Climate Change: Science and Survival, The duties of government
The West has reached a remarkable stage. As the American guru
Buckminster Fuller wrote in 1980:
"We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our
forefathers. We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed
everybody, clothe everybody, and give every Human on earth a chance
...We now have the option for all humanity to `make it' successfully
on this planet in this lifetime... [But] Whether it is to be Utopia or
Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final
Buckminster Fuller's concern was not weapons of mass destruction,
terrorism or fanaticism. He saw a greater threat from climatic
forces. The Prime Minister's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King,
recently spelled out the same message.4 The Earth is warming faster
than at any time in the last 10,000 years. We have just passed through
the hottest decade in a millennium.
In 2002, the spread of Arctic ice was 14 per cent down on its 24-year
average.5 Glaciers are melting.6 Mount Kilimanjaro will soon be bare
of snow.7 Oceans and ocean temperatures are rising. Bird life is
threatened.8 The Thames barrier, built to be used about once every
five years, is now closed more than five times every year.
3 Humanity's Option for Success, 1980. Richard Buckminster Fuller
(1895-1983), American architect and philosopher, had 25 patents, wrote
28 books, was awarded 47 honorary doctorates and won the RIBA Gold
Medal for his geodesic dome.
4 Greenpeace Business lecture on global warming, 13 October 2004.
5 Source: National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado,
Boulder, Colorado, USA,research published 7 December 2002.
6 Chinese 24-year study of glaciers, quoted by Sir David King at his
Greenpeace Business lecture,indicates 5.5% shrinkage over that period.
7 According to Sir David King, 85% of the "permanent" ice-cap has now
gone and it will be only 10 15 years before Kilimanjaro loses all
8 World Wildlife Fund and various sources.
Sceptics say this is nothing new. They point to folk memories of
Noah's flood and the submerged settlements off the Ganges delta.
Others dispute the scientific evidence, arguing that these changes are
no more than cyclical. But what is different now is that climate
change is being exacerbated by man-made activity. Every gallon of oil
or petrol, every litre of gas, every piece of coal that we burn, adds
to the sub-atmospheric gases that are enveloping the planet.
Every year, we spew 23 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere
more than 700 tonnes a second of our most serious greenhouse gas. 9
In the ten years after the Rio summit in 1992, world energy use went
up by 20 per cent.
The International Panel on Climate Change forecasts that global
temperatures could rise between 2 and 5 degrees Celsius by the end of
Whether you believe these phenomena are natural or man-made, if the
environment goes on deteriorating at the present rate, much of the
world will become inhospitable and dangerous.
Scientists warn the global climate for the next 50 years is already
largely set, because of what has already occurred. Conditions in the
second half of the century, however, depend on what we do now.
The challenge is urgent.
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Climate Change: Science and Survival
Address by Tim Yeo MP
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment and Transport
Centre for Policy Studies, 57 Tufton Street, London SW1
6 pm Tuesday 7th December 2004
During the past two years, my portfolio has covered Trade and
Industry; Energy,Science and Technology; Health and Education; the
Environment and, finally,Transport.
I suppose I could claim this makes me the most versatile, if not the
most expert member of the Shadow Cabinet.
In each area, I have been involved in reshaping our Conservative
policies, trying to\learn lessons from the 20th century, and starting
to set out strategies for the 21st and apply our beliefs, ideals and
philosophy to a world of new pressures and changing goals.
The duties of government
Fundamentally, government has only a limited range of duties.
Defending the borders, policing the streets, providing a framework
for education and promoting public health are prominent among them.
Maintaining a high quality environment and overseeing the provision
of a modern transport system are two more.
And the impact of the quality of our environment on public health is
something which is increasingly clear.
Today, policy-makers must respond to every aspect of the environment.
As Alfred Zimmern wrote 75 years ago:
"A civilised man is a man who understands the world in which he is
living and the forces by which it is moved ? A civilised society is a
society equipped with the knowledge to control its environment."
Presentation in full:
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