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Bac 2011 G1-G2 Series (Oral)

As the world edged into financial crisis, there were repeated warnings that we were headed for disaster. In the end, disaster struck. In many ways, the challenge of climate change has a similar feel and the alarm bells are ringing just as loudly. But while it was possible to bail out the banks and to stimulate economic recovery with trillions of dollars of public finance, it will not be possible to bail out the climate — unless we act now.

Yet even when the basic science of climate change has been accepted by almost all scientists, many others still seem to think that it is unfounded, and that the world has more important questions to address. Reducing poverty, increasing food production, combating terrorism, and sustaining economic recovery are seen as more deserving our attention. But this is a false choice, for climate change is not an alternative priority to all of these, it is in fact a "risk multiplier", a factor that will undermine our ability to achieve any of these things.

For example, ending poverty so that every person has the opportunity to lead a good life is already a huge challenging ambition, and rapid climate change will make it more so. Several studies have set out how climate change will threaten economic development, especially in the most vulnerable and poorest countries. This will, in turn, damage programs to reduce poverty.

Food security is already at risk because of soil erosion and the volatility of oil and gas prices that sustain industrial farming, while demand is rising because of population growth and changing diets. Climate change wills exacerbate this squeeze. According to a United Nations Environment program projection, agricultural productivity could drop by up to 50 percent in many developing countries by 2080 - not least because of changed patterns of rainfall.

These environmental stresses are likely to heighten social tensions. If in the future it becomes clear that the world's big polluters knew but did little or nothing about these problems, a whole new generation of resentment might be born. [...]

Adapted from Newsweek, December 14th 2009

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