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Friday, 26 January, 2001, 12:05 GMT
Climate change: What can we do?

The world's leading climatologists have issued a new warning on climate change, saying that global warming is happening faster than previously predicted.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which has been meeting in Shanghai, China, says an increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world. And it says the evidence is stronger than before for a human influence on the climate.

Yet only recently world leaders failed to reach agreement on how to cut gas emissions at the United Nations World Climate Conference.

What can be done to slow the change? Do you think governments are failing on the environmental issues?


The writing is clearly on the wall

John Park, England
What can we do? Nothing. I believe we are beyond the point where the situation can be realistically rectified. When a 60% reduction of harmful emissions is recommended by those in the know, and the response is in fact an INCREASE by those who don't care, the writing is clearly on the wall - or rather, on the planet's gravestone.
John Park, England

Personally, I doubt that any substantial part of the current climate change is due to human activities, but whatever the case it is occurring and it is not going to stop. What we do know is that there are natural climate changes underway at the moment leading to warmer weather, however much or however little humans are contributing to the effect.
Philip Bowles, England

Both increased productivity and improved efficiency foster economic growth. By making our factories and cars more efficient consumers of energy, we will not only reduce pollution but help the economy in the long run.
Marc, France

Our children will feel the effects of climate change

Pete, USA
Whether the causes of global warming are natural or human, the fact remains that global warming is happening and that the effects of global warming will be catastrophic. Our children will feel the effects of climate change. Thus, anything that can be done to reduce global warming must be done. The United States' behaviour at the climate change summits is disgraceful. All industrialised nations (especially the US) must take the initiative and lead by example. All nations must put self-interest and their profit motive aside and embrace the common good of future generations. We can attenuate if not eliminate the effects of global warming if we so choose to do so.
Pete, USA

I'm afraid that the mainstream of my country is so ignorant about environmental issues that it will require massive environmental upheaval to wake this country up. Which, at the rate we're going, shouldn't be very long in coming. Presently we are blinded by the rather cancerous brand of capitalism that we practise (i.e. focusing only upon our own short-term well-being regardless of how it effects others or the whole). This is America's real religion. We need to mature; but our needed paradigm shift seems unlikely without some cataclysmic "wake-up calls" from nature, unfortunately.
Kelly Bradley, USA

The USA is not the only contributor to global warming. However, it is the cultural driving force behind "to hell with the rest of you" consumerism. Capitalism is fine for producing a constant stream of trinkets to keep us amused. It has nothing useful to contribute to issues we need to address together as a planet.
Michael Mather, England

To believe they have our best interests at heart is total self-delusion

S Pond, England
Whilst money is involved, and the self-interest of nation states and company business is put before the well-being of the individuals they serve then there is no real hope of addressing climate change. We know the US is a massive polluter and opts out of any real stemming of emissions from its industry. So whether communist or capitalist the vested interest of the government and the business in its own country will not benefit the population as a whole - to believe they have our best interests at heart is total self-delusion.

We must think of ourselves as part of a global community - that's not to say we should abandon our cultures at the root level (there is real strength in diversity), but we should see humans wherever they are, whatever "nation" they live in, as fellow citizens who deserve our respect and compassion.
S Pond, England

As quite a few people point out, we all need to do our bit - but Governments have to get the framework right too. In the UK the most important thing our Government could do is make sure new buildings are really energy efficient - it saves energy and helps people save money too. Not doing this is crazy - the buildings go on wasting energy for years and years afterwards. Yet the UK Government keeps delaying new rules on this - they must stop dithering.
Martyn, UK

Global warming is a myth! There is just as much evidence - and maybe more - against global warming as there is for it. Not only is much of the data flawed, but often that which is used to supposedly support the theory - and I do mean theory - of global warming is misinterpreted. There is a lot of literature out there that disputes the global warming myth, but it is rarely accurately and fairly reported. I would certainly like to see more of this evidence given greater review in your publication, as well as others.
Blair Smith, USA

Ah, sweet, sweet capitalism. If only "give the customer what they want" were the way it really worked. The people with the wealth, have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, its how they got rich in the first place. Hence the mothballing of any alternative to dirty petrol cars or nuclear and fossil power generation. The USA and to a lesser extent the UK will not do anything significant until it starts costing them a lot of money. And to expect American consumers to take the lead in pressuring their government about a global issue is farcical. You just have to look at who they recently elected.
Simon Gould, UK

It's not in the short-term interest of the petro-chemical industry to show more than a cosmetic concern in reducing our fossil fuel problems. When the government ploughs the same billions in supporting alternatives like fuel cell research, then and only then will I believe they mean business.
Steve H-A, England

Individually we need pro-active recycling policies from local governments. In Germany they have four different bins for different wastes, why can we not do that here? I think also education is needed for all age groups, so they know how climate change can affect their lives.

Big business needs to be really hit hard for environmental disasters caused by their cost-cutting or general laziness. I mean hit hard - with the money from fines going directly into conservation protection and regeneration project to reverse the effect of deforestation, heavy agriculture etc.
Mike, Scotland

Take a look in the mirror. You are looking at the only person who can do anything about it. Cut your own use of energy from non-sustainable sources. Boycott products from companies who do not actively limit the use of energy. Do not buy products whose production has in any way harmed the rain forests. There are resources enough in the world if they are used with care - think before you consume.
Roger Dornan, Denmark

We are getting worse not better as far as eco-friendly lifestyles are concerned

Graeme, England
I am constantly shocked in this day and age by the increasing number of disposable products coming on the market. In the last year or so things like disposable contact lenses, a whole load of different disposable dusters, disposable nappies, and today I even saw ultra-cheap disposable paint brushes. How much energy is used to manufacture all these use-once products and where do people think all this extra non-biodegradable waste goes. We are getting worse not better as far as eco-friendly lifestyles are concerned.
Graeme, England

It is as much our responsibility as the states to take measures to alleviate the irreversible climate change that we are facing. Whether we like it or not, we are all going to have to change our lifestyles dramatically if we are to have any hope of reducing the ongoing damage to the bio-sphere.

For starters: don't buy a car unless you have to, don't buy products with unnecesary or disposable packaging if you can help it, don't use disposable shopping bags, buy organic (some pesticides contribute to global warming as well), don't travel by air, boycott ALL companies responsible for polluting the atmosphere, write to your MP and make your concerns noted (all letters are counted). There, now that you all know, what are you going to do about it?
H, London, UK

I see the main point of contention is the relationship between the motorcar and its pollutants. If the people of the world stopped buying combustion engine cars, this would force the auto manufacturers to replace these dirty engines with some of the many other sources of propulsion that have appeared over the last 50 years, only to disappear when the oil and auto giants bought up the patents.
Steve, NL

We already hold the power in this game

Guy Pickrell, UK/US
Reading the observations below, I see that capitalism and America seem to feature highly in the list of "baddies" for this argument. I care deeply about the environment but I am also a capitalist. The one truism about capitalism is that it thrives on giving people what they want, the solution to the problem is not top down, it is from the individual up. If you wait for your government to tell you what to do, it will already be too late. If as an individual you demand a clean car - I promise you a capitalist will build it for you. If as a consumer you only buy goods from economically sound companies, those companies will prosper and the others will follow suit. We already hold the power in this game and our voice is louder than any government. We all need to educate ourselves; if you care enough do some research an exercise the one thing that capitalism will always guarantee you - a choice!
Guy Pickrell, UK/US

We can all "do our bit" by pressurising governments and politicians, directing consumer spending to low environmental impact products, being much less wasteful and much more fuel efficient. If we all stand back and wait for governments and big business to do it for us, nothing will happen. Get out there and do something (without polluting!)
Vince Summers, Scotland

The US and the rest of the "developed" countries are all to blame. We all ignore the results of things that we do to keep our fragile little Utopias stable. Everything from slave labour in the Third World to the ability to throw things "away". What we do not see doesn't really happen in our "developed" lives. This is the narrow-sightedness we really need to combat.
Aaron, US

The greatest problem in dealing with global warming will be in reconciling the economic needs of the developing nations with the environmental health of the planet. Rich nations have the leisure to ponder these matters; the developing world is concerned with lifting its people out of poverty and is thus more likely to use cheap, established means of producing energy with fossil fuels. It's a bit thick for the rich world to turn to one billion people in India and tell them that their economic growth should be sacrificed for the benefit of reversing global pollution that those rich nations created.
Matt Simon, USA

To survive this will take a paradigm shift in what people consider economic growth and cut consumption. This will allow government to make unpopular decisions and be able to stand up to industry interests - very unlikely given the concept of capitalism
Steve Black, UK

If you fly to foreign holidays, own a car and have kids then you are a major contributor to the problem. Look at your own lifestyle before pointing the finger. And I agree with the sentiments on this page. The average American uses two hundred times more resources than someone in Bangladesh. The West, especially US citizens, must be made more aware of the damage they are causing, with their rampant consumer lifestyle.
Alan Wood, UK

The only way any of this will change is at grass roots level

David, UK
I do not subscribe to the argument that all the warnings of climate change are unsubstantiated. The evidence is all around us. One of the fundamental laws of science is that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. You can't pump billions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere and not expect changes. The only way any of this will change is at grass roots level. It is up to us, the concerned public of the world, via protest, voting Green or boycotting goods, to grab governments and industry by the scruff of the neck and shout loudly that we care about the planet and we've had enough. I fear it will take a major catastrophe before anything gets done, and by then, it could be too late.
David, UK

How can you possibly slow down the US economy which depends upon the huge consumption of fuel? And who's going to tell the developing countries to stop developing since their progress depends upon energy consumption. It's simple physics. Organisation cannot be created out of chaos without the input of energy. There is no other energy source to replace fossil fuel. The hydro electric dams, windmills, tides and the like supply 2 per cent of current energy needs.
Roger Sayer, USA

Why do people think it is arrogant to assume that man can affect the climate system? To me, it is arrogant to think that we can do what we like and not have any effect. In any case, we are affecting the system - the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is clearly, irrefutably, dramatically, increasing. Since CO2 is the main gas responsible for the greenhouse effect, global warming seems pretty plausible. Choosing to disbelieve it is extreme optimism (and/or sturdy self-interest).
Bel, Australia

Whilst the evidence that planet earth is warming up is quite strong, it has been doing this (and also cooling down) for millions of years. The evidence that this particular warming phase is caused by mankind is fragile to say the least. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the funding that scientists require from government who support the theory to justify ever higher fuel taxes. That would be too cynical for words!
Chris, London, UK

Millions of years worth of sunlight created the coal and oil that we consume in minutes! How arrogant we are to assume that this has no effect on the climate! The ultimate polluter is really heat, everything we do ends up as heat, and none of it ever escapes past the mantle of water vapour in our atmosphere. Head for the hills!
Dave P, Australia

The evidence for global climate change is tentative to say the least

Tom, UK
Having studied the environmental impact of human activity, I can honestly say that the evidence for global climate change is tentative to say the least. Arbitrary measurements made by obscure establishments with questionable conclusions is pretty much the norm within much of the scientific community, particularly those with limited funding who invariably need more. Although there may be some who say that human activity is significantly changing the climate (not the same as the environment), the holistic approach that is required is simply too complex for scientists to ascertain. I do not subscribe to this point of view given the sheer amount of data that would need to be analysed.
Tom, UK

Well, if it means that we'll have the summer weather of the Mediterranean, I shall no longer be going to Benidorm and will be booking up for Southend instead!!
Fraser, Essex, England

It was very telling last weekend when London was experiencing its worst pollution since 1991 and the DoE asked people not to make unnecessary journeys by vehicle, that this advice was either not reported at all or almost completely ignored. Also the old-fashioned concept of taking responsibility for your own actions, in that polluter pays, seems to be rejected by the majority of people who seem to think that they can adversely affect other people's lives and not take responsibility.
Phil Jeremy, UK

To believe that we can actually make a difference to probably the most complex system we know is highly arrogant. Natural events will always occur and we must adapt. The fact is this: the sun drives our climate system and is currently in the peak of its solar cycle. This event happens every eleven years as the solar magnetic field changes. It has happened for the last 5 billion years and will do so for another 5 billion. We will soon, in the next ten thousand years, begin the descent into another ice age. Will people blame that on manmade interference?
Anthony, England

Governments should put in place stringent laws through the UN to ensure that all countries are aware of the issues and take positive action to do their bit. I truly fear for the next four years with the newly elected President Bush in the United States as it appears that his pro-industry stance will have a detrimental and possible irreversible effect on the world as a whole from the destruction of natural wildlife areas to mass pollution world-wide. We all need to think and act positively if we are to protect our futures.
Sharon, UK

The Government could rationalise the fragmented train network

Chris, UK
What can be done? To begin with, in the UK the Government could rationalise the fragmented train network and substantially reduce fares. For some journeys, especially with more than one person, a car can be significantly cheaper than ecologically cheaper public transport.
Chris, UK

Watching diesel buses stuck in traffic reminded me that the trolleybuses we so unwisely scrapped do not consume any energy while stationary. As the bus I use daily seems to spend over half its time stationary, there's an immediate energy saving. They're also very clean (even assuming the worst method of electricity generated) when compared with the buses that I see belching out fumes on Reading's streets.
Pete B, UK

As a regular car commuter it pains me to track the increase in the cost of running a car. However this is the price we all have to pay for cleaner air emissions. I would welcome any improvement in public transport to lure me away from the M40 and to make my journey to work more comfortable, much safer as well as greener for us all. It really doesn't need a leading climatologist to come to these sort of conclusions.
Rebecca Southwell, UK

People are not prepared to give up the things that are causing global warming

Gill, UK
Governments are not responding because - when push comes to shove - people are not prepared to give up the things that are causing global warming. Look at the demonstrations at the cost of fuel. We want our cars, our holidays in the sun and our out of season exotic fruit and vegetables and we all want someone else to give up their life style to save the world.
Gill, UK

The solution is simple. Boycott all products that have been made with old and polluting machinery from entering the EU. All non-polluting products and those that pollute below the guidelines set in the Kyoto-manifesto should have a sticker placed on them so that we, as consumers, know which goods are polluting and which are not.
Jose Fernandez, Nertherlands

By all means let's cut pollution and waste - but we should not fool our selves that this will make much difference to the climate as a whole. How arrogant can we get!
Bob, UK

Electricity competition means that people can now choose to be supplied from renewable resources. Doing this is much better than sitting around talking about it.
Chris, UK

Governments will do nothing other than cosmetic tampering

Mark Dickinson, Nottingham, England
There is a lot that can be done, but I doubt that anything will be done. There are too many greedy and selfish people in the world who can only see as far as the next buck and who have scant regard for future generations. The wheels of industry will continue to turn at the same frantic pace in order to keep the fat-cats and the shareholders happy. Governments will do nothing other than cosmetic tampering because they are afraid of the people who hold all the real power - the big industrialists.
Mark Dickinson, Nottingham, England

It's about time that world governments woke up to the fact that they are putting their own people's property, lives and health at risk by neglecting climate change. Globally we must cut carbon levels drastically and move away from an economy based on oil. It is not acceptable for the US to buy "carbon units" from poorer countries, either. On the personal level - turn off lights, turn down heating, reduce household waste by recycling plastics and get rid of that car! In the present environmental crisis they are a luxury the planet can ill afford.
Paula, UK

As long as government is in the pockets of big business there will never be any hope of seriously addressing environmental issues.
Richard, UK

I don't think any drastic action should be taken on the basis of self-interested scientific "experts" who use terms like "belief" and "we are convinced". The fact is they have no definitive evidence for global warming and there is no research money available when saying it doesn't exist. I remember the 1970's when "the ice-age cometh" - more experts promoting themselves - yawn !
Mark, UK

I understand that aviation fuel has a very low (or no tax) in comparison to car fuel. Since it is burnt higher in the atmosphere where CO2 allegedly has most effect what is being done about this?. Also all the CO2 from space rockets must have some effect - what is being done about this?
Ian Baldwin, England

How can we hope to reverse this trend when the world's largest polluter the USA buries it's head in the sand ? It's all down to short-termism and economic self interest. Heaven help future generations .
Simon, England

America needs to take a lead on this, the rest of the world is merely snipping at the edges

Roy Chapman, UK
Interesting how two, supposedly, unrelated subjects appear on Talking point. The first on climate change, the second on George W Bush. As a first step, lets try and link these two. If Britain was to cut back carbon emissions by 50 per cent this would equal a cut in America of a fraction of 1 per cent. America needs to take a lead on this, the rest of the world is merely snipping at the edges.
Roy Chapman, UK

In the end of the day, this problem boils down to population excess in the planet. As politicians are all primarily concern with votes, I can't see which of them will proposed measures to reduce dramatically the population as they had to go against ancient religious propaganda which still promote exaggerated human reproduction. From this point of view we are doomed.
John Costa, UK

How about a global trade embargo on the USA? Such a rich country should be able to have sustained growth without its current policy of cheap fuels and high waste. Maybe the rest of the world can educate US citizens and government that the majority of the world exists outside of their borders.
Karl Johnson, UK

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22 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
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