The challenge to all sections of community

In facing the challenge, it is important to recognise that the problems raised by global warming are not only global but long term; the timescales of climate change, of major infrastructure change in energy generation or transport or of major changes in programmes such as forestry are of the order of several decades. The programme of action must therefore be seen as both urgent and evolving, based on continuing scientific, technical and economic assessments. As the IPCC 1995 Report states, 'The challenge is not to find the best policy today for the next 100 years, but to select a prudent strategy and to adjust it over time in the light of new information.'11

In pursuing the challenge, I list below some of the particular responsibilities for different communities of expertise that generally transcend national boundaries.

• For the world's scientists the brief is clear: to narrow the uncertainties regarding the science of climate change and to provide better information especially about expected changes in climate extremes at the regional and local levels. Not only politicians and policymakers, but also ordinary people in all countries and at all levels of society, need the information provided in the clearest possible form. Scientists also have an important role in contributing to the research necessary to underpin the technical developments, for example in the energy, transport, forestry and agriculture sectors, required by the adaptation and mitigation strategies we have described.

• In the world of politics, it is over 20 years since Sir Crispin Tickell drew attention to the need for international action addressing climate change.12 Since then, a great deal of progress has been made with the signing in Rio in 1992 of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and with the setting up of the Sustainable Development Commission in the United Nations. The challenges presented by the Convention to politicians and decision-makers, working both nationally and internationally, are, firstly, to achieve the right balance of development against environmental concern, that is to achieve sustainable development, and secondly, to find the resolve to turn the many fine words of the Convention into adequate, genuine and urgent action (including both adaptation and mitigation) regarding climate change.

• In addressing both adaptation and mitigation, the role of technology is paramount. The necessary technology is available. Urgently needed is adequate investment by both governments and industry in essential research and development and in the training of adequate numbers of technologists and engineers to carry it out. An important component of the strategy is the transfer of appropriate technology between countries, especially in the energy sector. This has been specifically recognised in the Climate Convention which in Article 4, paragraph 5 states:

The developed country Parties ... shall take all practical steps to promote, facilitate and finance, as appropriate, the transfer of, or access to, environmentally sound technologies and know-how to other Parties, particularly developing country Parties, to enable them to implement the provisions of the Convention.

• The responsibilities of industry must also be seen in the world context. It is the imagination, innovation, commitment and activity of industry that will do most to solve the problem. Industries that have a global perspective, working as appropriate with governments, need to develop a technical, financial and policy strategy to this end. The challenge of global warming must not be seen by industry as a threat but as a great opportunity; many companies from some of the largest to the smallest are now seriously and effectively taking sustainability and environmental considerations on board.13

• There are also new challenges for economists and social scientists; for instance, that of adequately representing environmental costs (especially including those 'costs' that cannot be valued in terms of money) and the value of 'natural' capital, especially when it is of a global kind - as mentioned in Chapter 9. There is the further problem of dealing fairly with all countries. No country wants to be put at a disadvantage economically because it has taken its responsibilities with respect to global warming more seriously than others. As economic and other instruments (for instance, taxes, subsidies, capping and trading arrangements, regulations or other measures) are devised to provide the incentives for appropriate action regarding global warming by governments or by individuals, these must be seen to be both fair and effective for all nations. Economists working with politicians and decision-makers need to find imaginative solutions that recognise not just environmental concerns but political realities.

• There is an important role for communicators and educators. Everybody in the world is involved in climate change so everybody needs to be properly informed - to understand the evidence for it, its causes, the distribution of its impacts and the action that can be taken to alleviate them. Climate change is a complex topic; the challenge to educators (including churches and other organisations involved in teaching) - also to the media -is to inform in ways that are understandable, comprehensive, honest and balanced.

• All countries will need to adapt to the climate change that applies in their region. For many developing countries this will not be easy because of increased floods, droughts or significant rise in sea level. Reductions in risks from disasters are some of the most important adaptation strategies. A challenge for aid agencies therefore is to prepare for more frequent and intense disasters in vulnerable countries; the International Red Cross has already taken the lead in this.14

• Finally, there is a challenge for everybody (see box). None of us can argue that there is nothing we can usefully do. Edmund Burke, a British parliamentarian of 200 years ago, said: No one made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do so little.

There are many small efforts that individuals can make, which in numbers can help mitigate global warming. Compared with paper directly from a forest source, recycled paper reduces water consumption by nearly 60% and energy use by 40%. Air and water pollution are decreased by 74% and 35% respectively.

There are many small efforts that individuals can make, which in numbers can help mitigate global warming. Compared with paper directly from a forest source, recycled paper reduces water consumption by nearly 60% and energy use by 40%. Air and water pollution are decreased by 74% and 35% respectively.

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