30 October 2006

Stern but Fair

The conclusions of the Stern Review will not come as any surprise to readers of this blog:

The scientific evidence is now overwhelming: climate change is a serious global threat, and it demands an urgent global response.

This Review has assessed a wide range of evidence on the impacts of climate change and on the economic costs, and has used a number of different techniques to assess costs and risks. From all of these perspectives, the evidence gathered by the Review leads to a simple conclusion: the benefits of strong and early action far outweigh the economic costs of not acting.

But as I commented before about a similar case, what makes this report so important is that it coming from the establishment, not from groups who would be expected to make statements like that above. It is also meticulous in detailing the situation. Kudos to the UK Government for commissioning it - and for making it freely available.

Despite its portentous message, I find its appearance - and of an increasing number of similar reports - strangely heartening: I can't help feeling that we are close to not one but two tipping points.

The first is catastrophic, when the earth's environmental system is so far out of kilter that it changes dramatically; the second is rather more positive - the moment when enough people get what is going on, and start doing something effective to avert or at least mitigate the effects of the first tipping point.

Maybe I'm just an incurable optimist, but I was particularly pleased to read this point:

The loss of natural forests around the world contributes more to global emissions each year than the transport sector. Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way to reduce emissions; largescale international pilot programmes to explore the best ways to do this could get underway very quickly.

Halting deforestation seems a way not only to slow down global warming, but to address many other issues like species loss and even poverty. I say let's do it. Please?

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