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Gore: Climate change worse than feared

Climate change is occurring far faster than even the worst predictions of the United Nations Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Al Gore warned on Thursday.

New evidence shows “the climate crisis is significantly worse and unfolding more rapidly than those on the pessimistic side of the IPCC projections had warned us”, the former US vice-president and climate campaigner told delegates at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.

There are now forecasts that the North Pole ice cap may disappear entirely during summer months in as little as five years, Gore said.

“This is a planetary emergency. There has never been anything remotely like it in the entire history of human civilisation. We are putting at risk all of human civilisation,” he added.

In 2007, the IPCC issued a report the size of three phone books on the reality and risks of climate change, its fourth assessment in 18 years.

In October both Gore and the IPCC, comprising about 3 000 experts, jointly won a Nobel prize for their roles in highlighting climate change.

Gore said a “little bit of progress” had been made at December’s climate conference in Bali, Indonesia.

He added, though, that there was a “big, large blank spot” in the road map agreed in Bali, reserved for the United States’s environmental policy once a new president is elected in November and inaugurated in January.

He said that the single most important policy that could be implemented would be a tax on carbon emissions that is applied across the whole world.

“I think it is really important from a climate-change point of view to move away from the idea that personal actions from each of us represents the solution to this crisis.

“These are important … but in addition to changing the light bulbs it is important to change the laws,” Gore said.

He stopped short of endorsing any US presidential candidate but said that “whoever is elected will have a better position” on climate change than the current administration of President George Bush.

Gore was appearing at Davos beside Africa activist and U2 frontman Bono in an effort to combine the fights against climate change and poverty.

“The brunt of this climate crisis is going to be felt in the developing world. All your work … will be undone if you don’t focus on this,” Bono said.

“It is clear that those people who have least created this climate crisis … are the least equipped to deal with it.”

Gore added: “I want to say to everyone who wants to solve the climate crisis, they have to take Bono’s agenda on extreme poverty, on fighting disease and dealing with the HIV/Aids crisis and make it an integral part of the world’s effort to solve the climate crisis.”

New world order

Meanwhile, the spectacular rise of China and India, coupled with a decline in US influence, has prompted heated debate in Davos over possible scenarios for a new world order.

While the US remains the undisputed military superpower, experts participating in the annual gathering of the world’s political and business elite have highlighted its waning ability to set the global agenda on its own.

And with the UN Security Council struggling to provide a consensus on just about any major issue, the question of what nation, group of nations or international institution could command a leading role on the future world stage was floated to a widely varying response.

The only real point of agreement was that the current fluidity in the balance of world power carries a serious threat of instability and conflict, as well as concerns over how to build an effective international response to extreme abuses of power such as acts of genocide or ethnic cleansing.

“We don’t live in a multi-polar world, we live in a non-polar world,” said John Chipman, director general of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

While the US is clearly too strong to stay on the sidelines of world affairs, Chipman argued that it was also “too weak” to implement an agenda without wide international support.

Similarly China, while too strong to be seen as just a developing nation, is unable to shape its regional environment alone and India, while certainly a rising power, remains “diffident” about breaking with its non-aligned principles.

At the same time, Russia has accumulated great economic power, but, “wields it in a way that weakens its reputation and causes immense mistrust”, Chipman said.

“The real question is whether the rising powers see themselves as the custodians of an international system and are willing to advance interests that go beyond their national ones,” he added. — AFP

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Simon Sturdee
Simon Sturdee
South Asia news editor for AFP news agency based in Delhi.

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