Letter: Global warming

Sir: The debts that the wealthy countries have recently forgiven their poorer neighbours are as nothing in comparison with the amount they owe the rest of the world for the increased storm damage they have caused due to global warming. While debts worth roughly $3bn have just been conditionally written off by the UK, the cost of the damage done by the recent floods in Venezuela alone has been put at $10bn.

Fifty-six countries were affected by severe floods and at least 45 by drought during 1998. The rate of destruction will accelerate because greenhouse gases are still being added to the atmosphere at perhaps five times the rate that natural systems can remove them.

Michael Meacher, the UK Environment Minister, recently told the Royal Geological Society: "The future of our planet, our civilisation and our survival as a human species ... may well depend on [our responding to the climate crisis by] fusing the disciplines of politics and science within a single coherent system."

"Contraction and convergence" is such a system. Global greenhouse emissions need to be reduced by at least 60 per cent in less than a hundred years. When governments agree to be bound by such a target, the diminishing amount of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases that the world could release while staying within the target can be calculated for each year in the coming century. This is the contraction part of the process.

The convergence part means that each year's tranche of this global emissions budget gets shared out among the nations of the world in a way which ensures that every country converges on the same allocation per inhabitant by, say, 2030. Countries unable to manage within their allocations would, within limits, be able to buy the unused parts of the allocations of other, more frugal, countries.

Sales of unused allocations would give the countries of the South the income to purchase or develop zero-emission ways of meeting their needs. The countries of the North would benefit from the export markets this restructuring would create.

AUBREY MEYER

Global Commons Institute

http://www.gci.org.uk

RICHARD DOUTHWAITE

MAYER HILLMAN

Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute

DAVID CHAYTOR MP

(Bury North, Lab)

Chair, GLOBE UK All-Party Group

TOM SPENCER

Secretary General, GLOBE Council

ANDREW SIMMS

Global Economy Programme, New Economics Foundation

London NW2

Fifty-six countries were affected by severe floods and at least 45 by drought during 1998. The rate of destruction will accelerate because greenhouse gases are still being added to the atmosphere at perhaps five times the rate that natural systems can remove them.

Michael Meacher, the UK Environment Minister, recently told the Royal Geological Society: "The future of our planet, our civilisation and our survival as a human species ... may well depend on [our responding to the climate crisis by] fusing the disciplines of politics and science within a single coherent system."

"Contraction and convergence" is such a system. Global greenhouse emissions need to be reduced by at least 60 per cent in less than a hundred years. When governments agree to be bound by such a target, the diminishing amount of carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases that the world could release while staying within the target can be calculated for each year in the coming century. This is the contraction part of the process.

The convergence part means that each year's tranche of this global emissions budget gets shared out among the nations of the world in a way which ensures that every country converges on the same allocation per inhabitant by, say, 2030. Countries unable to manage within their allocations would, within limits, be able to buy the unused parts of the allocations of other, more frugal, countries.

Sales of unused allocations would give the countries of the South the income to purchase or develop zero-emission ways of meeting their needs. The countries of the North would benefit from the export markets this restructuring would create.

AUBREY MEYER

Global Commons Institute

http://www.gci.org.uk

RICHARD DOUTHWAITE

MAYER HILLMAN

Senior Fellow Emeritus, Policy Studies Institute

DAVID CHAYTOR MP

(Bury North, Lab)

Chair, GLOBE UK All-Party Group

TOM SPENCER

Secretary General, GLOBE Council

ANDREW SIMMS

Global Economy Programme, New Economics Foundation

London NW2

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