Act now, says climate watchdog

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The Independent Online

Britain's new climate ambassador has warned that climate change is "an immediate threat" to the nation's security and prosperity and must be tackled "whatever it costs".

John Ashton - special representative for Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary - warned that the costs of not curbing climate change and greenhouse gas emissions would lead to increasing conflicts around the world. The impacts of extreme climatic events in Africa and south Asia or the Middle East would be more dramatic than in the West, he argued. But, even in the US, the impacts of Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans led to a breakdown of law and order and an explosion of racial and political tensions.

Writing on the BBC News website yesterday, Mr Ashton said: "The first priority of any government is to provide the conditions necessary for security and prosperity in return for the taxes that citizens pay. Climate change is potentially the most serious threat there has ever been to this most fundamental of social contracts." He went on: "Conflict always has multiple causes, but a changing climate amplifies all the other factors.

Mr Ashton concluded: "We need to see the pursuit of a stable climate as an imperative to be secured whatever it costs through the urgent construction of a low-carbon global economy, because the cost of not securing it will be far greater."