July 29, 2003

Global Warming is Now a Weapon of Mass Destruction

It is rapidly unraveling. The corporate media's
propapunditgandists are going to find it extremely
difficult to spin into "just sixteen words," "get over
it," "the Democratics are exploiting it for political
advantage," or "the President of the U.S. is not a
fact-checker," etc. Of course, they will try...Let's
take stock: Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fraudida) has been in
the headlines every day this week, talking about
impeachment, writing a letter calling for the release
of the "28 pages," etc. Last night, the Saudis too
said they want those "28 pages" released, and that
their emissary was on his way to the White House to
demand it. So what were the top news stories? If you
had been in overseas you would have heard reports of
intensifying attacks against US soldiers in Iraq, as
well as the blowing up of a bridge in Baghdad. Here in
Oceania, you were told that a) Bob Hope is dead, b)
we're only hours behind Saddam, and c) captive
Al-Qaeda have warned of more suicide highjacking this
summer (Geez, really? What a surprising development.
Time to break out Tom Ridge's crayola set?). Yes, it
is unraveling faster and faster ("Out, out damn
spot"), so there was the _resident this morning, with
Ariel Sharon by his side (how poignant), launching a
pre-emptive strike, declaring that he won't release
the "28 pages" because of an "ongoing investigation"
and the "war on terrorism." Hmmm... Meanwhile, if the
debacles of 9/11 and Iraq aren't enough for you, if
gutting the surplus and plunging the federal
government into trillions of dollars of debt isn't
enough for you...Consider the twisted fascist
flat-earth science otherwise known as the _resident's
"policy" on Global Warming and read this powerful
piece from Sir John Houghton. Houghton is wrong on one
point though --
the-shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-Tony-Blair is
already cooked, he cannot
lead anyone, anywhere. How different the future of the
world would be at this moment if the _resident and
the-shell-of-a-man-formerly-known-as-Tony-Blair has
invested their post-9/11 capital in goodwill on a
disciplined, determined struggle against Al Qaeda, a
true, fair and comprehensive peace initiative in
Israel/Palestine and a global full-court press on
GLOBAL WARMING and reducing the reliance on fossil
fuel. Yes, everyone everywhere would be much better
off today...As it is we are entering a very dangerous
period...Does the _resident have another "Trifecta"
ticket up his sleeve?


Published on Monday, July 28, 2003 by the Guardian/UK

Global Warming is Now a Weapon of Mass Destruction
It Kills More People Than Terrorism, Yet Blair and
Bush do Nothing

by John Houghton

If political leaders have one duty above all others,
it is to protect the security of their people. Thus it
was, according to the prime minister, to protect
Britain's security against Saddam Hussein's weapons of
mass destruction that this country went to war in
Iraq. And yet our long-term security is threatened by
a problem at least as dangerous as chemical, nuclear
or biological weapons, or indeed international
terrorism: human-induced climate change.

As a climate scientist who has worked on this issue
for several decades, first as head of the Met Office,
and then as co-chair of scientific assessment for the
UN intergovernmental panel on climate change, the
impacts of global warming are such that I have no
hesitation in describing it as a "weapon of mass

Like terrorism, this weapon knows no boundaries. It
can strike anywhere, in any form - a heat wave in one
place, a drought or a flood or a storm surge in
another. Nor is this just a problem for the future.
The 1990s were probably the warmest decade in the last
1,000 years, and 1998 the warmest year. Global warming
is already upon us.

The World Meteorological Organization warned this
month that extreme weather events already seem to be
becoming more frequent as a result. The US mainland
was struck by 562 tornados in May (which incidentally
saw the highest land temperatures globally since
records began in 1880), killing 41 people. The
developing world is the hardest hit: extremes of
climate tend to be more intense at low latitudes and
poorer countries are less able to cope with disasters.
Pre-monsoon temperatures this year in India reached a
blistering 49C (120F) - 5C (9F) above normal.

Once this killer heat wave began to abate, 1,500
people lay dead - half the number killed outright in
the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
While no one can ascribe a single weather event to
climate change with any degree of scientific
certainty, higher maximum temperatures are one of the
most predictable impacts of accelerated global
warming, and the parallels - between global climate
change and global terrorism - are becoming
increasingly obvious.

To his credit, Tony Blair has - rhetorically, at least
- begun to face up to this. In a recent speech he
stated clearly that "there can be no genuine security
if the planet is ravaged by climate change". But words
are not enough. They have to be matched with adequate
action. The recent announcement of a large-scale
offshore wind generating program was welcome, but the
UK still lags far behind other European countries in
developing renewables capacity.

The latest report on energy and climate change by the
royal commission on environmental pollution addressed
the much more demanding global reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions that will be required over
the next 50 years (in addition to the Kyoto agreement)
and how these could be achieved. Given that the UK
needs to take its share of the global burden the
commission recommended that we should aim for a cut in
these emissions of 60% by 2050.

It also pointed out the urgent need for an adequate
mechanism for negotiating each country's emission
target and advocated a globally implemented plan known
as "contraction and convergence". The energy white
paper published earlier this year accepted the royal
commission's 60% reduction target, but it is
disturbing that it provided no clarity on UK policy
regarding the framework for international negotiation.

Any successful international negotiation for reducing
emissions must be based on four principles: the
precautionary principle, the principle of sustainable
development, the polluter-pays principle and the
principle of equity. The strength of "contraction and
convergence" is that it satisfies all these
principles. But it also means facing up to some
difficult questions.

First, world leaders have to agree on a target for the
stabilization of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at
a sufficiently low level to stave off dangerous
climate change. Second, this target, and the global
greenhouse gas budget it implies, has to form the
framework for an equitable global distribution of
emissions permits, assigned to different countries on
a per-capita basis. Countries with the largest
populations will therefore get the most permits, but
for the sake of efficiency and to achieve economic
convergence these permits will need to be
internationally tradable.

This is the only solution likely to be acceptable to
most of the developing world, which unlike us has not
had the benefit of over a century of fossil
fuel-driven economic prosperity. And it also meets one
of the key demands of the United States, that
developing countries should not be excluded from
emissions targets, as they currently are under the
Kyoto protocol.

Nowadays everyone knows that the US is the world's
biggest polluter, and that with only one 20th of the
world's population it produces a quarter of its
greenhouse gas emissions. But the US government, in an
abdication of leadership of epic proportions, is
refusing to take the problem seriously - and Britain,
presumably because Blair wishes not to offend George
Bush - is beginning to fall behind too. Emissions from
the US are up 14% on those in 1990 and are projected
to rise by a further 12% over the next decade.

It is vital that Russia now ratifies the Kyoto
protocol so that it can at last come into force. But
while the US refuses to cooperate, it is difficult to
see how the rest of the world can make much progress
on the much tougher longer-term agreements that will
be necessary after Kyoto's mandate runs out in 2012.

Nor does the latest science provide any comfort. The
intergovernmental panel on climate change has warned
of 1.4C to 5.8C (2.5F to 10.4F) temperature rises by
2100. This already implies massive changes in climate,
and yet the current worst-case scenarios emerging from
the Met Office's Hadley Center. envisage even greater
rises than this - a degree and speed of global warming
the consequences of which are hard to quantify or even

So Blair has a challenge. The world needs leadership,
and the British prime minister is well placed to stand
at the head of a new "coalition of the willing" to
tackle this urgent problem. He is also uniquely placed
to persuade Bush to join in this effort, given their
joint commitment to making the world safe from
"weapons of mass destruction".

But even if he fails to persuade him, there are other
allies who would still respond to his leadership -
even if this means opposing the US until such time as
it no longer has an oilman for president. If Blair
were to assume this mantle, history might not only
forgive him, but will also endorse Britain's
contribution to long-term global security.

Sir John Houghton was formerly chief executive of
the Meteorological Office and co-chair of the
scientific assessment working group of the
intergovernmental panel on climate change. He is the
author of 'Global Warming: the Complete Briefing'.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003

Posted by richard at July 29, 2003 03:14 PM