Putin finally got the message.
Kyoto coming to force is a geopolitical ground shift.
Russianratification pushes this global climate protection agreement
over thethreshold required to become international law.
You can feel the tectonic plates of global politics grating on
oneanother as the rest of the world signs up to the Protocol and
leavesthe Bush administration and their largest single share of the
globe'sgreenhouse gas emissions behind.
We can only hope that the industrial revolution of the 20th
centurywill be followed by an energy revolution of equal magnitude
in the 21st.
The goal of the international climate regime is to "avoid
dangerousclimate change." Unfortunately, "dangerous" is in the eye
of thebeholder, or the victim. To Pacific islanders whose homes are
vanishingbeneath the waves, to Arctic indigenous people whose way
of life isbeing erased due to climate change already, we have
already crossedthat threshold. The same could be said for
devastated homeowners in theCaribbean, Florida and the recent
victims of typhoons in Japan. Thetens of thousands of people who
died in the summer heat waves in Europetwo years ago also probably
thought it was a bit "dangerous."
What's another two degrees?
Scientists have drawn a line in the sand: a point at which
theimpacts of climate change become not just bad, but calamitous
and insome cases irreversible.
They benchmark it at "2º celsius (3.6 fahrenheit) global
averagetemperature increase above pre-industrial levels." If we
turned off thesmokestacks today the greenhouse gases already loaded
into theatmosphere would take us to 1.3º celsius (2.3
If global temperatures hit that barrier, it's bad news for all
ofus. It raises the likelihood of the complete meltdown of the
Greenlandice sheet, and possible collapse of the Amazon rainforest
ecosystem.Tens of millions of people could suddenly be hungry,
hundreds ofmillions would find themselves threatened with malaria
in places wheremalaria had never previously occurred, millions
could have their homesflooded and billions could be without enough
"Already we are witnessing increased storms at sea and floods in
ourcities," Chief UK Scientist David King said recently. "Global
warmingwill increase the level and frequency at which we experience
heightenedweather patterns." Dr. King is also on record as saying
climate changeis a bigger threat than terrorism.
"Action is affordable. Inaction is not," he told the third
Greenpeace Business Lecture in central London.
Fortunately, some in the US are breaking ranks with the
BushAdministration's opposition to the treaty and ExxonMobil's
corporatestrategy of active lobbying to undermine it. (see
Greenpeace Briefing -
Kyoto, the USA and business)
We believe that the world needs to bring total emissions back
to1990 levels by about 2020, then reduce them by 50 percent
bymid-century. (see Greenpeace Briefing -
How much climate change can we bear?)
But even that may be too conservative a strategy if the recent
unexplained spikes in carbon dioxide emissions continue for the
next few years on trend.
Now that we have the Protocol in place, the only question
whichremains is whether politicians can act faster than the climate
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