We can only hope that this year’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the United Nations Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change will have the effect of sparking an epiphany moment among the countless policymakers and business executives who still think that global climate change is some kind of left-wingnut fantasy. Civilization’s greatest long-range challenge is the potential for dramatic social and political destabilization resulting from dramatic shifts in climate and weather patterns and their impact on agriculture, industry, international migration and the competition for increasingly scarce natural resources. The Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee stated on its website, “Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.”
Unfortunately, the United States has lagged other nations in exerting environmental leadership. But with a large and varied land mass and vast population, with massive agricultural interests as well as insatiable demands for energy, the U.S. itself has significant exposure to the consequences of global climate change. Candidates for the presidential election in 2008 would do well to pay less attention to narrow interests and focus more on the long-term consequences for peace and prosperity if this planet continues to deteriorate.
More on the “green business” movement in my next several blogs.
See Thomas Friedman’s column in Sunday’s New York Times
See Washington Post coverage of the Nobel Peace Prize
See al gore