War and recession, tragically familiar sources of human misery, dominated (…the new year headlines). Yet it was what was missing from them that provoked my unwelcome thought. In December, a meeting on an issue far more important to the future prosperity and security of everyone on earth will take place in Copenhagen. Yet, nowhere did its prospects make the front pages. Terrible though they are, war and recession pass. Climate change is for ever.
The reason is the unique nature of the climate problem. We know that climate change is a threat to the fragile film of order we humans have built around the chaos of events and call „civilisation“. We know, because Europe’s political leaders told us, that a rise in global average temperature of more than two degrees Celsius is dangerous. We know from our scientists that greenhouse gas emissions must be moving downwards globally by 2015 if we are to have any chance at all of staying within that limit.
Once a given concentration of carbon is in the atmosphere the climate it drives is inexorable even if it takes decades or more to fully express itself. In the most literal sense, the sins of the fathers will be visited on their sons and daughters and well beyond the third and fourth generation.
..The nature of the climate is such that the future cannot redeem today’s mistakes. We have one chance to reach a political agreement to reduce global carbon emissions in time to stay safe. This is the year in which we take that chance.
Compared with the diplomatic effort needed to achieve success in Copenhagen, that required for a final settlement in the Middle East is small. But there is no sign that an effort on the required scale is yet being made. Compare the amount of media coverage, and intensity of political effort, given to the Middle East to that accorded to climate change.
Was meinen Sie? Ist der Klimawandel wichtiger als die globale Wirtschaftskrise und der Krieg im Gaza Streifen? Sollte die Politik ihr entsprechend höhere Priorität einräumen?
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PS: Wer sich den Ausblick auf 2009 auf ZEIT-Online anschaut, wird Tom Burke bestätigt finden. Klima unter „ferner liefen“.