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But is it enough?

EuroPhotonics
Jan 2009
Diane Laurin

Last month at the Brussels summit, European Union leaders agreed to a package aimed at fighting global warming by cutting carbon emissions 20 per cent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels. The deal calls for a 20 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions plus a 20 per cent increase in use of renewable energy by 2020 and a 20 per cent cut in energy consumption through improved energy efficiency by 2020.

Some, like French President Nicolas Sarkozy and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, lauded the deal. And certainly there is much to feel good about when 27 countries come together to actively strategize on how to stem global warming.

But others blasted the decision, notably Colin Butfield, Head of Campaigns, WWF-UK. “This was a moment in time when global leaders should have stepped up to the mark and supported sanctions that would combat the economic and climate crisis at the same time,” he said. “Instead, industrialized countries preached on the importance of climate protection at the conference in Poznan, while either lacking or attacking the policies to make it happen at home.”

Critics, among them many environmental organizations, say that emissions have to be cut 25-40 per cent by 2020 to check a climactic crisis – percentages made virtually impossible by the EU concessions made to heavily polluting countries and industries. According to a Dec. 17 report from Reuters, the EU offered a partial exemption and funds to former communist nations like Poland and Hungary, which operate coal-fired power stations.

Uncannily and at about the same time, scientists from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported clear-cut evidence that the warming in the Arctic is accelerating. Dr. Julienne Stroeve briefed attendees of the 2008 American Geophysical Union Meeting, saying they had produced irrefutable evidence that, come autumn when the Sun goes down on the Arctic, the warmth is released back into the atmosphere, delaying the fall in air temperatures. This, she said, causes Arctic temperatures to rise faster than the global mean.

The report is an in-your-face warning that we’re not moving fast enough. It’s not too hard to sympathize with EU leaders who had a mighty struggle on their hands to bring everyone to an agreement on cutting carbon emissions. But when presented with all that global warming implies – major flooding, loss of cities and residences, loss of crops and possible famines – a little less concession seems in order.

By all means let’s acknowledge every positive step we make toward properly managing the planet. For the time being, though, let’s hold the applause.


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