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Climate ChangeGlobal WarmingPolicies & Politics

Intellectual Effort, not Regime, Will Halt Climate Change

Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer

“Stop pretending that government will play a role, because it won’t.”

This is the message delivered by the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Jeffrey Sachs, a former Harvard professor and now a professor at Columbia who is a special adviser to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, regarding the chances of any significant U.S. climate change legislation.

“We need a massive intellectual effort led by the expert community worldwide.”

“No president since George H.W. Bush has honestly taken on this issue — not Clinton, not Bush Junior, not Obama, because they’re scared of the interests,” Sachs said in what has been described as a scathing review of U.S. actions to counteract human induced climate change. Sachs noted that, since agreeing to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. government has done essentially nothing.

And while the framework is a good international agreement because it acknowledges the danger of climate change and forced nations to doing something to fight it, Sachs noted that the actions requested in the Framework were agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S refused to ratify.

Furthermore, because China is waiting for the U.S — one of the world’s biggest global emitters of greenhouse gas — to make a first step, by doing nothing the U.S. is causing more harm, and delaying meaningful action across the globe, says Sachs.

“It’s worse than we think,” Sachs said, noting also that in conversations he has had with scientists he has found the problem to be worse than is widely known and to be accelerating faster than expected. “Climate change has started. It’s serious. It is impacting the world’s food supply, and it’s going to accelerate.”

Sachs is calling on the academic and expert community worldwide to shape the change necessary, but he still doesn’t let the climate scientists off the hook, saying that they have been too sensitive to criticism by climate-change deniers, giving them credibility and wasting valuable time responding to attacks.

“They know we will engage our time and energy for a year for every accusation they make while they watch us run around in circles,” Sachs said.

Nevertheless, Sachs is calling for a worldwide effort by scientists, primarily at universities but from some companies as well, to plot a path toward de-carbonizing the global economy, answering questions about climate change science, determining which technologies are viable, and ultimately coming up with a plan that takes the world toward an energy supply which is much less dependent on fossil fuels within the next 40 to 50 years.

“We have to get started, and we have to do things at an accelerated pace,” Sachs said.

Source: Harvard University

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