October 3, 2008

Urgent need for action

Filed under: Development, Environment, Politics/News — Tags: , — 4fooey @ 10:02 am

Imagine the situation…. millions of people are threatened, their livelihoods at risk, their homes at risk, increased hardship,¬†instability, wars even, etc. No, I’m not talking about the fallout from the current financial crisis, but the probable effects of climate change.

The evidence that CO2 and other emissions are warming the planet are incontravertible — in the past few months/years numerous research organisations and NGOs have shown this (including the Stearn report, various UN reports etc), and although there are still a few doubters both political and scientific, it is now time to take URGENT action.

Fast forward to now, and everyone is gripped by the financial crisis and the issue of climate change has taken a back seat. I would suggest the two things are linked, in both causes and effects. Our modern lifestyles and our rising level of prosperity have created climate change — the rise in living standards has been fuelled by the past few years of “living beyond our means”, both in terms of the “easy money/credit” from banks and increasing levels of consumption of goods, energy and resources. We are now racing towards a future of disastrous effects due to our profligate lifestyles and culture.

If we are to face a period of scaling down our lifestyles, of cutting back, due to economic hardship, then this might be a silver lining on some very dark clouds — if everyone borrows less, buys less, consumes less, then we damage the planet less. But don’t get me wrong the financial crisis is a disaster and I would rather it was not happening now. We need strong economies to tackle problems like climate change and other important issues (like those on the UN millennium development goals) — and I’m hopeful that America and the wider world will recover from this crisis.

Short term we need to get ourselves out of the dire financial mess, but longer term we need to rebuild the financial system, and the global economy as a whole, in a more sustainable way, to create a system that truly helps the majority of people towards a better life. It’s somewhat disappointing that relatively bold and swift action is being taken to solve the financial crisis, while the problem of climate change is potentially more damaging and yet nothing so radical is being done.

Update 14/11/08: Although the threat to humanity and planet from Climate change and its effects are far greater than the effects of the financial crisis or of global terrorism, large numbers of people seem to ignore the threat. This phenomenon is examined here: Are Human Beings Hard-Wired to Ignore the Threat of Catastrophic Climate Change?

July 31, 2007

Urgent action needed

Filed under: Development — 4fooey @ 10:37 pm

During 2 days in America, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has set out his agenda, no less than solving the ‘big’ problems of the world (disease, poverty, illiteracy, environmental degradation), and stressing the need for urgent action on many of these problems. In his Camp David meetings with President Bush he reaffirmed his commitment to the relationship with the US, and the need to stand together with the US, while on the following day at the UN he spelled out the need for urgent ACTION with regard to meeting the Development Goals agreed in 2000 by virtually every country in the world. Also during Brown’s visit a large peacekeeping force was announced for Darfur – it’s about time this sort of action was taken for Darfur in which it is estimated over 200,000 people have died. Brown’s call to action is reported here: Brown’s UN call on global poverty and his speech in full is here: In full: Brown’s speech at UN. Here are some extracts:

“The situation in Darfur is the greatest humanitarian disaster the world faces today. Over 200,000 dead, 2 million displaced and 4 million on food aid… The message for Darfur is that it is time for change.”

“And I am here to say that its also time for change so that we can meet the world’s millennium development goals… the goals the world has set are not being met and we face an emergency – a development emergency – and we need emergency action if we are to meet them… The Millennium Development Goal of 2000, to be met in 2015, is primary education for every child.
Unless we act it will not be met by 2015, not even by 2050 but at best by 2100.”

“[On all seven development goals] we are we are a million miles away from success.”

“Education is not only the most economically efficient and socially beneficial investment we can make but also the cheapest and most cost effective. For in the developing world it costs just $100 per child per year for schooling. Just $2 a week. And so to finance all the schools and teachers we need costs $9 billion a year. For every person in the richest part of the world that is less than two pence a day, or four cents, a day. If every person in the rich world contributes ¬£10 – or $20 – a year today, we could meet our education goal tomorrow.”

You can hardly disagree with any of his words, but you do wonder how this is all going to be achieved – the sad thing is that this is all do-able, the main developed countries just need the will to do it. I hope Gordon Brown can make a difference on the world stage – I firmly believe his commitment and determination to make a difference, so let’s hope he has some success.

As a postscript, I would add the problem of international terrorism to the list of problems that need urgent resolution, and I would argue that terrorism is linked to poverty, injustice, and human rights. Much of the terrorism and conflict in the world has political, historical or geographical motivations of one sort or another, or poverty and injustice (the latter can be real or perceived). Such issues are never justification for violence, but they are often the reason for conflicts, so to solve a conflict the motivations need to be addressed. We do face an uncertain future if terrorists are allowed to wreak large-scale havoc, and in this case everyone would suffer. Even more reason to address the lack of success on the Development Goals.

June 8, 2007

G8 or not so Gr8?

Filed under: Development — 4fooey @ 10:52 pm

Another G8 is over and it’s hard to know whether to feel happy or disappointed. On Thursday it seemed as though there was a breakthrough deal on cutting CO2 emissions – for the first time America seems interested in getting together an agreement, through the UN, to cut emissions, and hopefully this will include China and India (who are not members of the G8, maybe they should be…). Angela Merkel seems to have managed to get some agreement and real movement on the climate issue.

And then today, a deal on Aid for Africa has promised $60 billion to help fight HIV-Aids, TB and Malaria – this is an amazing amount of cash, with over half of this coming from America alone. However, some people are saying that this does not represent anything new, and Bob Geldof called the whole summit a farce – it seems that some countries have not even delivered what they promised to give back in 2005. I think even with all the confusion this seems a good deal, so hopefully countries will deliver this time.

We do live in very uncertain times, with many important issues to solve, like climate change, global security, combatting poverty, etc. We need more co-operation to solve all these, but at least over the last couple of days some progress has been made.

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