Warmest temperatures on record

In one of its news items entitled “Global Land Temperatures Warmest Ever in January, April“, the Environment News Service (ENS) refers to a press release of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on extreme weather and climate events, and to a speech by Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in Chennai, India. The interest of the news item lies in the fact that it refers to precise measurements (facts that cannot be denied easily – there can be no doubt that temperatures are rising) and that it highlights the fate of the poorest people as a consequence of climate changes that will affect the food situation.

We will have to learn to live with the consequences of increasing temperatures and more extreme climate conditions, consequences that will impact heavily on our lives and particularly on the lives of the poorest amongst us. These are global phenomena, affecting the whole world. Therefore, the challenge to deal with this threatening situation involves us all, and the concern for (global) social justice demands that we particularly take into account the fate of the poorest amongst us. How are we going to secure sustainable life for all of us, even if that means for some of us to lower our material ways of life, and for others amongst us to abandon non-realistic expectations leading to globally unsustainable ways of life. As done by the WHO for example, the World Health Organisation, political planning should prevail on a worldwide scale – this will require that political decision making be made less dependent on economic profit and growth schemes, as was already urged by Riccardo Petrella in his 1997 reflection on globalisation: Ecueils de la mondialisation. Urgence d’un nouveau contrat social.

In his speech, Jacques Diouf emphasizes the importance of scientific and technological advances. I cannot but agree with that perspective, while at the same time I strongly feel that this is not enough. Climate change and its consequences will not be answered just by science and technology, but requires profound changes in life style – to cope with the immediate situations that are arising and that urge us to “share” and “pool” our resources and capacities, ánd in view of the fact that global warming is most likely due to human activities. I do hope that the recent initiative of President Bush (USA) to convene a meeting on climate change will do more than focus on technological means, how important those may truly be. The interesting, but also frightening thing, particularly in the eyes of those who are pessimistic on human nature, is that the global crisis in which we are involved requires a change of mind: the core issue is now sustainable life for all of us. “Sustainable” and “all of us” are key words here.

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