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[Thrist is a global problem]
Nelson Mandela took the earth summit by the scruff of its neck yesterday, urging politicians to make access to clean water a basic human right and to put water and sanitation much higher up the political, economic and social agendas. In his first speech to delegates he said it was "the absence of access to clean water" that was "most stark in the widespread impoverishment of the natural environment". AFP photo



Only little George denies Global Warming

The Earth Summit is showing the world, at least the part that is listening, that there is a real problem created by the increased population increasingly manipulating the environment.  Human beings could turn this planet into a very hostile place if we are not careful.  There is always a critical mass in any occurence where one crosses a line and everything is all of a sudden changed.  

We think that the global temperature rising a few degrees and the oceans rising a few inches is not worth considering.  But it may be that these small changes can set in motion major climate changes that could flood or dry up vital areas of agriculture production.  The bread belt of the United States could shift north into Canada or south into Mexico.  All it would take would be a change in the air currents over North America.

There is an old saying, "Never gamble more than you can afford to lose."  That particularly applies to the global environment.  We cannot afford to shift the weather patterns of the earth such that we will no longer be able to feed ourselves.  We cannot afford to deal with a shift in the overall environment such that there is simply not enough fertile earth to grow the food necessary to feed the whole world..

I guess little George feels that the United States has enough military power to take over whatever area of the world needs to be conquered to feed Americans.  Who knows what goes on in his mind outside the pursuit of money and killing terrorist.  It is possible that his brain pan just does not have the capacity to understand the problem.

The whole world knows that the United States is the largest polluter of the world environment.  Americans know it.  But like any other bully, we feel that we are rich enough and powerful enough to do whatever we want.  Well for now that is true but it does not mean that the earth has guaranteed us anything in the future.

Scientist are daily finding evidence of the awesome power of nature to devastate human societies.  We can continue to pollute the environment.  We can continue to ignore the rest of the world.  But if we are wrong about the ability of the global environment to absorb our abuse, then we are all going to be in serious trouble.  The global environment is no respecter of national boundaries.

There is more to human existence that the pursuit of wealth.  There is the pursuit of peace and a sustainable environment where we maximize our use of the world's resources without ignoring the fact that once the planet is depleted, we have nowhere else to go.  We are stuck on this little dirt ball in the solar system and if we render it uninhabitable, we will truly suffer and possibly perish altogether.

It is hard to understand how the entire world is looking to the United States for leadership and little George believes that the power of three hundred million Americans allows it to ignore the six billion other human beings on the planet.  

Americans are not bullet proof or insulated from the world's problems.  Everyday the world becomes more interconnected and interdependent.  We can lead the world in finding ways to maintain our economy while sustaining the global environment.  We can become an example to the world or we can teach the world to ignore the fact that the single acts of six billion people can add up to a global nightmare from which it may take millennia to recover.

John WorldPeace
August 29, 2002

Floods, Droughts Loom From Climate Damage, Says Top Scientist

JOHANNESBURG -- One of the world's top climate scientists warned the Earth Summit here Tuesday that global warming could turn the floods and droughts that have devastated parts of Asia and Europe from freak to frequent events.

Robert Watson, the World Bank's chief scientist and former head of the United Nations' top Scientific Task Force on Global Warming, complained though that the summit was ignoring the climate change peril, partly to appease U.S. President George W.


At a press conference, Watson said scientists were reluctant to pin this year's extreme weather events to global warming.

"Not one single event can be directly attributed to human activities, but their incidence is projected to become more frequent," Watson said.

Climate change would also have a big impact on food production within a few decades by causing water stress for farmers, he said, citing a report issued last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that he chaired , AFP reported.

"By the year 2020, all of Africa, Latin America, Middle East through India and southeast Asia will have reduced productivity. By the time we get to the 2020s, we even project decreased agricultural productivity in the United States," he said. "Small changes in climate can have an profound effect, we believe, on agricultural productivity."

The IPCC report declared that there was now inconvertible evidence that man had caused the earth's atmosphere to warm by uncontrolled burning of oil, gas and coal.

These fossil fuels release carbon dioxide, which acts like an invisible shroud, trapping the sun's heat instead of letting it radiate safely back into space.

The IPCC predicts the earth's mean surface temperature will rise by between 1.4 and 5.8 C (2.5 to 10.4 F) by 2100 compared with 1990 levels, causing sea levels to surge from eight to 88 centimeters (3.6 to 35 inches).

The report helped spur the conclusion of the Kyoto Protocol, a UN agreement that commits rich countries to trim output of these greenhouse gases.

The big holdout, though, was the United States, which by itself accounts for a quarter of carbon pollution.

Bush walked away from Kyoto, contending that the evidence for climate change was still sketchy, that the treaty would be too costly for the U.S. economy and unfair because it did not require big emerging countries like China and India to curb their own pollution.

And in what was widely seen by environmentalists as retaliation for the IPCC report, Bush forced Watson out of the agency's chair when his term came up for renewal.

Watson said Kyoto still left unresolved the need to reconcile "political differences" within the industrialized world and between industrialized and developing countries.

"I don't see this summit being the place to reconcile those differences. Climate is fundamentally off the agenda at this summit for a number of reasons," he said. "One of the reasons... was the view that there is such a difference between the U.S. and Europe on whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol or not. It was left off the agenda to a large extent to try and encourage President Bush and a high level representation for the U.S. coming here."

The 10-day summit, which opened on Monday, aims to issue an action plan on alleviating poverty and protecting the environment.

Great chunks of the document are still to be agreed, mainly because of a row between the European Union and the United States on trade, finance and renewable energy. They are also deadlocked over a small reference to the Kyoto Protocol.

Bush is not scheduled to attend the summit. The top U.S. representative will be Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Nature's Grim Warning to the Johannesburg Summiteers

Financial Gazette (Harare)

August 29, 2002 
Posted to the web August 28, 2002 

Jeffrey Sachs

NATURE'S awesome powers have been on frightening display lately.

As world leaders gather in Johannesburg to discuss global environmental threats, many parts of the planet are battered by floods, droughts, harvest failures, massive forest fires and even new diseases.

Man's relationship to nature is a theme as old as our species, but that relationship is changing in complex ways. The most important result of the Johannesburg summit should be a recognition that more scientific research and much more global cooperation is needed.

Floods and droughts have been scourges from ancient times, yet the frequency, size and economic impact of these disasters has grown in recent years. Insurance claims against natural disasters rose to unprecedented levels during the 1990s, suggesting that the social costs of environmental upheavals have intensified.

Climate shocks such as the fierce El Nino of 1997-98 played a major role in recent economic upheavals. Indonesia and Ecuador, among other countries, succumbed to financial crises in 1997-98 that were linked (in part) to agricultural crises caused by the severe El Nino.

Part of the growing climate effect results from our sheer numbers. Largely as a result of technological successes in the past 200 years, the human population has grown seven-fold since 1800, from around 900 million in 1800 to more than six billion people today, crowding humanity into vulnerable spots throughout the world.

More than two billion of the world's six billion people live within 100 kilometres of a coastline, and so are vulnerable to ocean storms, flooding and rising sea levels due to global warming.

Hundreds of millions more live in fragile habitats on the steep slopes of mountains, or in semi-deserts, or in rain-fed regions where crops fail regularly when rain doesn't arrive.

Human beings are also changing the environment everywhere, often in ways that make societies more vulnerable. This is especially the case in impoverished countries. The increasing population density in rural Africa, with its intensification of farming, is leading to massive soil depletion.

When drought comes to Southern Africa, as it has this year, tens of millions of impoverished peasant families struggle for survival.

Because African poverty contributed to the uncontrolled spread of AIDS, the combination of climate shocks and epidemic disease is devastating. Millions of AIDS orphans in southern Africa live with grandparents too old and weak to produce food or to secure it. Because of the onset of the El Nino, it's likely that the drought will continue into the coming year.

The most remarkable feature of these environmental changes is that they are not limited to local environments. For the first time in human history, human society is undermining the environment at the global scale, through climate change, extinctions and degraded ecosystems.

Man-made global warming, caused mainly by fossil-fuel burning in rich countries, may well be a factor in the frequency and severity of major droughts, floods and tropical storms. The frequency and intensity of the El Nino cycle in the past 25 years may also be the result of global warming.

China's heavy floods in recent years are partly the result, it seems, of the excessive melting of mountain snows on the Tibetan Plateau, which was caused by higher temperatures.

These growing environmental risks are complex. The effects of environmental change may occur only after many years and may be felt halfway around the world. Or the effects may be indirect.

Land use changes, say, can amplify the spread of infectious diseases by changing the mix of species or the ways that animals and humans interact.

Politicians are inept at handling such problems, so environmental risks continue to grow without adequate changes in public policy. When disasters hit (such as this year's droughts or floods), politicians cannot be held accountable for mistakes made over the course of many decades.

The summit in Johannesburg can draw the world's attention to these pressing problems. Even if the summit produces few specific results, it can make a difference if three demands are made of the summiteers:

-We should insist that the world's politicians recognise the overwhelming scientific evidence that points to the major environmental perils humanity faces;

-We should press these leaders to invest more public money in basic environmental research and in the development of new technologies to address environmental risks. For example, investments in research on alternative energy systems that can limit global warming are vital;

-Third, we should insist that our politicians agree to greater international environmental cooperation, lest the neglectful and shortsighted policies within each nation end up destroying the global ecosystem.

Jeffrey D Sachs is professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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