Uncharted waters for the Climate?

Feature story - 6 December, 2004
Politicians from around the world are gathering in Argentina to discuss climate change. We have unveiled our own 'Climate Ark' in the centre of Buenos Aires to illustrate the urgent need for action.

Greenpeace ark in Buenos Aires illustrates danger of inaction on climate change.

The wooden Greenpeace 'Climate Ark' held symbolic climate refugees. Their message is simple: without action against global warming, the future looks bleak for most of the planet's population. Global warming will bring more storms, floods and heat waves that will hit the poorest and most vulnerable first.

Among the crowds at the Ark were 4000 online activists from Argentina who turned up in person to demand action - not words - from the politicians gathering in their city.

It took the world 10 years to finally agree the only global response to climate change - the Kyoto Protocol - which limits greenhouse gases. The world cannot afford another 10 years before taking significant action to tackle the problem. Without action, the melting of glaciers, break-up of ice sheets, and sea-level rise will only accelerate.

While the world's poor feel the impact first, responsibility for tackling the problem lies with the world's biggest polluters - the rich countries. The US administration is currently 'climate enemy number one' as the biggest polluter and most vocal opponent of action on global warming.

Not only is the US not putting its own house in order, it will be actively lobbying other countries at the talks not to take any action. But US inaction should not be an excuse for stalemate at the talks, or for other countries to put off action.

The question is, are we prepared to act to prevent even worse impacts of climate change and at the same time provide help for the most vulnerable to adapt or will we consign millions to their fates in an uncertain and unstable world?

Keeping the global average temperature increase below 2°C should be the goal of climate policy. That will still be dangerous to millions of people but it is now probably the best we can do.

By staying below 2°C we can limit damage to coral reefs; limit the risk of the Greenland ice sheet collapsing; and limit the rate and extent of sea level rise. Hunger, water scarcity and disease risk seem to accelerate with higher temperature. It isn't too late to pull the world back from the brink but it soon may be.

There is no choice. Governments must act now to save the planet from a dangerous and uncertain future or all the arks in the world won't be enough to save the climate refugees.