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Barb wire separates the outside world from government negotiators at the Johannesburg Earth Summit.

Governments

There is a fundamental irony and injustice at the heart of the climate change problem. Today's growing body of evidence indicates very clearly that the first and worst impacts of climate change are felt by the poor in the developing world. The responsibility for the problem, however, lies primarily with the rich industrialised nations, and increasingly the rapidly industrialising nations.

Since all countries are potentially affected by and contribute toclimate change, they should all be involved in the solution. Countieswithout a mature and entrenched energy structure stand to gain by"leapfrogging" to modern energy sources like solar and wind. However,for both practical and moral reasons, it is the industrialised worldthat must take the initiative:

  • Industrialised nations are responsible for the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions - both today and historically. In the past, economic progress was linked directly to carbon dioxide emissions (via the burning of oil, coal and gas to generate energy). Renewable energy sources change this, but only a small number of nations have begun to implement them in earnest.
  • Two billion people - one third of the world's population - have no access to electricity for basic needs such as lighting or cooking. Getting people the clean and reliable energy necessary for essential needs such as clean water, health care facilities, heating and lighting is one of the most pressing problems facing humanity today.
  • Industrialised nations have the capital, resources and expertise to jump-start their renewable energy industries. Obviously, countries with advanced space programs, established higher educational systems and abundant cash for investment are better positioned to implement these new energy technologies then countries still struggling with basic energy needs.

Perhaps part of the problem, though, isthat industrialised nations are also better positioned to adapt toclimate change. Their populations can migrate more easily, newconstruction (of sea walls, etc.) is more feasible and their financialstructures are more stable (including availability of insurance). Oneneeds only think about the different level of response to a naturaldisaster, such as a hurricane, in a rich industrialised nation comparedto a less wealthy developing one to realise how climate change willlikely impact people around the world disproportionately.

However,the industrialised nations must also realize that there will be a point(perhaps already reached) beyond which adaptation alone is no longerthe cost effective choice, and beyond that a point where simplyadapting to climate change is no longer possible.

Fundamentally, we have one Earth, and only one global climate.

More information:

Climate Analysis Indicators Tool by World Resources Institute

Climate Justice

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Smokestacks of coal power station.

Image | 15 June, 1990 at 1:00

Smokestacks of coal power station.

Greenpeace balloon protest against CFC production

Image | 22 April, 1990 at 1:00

Greenpeace balloon protest against CFC production in Spain.

Sea otter at rehabilitation centre in Valdez

Image | 30 March, 1989 at 0:00

Sea otter at rehabilitation centre in Valdez after Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Sea otter at rehabilitation centre in Valdez

Image | 30 March, 1989 at 0:00

Sea otter at rehabilitation centre in Valdez after Exxon Valdez oil spill.

File photo: Greenpeace survey of oil pollution

Image | 1 January, 1989 at 1:00

File photo: Greenpeace survey of oil pollution from a spill in Alaska.

'Test' protest

Image | 23 January, 1981 at 1:00

In response to the arrival of a "test" oil tanker as part of plans to construct an oil terminal, Greenpeace runs a "test" protest. The terminal was subsequently cancelled.

Sacred Mountains of the Inca civilisation disappearing

Image | 1 April, 1978 at 1:00

The Qori Kalis Glacier is the largest ice outlet from the Quelccaya Ice Cap which tops the Cordillera Vilcanota in southeast corner of Peru. They are the Sacred Mountains of Inca civilisation. The ice cap itself has shrunk by at least 20 percent...

Imja Glacier in the Himalayan Khumbu Range of Eastern Nepal

Image | 1 April, 1961 at 1:00

The Imja Glacier in the Himalayan Khumbu Range of Eastern Nepal, southeast of Mount Everest. This glacier is retreating at nearly 10 metres per year.

The original viewpoint taken at the HPS31

Image | 1 April, 1954 at 0:00

The original viewpoint taken at the HPS31 glacier fifty years ago.

"Frozen Tears" glacier has retreated 1500 metres since 1860

Image | 1 April, 1939 at 1:00

The Maori call New Zealand's Franz Josef glacier Ka Roimato or "Frozen Tears", after a tale of doomed lovers. This very dynamic glacier it has retreated 1500 metres since scientific observations began in 1860.

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