September 22, 2005
Global warming: a British perspective
“Global warming is the most severe threat we face…more serious than terrorism” declared Sir David King a year or so ago. Sir David is the Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK Government and his declaration caused some sensation in Downing Street, in London, and in other parts of the world as one can easily imagine.
“I am happy to repeat that statement” said Sir David in Berkeley where he was invited by the Journalism School, on September 16th, to give a talk on the subject.
Katrina was the subject of some of the first questions asked by Michael Pollan and Sandy Tolan who hosted the event.
For Sir David, “Katrina is a potential tipping point of our attitudes towards natural disasters.” One has to be careful though: “It is not directly related to global warming but it is an example of disasters that might come. We do know that the intensity of hurricanes depends on ocean temperature. There is a little bit of a warning here.”
Asked about American media tendency to say that human impact on global warming is not clear, Sir David answered: “I’m amazed at the power of paid lobbyists in this country.”
Some mistakes are made, he admitted, and scientists ought to challenge each other, but “The science of climate change is mature. We know there is global warming. We know what causes it. What we don’t know is the impact it is going to have country by country.”
“There is room to say we need more science,” added Sir David. But we must anticipate that coastal cities will come under increasing risks. They will be higher in the developing world.” World wide more than a 100 million people are threatened.
The British government is taking the issue seriously. Five years ago it allocated 200 millions pounds to protect its coastal population. The budget has already risen to half a billion.
Richer countries have to give the proper example, act as leaders. “I would very much like to see the US take this leadership role,” he added.
Some people in the U.S. argue that controlling carbon dioxide emissions would slow growth. The British case seems to prove the opposite: “The UK could decrease its emissions in 12% while seeing its GDP grow 38%. It can be done,” said Sir King.
One of the issues addressed by Sir David during his talk is the difficulty to grab the attention of politicians on such issues as global warming. It’s much easier with terrorism of course. And still, Prime Ministers and heads of industries have families “they have genetic worries about their children.” Is the specie at risk? “Our DNA will survive, maybe in a different form,” said Sir David with a strange kind of a smile.
[Picture found on Greenpeace.org.uk]
Posted September 22, 2005 09:51 AM
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