World Questions Congress' Commitment to Climate Change

A: Well, I personally don't place too much importance on what seems like an apparent breakdown or deadlock in the negotiations at this state because this is a stage where everybody is sort of jockeying for position. And, therefore, in some sense, it's to be expected when these complex negotiations are taking place, and even in the past, we've really had an agreement coming about only at the last minute.

I hope that doesn't happen this time around but this does give you confidence, that perhaps one shouldn't be unduly pessimistic at the start of what seems like a deadlock at this stage, because these things change as you get closer to the midnight hour, so to speak, in the negotiation. So at this point and time, there is a lot of shadow boxing, there's a lot of jockeying for position and power and I think as you get closer, my own belief is that different countries will start coming closer together, and there will be some degree of compromise on all sides, which hopefully will lead us to an agreement.

Q: Do you think this is an unprecedented crisis ... or can you think of something similar we've faced in the past, for the type of global cooperation that is needed to solve this issue?

A: You know, the last time we've had warming, more or less, at these rates was 125,000 years ago. And, of course, it was for a reasonably prolonged period, as a result of which the ice bodies across the globe melted very rapidly and we had sea level rise of 6 to 7 meters [about 20 to 23 feet].

There's enough evidence of that now. So, if we don't change the trend this time around then, clearly, we could have, possibly, not in the next decade or two, conditions that could be very severe, and could very well threaten all living species including human beings. So we need to do everything to prevent that situation and, you know, you're really talking about a high impact, even though some would argue that it's a low-probability event.

But, you know, the impact is certainly not going to be low, it's going to be extremely high so we need to be certain about that, and we need to do everything possible to prevent it.

And the good news is that actions that are required to prevent it, that means reducing greenhouse gas emissions carry so many benefits along with them that I am surprised that the world is being so reluctant and tardy in bringing about those changes. Because if you reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses, you also reduce local pollution which has huge health benefits. You also increase local security and you increase employment, for instance, renewable sources of energy have much higher employment potential than centralized supply of energy that we have become accustomed to.

Developing vs. Developed Nations on Climate Change

So, there are just so many benefits that one shouldn't be arguing against taking action in these directions.

Q: Do you buy the argument that coal is cheaper per kilowatt?

A: Well, it's cheaper because you are not taking into account all the external costs, the externalities. What you are looking at, as far as coal is concerned, is a very limited set of costs that are taken into account. If you look at the whole systemwide costs, they are certainly much, much larger than what is accounted for and I suppose to a certain extent, you can also say that about oil.

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