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The UN Secretary General said in 2007:

"Climate change is a serious threat to development everywhere. Today, the time for doubt has passed. The IPCC has unequivocally affirmed the warming of our climate system, and linked it directly to human activity. Slowing or even reversing the existing trends of global warming is the defining challenge of our age.'

And the American Geophysical Union (AGU) have just (January 2008) warned that changes to the Earth's climate system were "not natural".

The world's climate is "clearly out of balance and is warming", said the AGU, the world's largest society of Earth and Space scientists.

Changes in temperature, sea level and rainfall were best explained by an increased concentration of greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and others, from human activities.

The AGU called for carbon emissions to be cut by more than 50% by 2100.

This is the first time the AGU has updated its policy on climate change since 2003, when it called for a worldwide study to understand how the Earth would change as a result of climate change.

The doubters are now down to contrarians and conspiracy theorists, or novelists like Michael Crichton (RIP).

There is a right-wing political line that says the effects of climate change (however caused) affect poor people disproportionately, therefore money should be spent on economic development, rather than largely ineffective 'energy saving' drives.

The obvious riposte is that the original problem of climate-changing pollution still needs to be addressed, or we are just trying to fix the results of the problem and not tackling the problem - emissions - itself.

And of course these right-wing political lobbyists are all heavily funded by Exxon and other giant oil companies, which gives the game away a bit!

The public don't seem to care a great deal, apart from ritualistic recycling and other fairly trivial 'feel good' efforts. Vague worry is not action. Institutions are beginning to act but the problem is too large.

Shipping has just been revealed in a new UN report as a bigger CO2 producer than aviation - after years of being left out of statistics, especially those used in Europe. The cheap goods now saturating the planet are moved around by over 90,000 large ships.

Huge container ships can burn 350 tonnes of fuel a day, and release 300,000 tonnes of CO2 from their huge diesel engines - the same as a medium size coal power station. The world's shipping fleet emits about 1.21 billion tonnes of CO2 a year.

Percentage of global CO2 emissions from industry:

Shipping emissions are expected to grow 30% to 1.45 bn tonnes, or 6% of total, in the next 12 years.

Ships also produce very high levels of particulate pollution and acid rain, which is a major health risk. This is from ship's 'bunker fuel' which contains sulphur and sooty specks.

A technological solution?

Humans are very adaptable and optimistic but climate change requires a huge change in our way of thinking.

The developed world is constantly thinking up new ways to use more energy - from plasma and LCD screens, endless new gadgets, to fashionable home and kitchen makeovers.

The developing world needs a huge increase in everything just to get the average citizen to even a low grade modern quality of life.

So a few lifestyle tweaks here and there like recycling are largely pointless.

There is a huge impetus and market in 'green' technologies, at all scales from small solar chargers to wave farms.

We would expect major infrastructure in carbon sequestering to be part of the solution as emissions have to reduced by 80% by the end of the century.

Large scale solar arrays will arrive, especially as the technology improves and gets a lot cheaper. Since electricity use is increasing very rapidly due to the plethora of new domestic devices, microgeneration not really address modern basic energy demands.

The UK's Stern Report addresses the costs.


then look for Stern Report.

Nuclear is back on the agenda, despite radiation pollution, risk, and long lead-in times. There is also a concern over huge subsidies and the negative effect on other technologies. It may even be illegal to prefer nuclear as it is non-competitive for EC Governments to subsidise one part of a marketplace at the expense of the others.

Reducing emissions by technology alone will not be enough, since the world population is due to rise by 3,500,000,000 in the next 40 years. And everyone wants the materialistic lifestyle - apart from a few people in the developed world who already have the luxury and fancy a change to a more 'back-to-nature' lifestyle at the weekend.