While Bali prepares to host leadership delegations from more than 189 countries at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), it's worthwhile to re-emphasize here how vitally important the meetings and declarations hammered out between December 3-14th will be to the people of the world.
Lest we be in doubt as to what's at stake, the words of the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who say that the Earth faces a real scenario more terrifying than any science fiction movies should serve as a haunting reminder of what must be achieved in Bali.
His statements echoed the conclusions of the U.N.'s Forth Assessment Report on Climate Change representing the considered opinions of over 100 climate change scientists who continue to monitor the world's steady decline down the slippery slope of a warmer planet. When men and women of science who are normally inclined to speak in couched terms begin to shout dire warnings, the world would do well to listen.
Asia is on the front line of the battle against global warming. The world's most populous nations, who may soon be unable to feed their people due anticipated crop failures, could lose hard won economic and social advances if the world doesn't deal with curbing greenhouse gasses.
Indonesia, where Greenpeace estimates that areas equivalent to 300 soccer fields are deforested every hour, is at once the biggest potential loser or winner in the final outcome of the discussions and initiatives to be launched in Bali.
What's at Stake?
Just to help focus all our minds as the Bali Climate Change dialogue commences, it might be worth listing the following salient considerations:
Asia is home to nearly two-thirds of the world's population. Of this total, half live near coastal areas likely to be adversely affected by rising water levels. Are recent floods of North Jakarta which cut off Indonesia's main airport only a hint of what lies ahead?
Melting glaciers and alpine snow, disappearing ice caps and warming permafrost areas are already changing the economic complexion of wide areas of the world and putting the future viability of entire species in serious doubt.
The U.N. warns that by the end of the current century surface temperatures will rise between 1.1 degree and 6. degrees centigrade as compared to the recorded averages in the last two decades of the last century. As a result, expect ocean levels to increase 18 centimeters.
The U.N. also suggests that the current epidemic of heat waves, rainstorms, tropical cyclones and deadly ocean surges are merely precursors of weather phenomena expected to become more common, more widespread and more intense with each passing year.
While the poor in New Orleans seemed to suffer most in the wake of Katrina, so too were the impoverished people living of Bangladesh devastated by the tropical cyclone Sidr in November 2007. Those people already living in economic jeopardy in coastal and delta areas across Asia are destined to be the ones who suffer worst by changes in weather now underway.
As Margaret Thatcher warned more than two decades ago, future wars will be fought over water and the rights to access water sources. Fresh water sources throughout Asia are on the decline which will have profound effects on agricultural production and community health.
UN scientists studying climate change also paint grim pictures of growing world hunger, more disease, violent storms, prolonged droughts and the possible extinction of up to 70% of current plant and animal species.
The Important Work of the Bali Conference
What's at stake in Bali is an urgent and workable continuance to the solutions initially hammered out in Kyoto in 1997. At the very least, there must be a wider acknowledgement of the need to reduce greenhouse gasses among the 190 countries represented in Bali, achieving a degree of unanimity beyond the paltry 35 nations that finally signed on to the Kyoto Protocols. Nations, such as the U.S. and Australia, who refused to sign the Kyoto Protocols arguing that their economic interests outweigh any wider global need to address climate change should be roundly condemned if they fail to exercise their moral responsibility following the Bali conference.
We are only half-joking when we suggest delegates attending the Bali conference failing to devise a concrete program to curb greenhouse gasses should be barred from boarding their carbon-junkie private jets standing by at Bali's airport, inviting the "do-nothing" delegates to swim home in the increasingly luke-warm oceans just off Bali's shores.
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