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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.Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
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!
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!
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!!
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
As long as government is in the pockets of big business there will never be any hope of seriously addressing environmental issues.
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 !
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?
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 .
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.
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.
22 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Climate change outstrips forecasts
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