need to develope where we can geo-thermal power. Wind and other sources could help. We also need to develope another type of engine to run on something other than the Petrol we now are using. Is this a crisis that needs fixing, yes. Do we need panicky solutions and fear-mongering? No
Ed Scott, Carmel, NY, USA
The reason why the population says that it cares about green issues but doesn't support green politics is that all the green movement seems to offer is turning off the comforts of modern life and going back to subsistance farming. Wind farms kill birds, tidal kills fish, solar concretes over the green belt, biofuels harm the third-world and nuclear is too radioactive - every solution that government offers is rejected by some faction of the green movement. If the greens ever want to get into power then they need to get together and offer solutions that do not entail radical social change rather than just rejecting everything. At the moment the green "movement" is just a bunch of competing pressure-groups and nimbys and they are never going to achieve anything that way.
Richard Read, Gloucester, UK
Another problem with green campaigns is that a lot of them don't actually do anything... Lots of organisations are in reality just social clubs for a small groups of falafel eaters. They're often quite happy with how things are (surrounded by like-minded people, plenty to grumble about) and hostile to things as simple as working together or getting new members. Many small organisations and keen people struggle to get anywhere because there's so little cooperation and skills sharing from experienced campaigners (personal experience!).
Another big problem she doesn't mention is quality of journalism. Journalists are constantly getting their facts wrong and blowing silly things out of proportion: e.g. ranting about small things like a family christmas dinner and ignoring massive economic and environmental problems like outsourcing aluminium production. Their reporting of the science is usually feeble - they over-report small debates about fine details of climate models and almost never explain the basic principles that are firmly established and tested, or even where the information comes from.
This gives sensible casual readers the impression that it doesn't add up and that it's all just a silly self righteous fad. This is true of the ignorant nonsense that lazy journalists twitter on about, but the real science and the real (seldom reported) climate changes that are already happening all over the world are rock solid. They would be plain to see if anyone reported them to a non-specialist audience.
Unfortunately no-one seems to have the right combination of time, expertise, skill, resources and motivation to translate these into concrete facts into plain, interesting, motivating, non-preachy english and then get it read and heard by ordinary people. I don't. Do you?
Alan S, Glasgow
The problem with the Greens' credo of individual action is that it introduces an environmental dimension to every one of our day-to-day decisions. A sensibly designed environmental taxation regime would enable us to lead our lives just as we did before climate change became an issue, and save the planet at the same time.
I can't share any of Ann Pettifor's views because I can't fundamentally agree in the premise that climate change a major threat brought on by humans. The whole area is highly politicised, promoted by strong interests fronted by the IPCC - a very politicised organisation, it relies on modelling that has been shown by some (brave) scientists not to agree to observation particularly in the key area of the upper troposphere, and the interpretation of highly selective data often shown on graphs that start at convenient points like, for example, 1970 - the end of a cooling period that ran for 30 years. There are plenty of other examples going back.
Indeed, it's very interesting that some German scientists have just announced that we are about to enter another such cooling period as a result of the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation), but that temperatures will dramatically increased thereafter - very convenient as a screen to hide behind just to keep the industry credible for more years before they are rumbled! They can earn billions more over that period.
And its funny that people that think I'm just another barmy denier never really understand the first thing about the science or the data. They believe it because enough other people / organisations with commercial and political axes to grind tell them so!
J A Gonzalez, Surbiton
I think that all this government intervention is a load of rubbish. The free market should decide what will happen not governments. If there is an increased demand for going 'Green' then the free market will manage resources to that direction. As everyone has all seen now that oil is running out and getting more expensive, people are finding substitutes for it, such as wind etc... Also, I have always been confused by the fact that if the world was warming then why was the winters in 07 and 08 the coldest we've ever experienced for a while?
John Bunzl is right! There is the perfect organization already in place, and has been for over 8 years, it is called SIMPOL, and can be contacted at .
Jerold Hubbard, USA topsoil MINER, alias, grass roots Farmer
Jerold Hubbard, Johnson, Kansas, USA
"the fact that human beings contribute only 3% to worldwide CO2 production, volcanoes produce 10 times this" - Stephen Taylor, Glasgow
Not only is this untrue, but it is obviously untrue when you examine the CO2 record from any of the dozens of sampling stations around the globe. If this were true, then that CO2 record would be full of spikes, one for each eruption. The fact is, it is a very smooth trend.
The sum total of all volcanoes emit CO2 at a rate about 1/150th that of anthropogenic emissions.
I believe this myth originally came out of dubious calculations of the impact of the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.
T wright, London
Hierry, Winnipeg - with that quality of spelling your nay-saying must be right!
Lets just wait till the next Ice Age to find out if we really screwed up instead, shall we?
T wright, London
Boris of Portsmouth claims: Remember the question "Whats worse: 25 000 dead from 1 nuclear accident every 50 yrs or 500 million dead from global warming?"
That is an utterly facile comment and he knows it. The radiation poisoning of the environment in the case of a nuclear power station accident takes between 12 and 20,000 years to become safe.
Also, the knock-on effects of a sudden loss of a large footprint of land to such an event, for several centuries, is FAR greater than the gradual loss of land to environmental factors, which can be foreseen and planned for (or even averted!) with less loss of life.
A nuclear accident cannot - once it's done, it's done.
A J, Kent, UK
I believe that governments on their own are insufficient to tackle global warming, since they are in a prisoner's dilemma situation. Everybody wants a safe environment, but nobody is prepared to move first, for fear of bringing economic sacrifice or even losing weight in international relations. The only way out, I believe, is a globally agreed maximum amount of emissions tolerable in the atmosphere. Per capita equal emission rights multiplied by the number of people in a country then define a country's emission rights per year. These emission rights can then be traded on the global market under the supervision of a global emission bank, possibly coordinated by UNEP and UNDP.
My impression is that most NGOs devote too much attention to the national level and too little to that of international organizations like the UN and the WTO, which need to be democratized and become more transparent and accountable to the public. Especially the WTO and the Bretton Woods Twins are still dominated by machiavellian decision making processes. This is the pivotal issue which NGOs need to focus on. A change away from luxurious lifestyles in the rich countries is crucial too, but will come about only if there are fair global rules. The EU commission's efforts to introduce congestion tax in Europe's large cities is a step in the right direction and, I think, should also receive NGO support.
Daniel, Salzburg, Austria
It is refreshing to see so much "common sense skepticism" on display here. The "Green Cult" has been exposed albeit they still carry a big stick in government, university and other such leftist dominated "do-what-I-say-not-as-I-do" groups. Of course most folk see value in preserving resources and generally being reasonable. Let's hope the rational folk win out!
Honest John, Ft Smith, AR USA
The biggest threat to the planet is over-population, when are politicians going to be brave enough to say so?
Dave Winter, Oldham
'Busybody NGO wants government to coerce people to follow its agenda'. In other news, sky blue and pigs can't fly.
Climate change is just one of a whole series of problems which are converging to make life on our planet a whole lot more difficult in the coming years. Arguably they are all the result of the First World's search for an easy and hedonistic lifestyle where we jet around the planet on holiday, buy food and flowers grown the other side of the world, drive round in big cars exceeding the speed limit and walk round our houses in T shirts with the central heating wound right up… to name just a few. To achieve this lifestyle we are in the process of squandering the planet's resource of energy and materials, without having a clue how we will find a substitute for them once they've gone. Now, having started to realise what we are doing, it's dawning on many of us there are so many complex issues and different ways to tackle them that no one knows where to start. And unfortunately, having tasted 'the good life' the majority of people want to cling on to every vestige of what we've a!
ttained, as if their very lives depend on it: whereas we should be letting it go and retreating to a simpler life - because our very grandchildren's lives depend on it.
To those who detect a passion in my comment that they interpret as 'religious zeal', let me tell you that I am an atheist who believes in the possibility that we can save ourselves with the aid of technology. Though it will be a technology based on reducing energy consumption to sustainable levels.
So there is only one workable solution: raise taxes massively on all energy use that creates greenhouse gasses, while giving equivalent rebates and grants to actions which help save and conserve - and subsidise research into new forms of non-polluting energy. Nuclear might help in the short term too. But there's no time to waste - we need to do it now.
John Russell, Devon, UK
Cimate change is not the point, and that's one reason why it's not the rallying cry it is made out to be. The climate changes anyway and everyone knows that. But, humankind's greedy stupidity and short-sightedness *is* however causing the degradation of the biological environment both onland and in the oceans, with wholesale industrial pollution, record levels of deforestation, the exhaustion of natural resources which we and millions of other species require for life. Once the ecosphere is sufficiently depleted, mass starvation will become the issue. When the Greens align themselves around the issues of food and water, we might see some coordination.
Dean Whitbread, London, UK
What fascinates me is the sense of learned helplessness that people display when they're asked to just exercise a little moderation in their spending habits. They throw their hands up and say that they're only one person, and the government ought to do something. Taking personal responsibility for looking to what they can do in their every day lives and getting together with a few friends once a month to have a Write To Your MP party just doesn't seem to occur to most people. It's not an either/or proposition - actively changing your life, actively lobbying your MP, and actively participating in your community through volunteer work is so empowering, and so much fun.
Kaz, Macclesfield, UK
Here in the West, we have too many over-large, unhealthy people, driving over-large, unhealthy cars, -and a predominantly selfish, consumerist ethic bred into our children. -That's quite a hurdle for any campaign to overcome!
Radical / beneficial social change begins first in peoples' minds, which is why governments (via mass media and 'education') aim to control these influences.
The people may seek changes, but 'those at the top' are ever intransigent!
Yan, Devon, UK
Stephen Taylor, Glasgow - you show gross ignorance. Volcanoes DO NOT emit 10 times as much CO2 as humans. Humans emit around 150 times more CO2 than volcanoes. As for humans contributing only 3% to worldwide CO2 production - that is also completely incorrect as it fails to take into account absorption of CO2 by plant-life and oceans. I suggest you spend some time reading up on basic scientific concepts such as the carbon cycle. It could spare you a lot of embarrassment in future.
Ian Stuart, Goring
The green movement have difficulty getting their message across because so many of them are wedded to the communist agenda of getting us all to use public transport. The green movement will only start making the proper headway it so needs to make when they accept that personal modes of transport have to be part of the solution.
So, the green movement needs to ditch its political heritage to become mainstream. This will not be achieved by replacing the commies with the christians - if there's one thing worse than a commy telling me what to think, it is someone who believes in the supernatural.
In short - greens need to become rational.
Keith Jordan, West Sussex
That the climate is changing is a simple fact.
That humankind can and does have an influence has also been shown.
Whether or not hummankind is entirely responsible is not a useful argument.
We must plan for the effects of climate change, becasue it is already happening and we cannot stop all of it.
But we can reduce the effects, and it will be cheaper to do so now than living with the consequences later.
"Green" taxes are only a short term fix as their whole point is to stop people doing the activity which raises the tax. If successful the revenue goes away. Do not trust any political party which plans to fund its policies on "green" taxes!
Michael, Pinner, London, UK
I remember noticing the difference between Live 8 where Bob Geldorf's passionate speeches urged people to put pressure on the prime minister to make three key points of change to policy at G8, then watching Live Earth where they'd ocassionally cut back to Johnathon Ross who'd vaguely rem