Magazine article World Watch

Kyoto: The Days of Reckoning

Magazine article World Watch

Kyoto: The Days of Reckoning

Article excerpt

The desire for harmony, historians tell us, is a central theme of Japanese culture that has endured through the centuries. Perhaps, then, it is appropriate that this country's ancient capital should become the focus of our effort to reestablish harmony with the forces that have made possible the evolution of modern society, but whose growing instability - by our own hand - now places both humanity and the natural world at risk.

As environmental diplomats gather this December to negotiate the final terms of the Kyoto Protocol to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change - a crucial step on the path to climate balance - we would do well to remember that we are ultimately negotiating with the oceans and the atmosphere, far less flexible dealmakers, to whom paper promises mean little.

A strong Kyoto protocol is therefore essential - to spur the world's lagging efforts to transform its energy system, a system whose reliance on fossil fuels is now threatening the environment that supports our society. One of the great achievements of the twentieth century was building that energy system. Now, to stabilize the climate, we will need to devote the early decades of the next century to reinventing it.

Many industries and some labor groups are preoccupied with the economic costs of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Certainly, there are costs. But even larger than the costs will be the opportunities. Creating a less carbon-intensive energy system would create hundreds of billions of dollars of business, and millions of jobs - most of them in making and installing devices that cleanly and efficiently turn renewable resources such as sunlight and wind into useful forms of energy such as electricity and hydrogen. …

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