The Debate: Are We Doing Enough to Limit Global Warming? Should Action Be Taken to Tackle an Overheating Climate? Alan Weston Reports

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), June 14, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Debate: Are We Doing Enough to Limit Global Warming? Should Action Be Taken to Tackle an Overheating Climate? Alan Weston Reports


Byline: Alan Weston

ALL eyes will be on Gleneagles in Scotland next month, when the eight most powerful leaders in the world gather for the G8 summit.

One of the biggest challenges they face is over climate change. In the past 30 years, world temperatures have increased by almost 0.5C, while human activity is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases - partly responsible for the warming of the planet - to unprecedented levels.

The fear is that unless something is done, these will continue to rise and increase the risk of a dramatic acceleration in global warming.

This week, Tony Blair is on a European tour to shore up his plans to achieve the elusive breakthrough on this issue at the July summit.

The challenge is a formidable one. The drive to limit climate change will only be successful if it is co-ordinated across the globe, but this shows no sign of happening.

Any deal that did not gain US support would be largely worthless. The Kyoto Protocol - an international agreement setting targets for industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions - suffered a massive blow when the US, responsible for about a quarter of the world's emissions, pulled out.

For most American citizens, the right to cheap fuel and the freedom to drive huge gas-guzzling vehicles is fundamental and US politicians are loath to risk incurring their wrath.

Similarly, up-and-coming industrial giants such as China are building 1,000 megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity every two weeks, and before long, India will be doing the same. All attempts to address this issue have to begin at home. Here, we take a look at whether we are doing enough to combat climate change

NO

Frank Kennedy, North West regional campaigns co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth

We need a combination of 'carrot and stick' measures PRACTICALLY every climate scientist agrees that climate change, caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases in the upper atmosphere, is already happening.

Climate change is the world's greatest environmental challenge, so far-reaching in its impact and irreversible in its destructive power that it alters radically human existence, according to Tony Blair himself. Quite rightly, he has made it a key agenda item for the forthcoming G8 summit, and this week is trying to take his concerns to other world leaders.

Yet of 214 people who filled in a questionnaire on our stall during the Anglican Cathedral's Environment Week and the Mersey River Festival weekend, 207 considered that Mr Blair's own government is not doing enough to tackle it Partly, this reflects how worried the public is now becoming - especially those with young children or grandchildren, who may be in line to suffer worse climate impacts than we have yet experienced. Yet many are well aware that, for all the Prime Minister's words, the UK's contributions to climate change have kept on rising since he came to power.

Emissions from inefficient coal-fired power stations have risen; road traffic has grown by over 10% since 1997; and air travel, the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide, is set to increase further since the Government gave a green light for more airports.

We need a combination of 'carrot and stick' measures: on the one hand, taxincentives for buying solar panels and fuel-efficient cars; on the other, ensuring that polluters pay a premium for aviation fuel (incredibly, not taxed at the moment), for heavy industrial usage of fossil fuels, for 'gas-guzzling' vehicles. Government must back the development of more renewable energy and place massive investment in energy efficiency and public transport.

Above all, in Friends of the Earth's view, new legislation is needed to make the Government legally responsible for meeting its pledge to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050.

The Climate Change Bill, has been introduced to Parliament.

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