Consumption of energy and many other critical resources is consistently breaking records, disrupting the climate and undermining life on the planet, according to the latest Worldwatch Institute report, Vital Signs 2007-2008.
The 44 trends tracked in Vital Signs illustrate the urgent need to check consumption of energy and other resources that are contributing to the climate crisis, starting with the largest polluter, the United States, which accounted for over 21 percent of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning in 2005. Europe, already feeling the effects of climate change, should pressure the U.S. to join international climate negotiations, according to Erik Assadourian, Vital Signs Project Director.
“The world is running out of time to head off catastrophic climate change, and it is essential that Europe and the rest of the international community bring pressure to bear on U.S. policy makers to address the climate crisis,” said Assadourian, who spoke at the Barcelona launch of Vital Signs. “The United States must be held accountable for its emissions, double the per capita level in Europe, and should follow the EU lead by committing to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.”
This summer, the European Union has become a showcase for how the world will be transformed by climate change, including tragic fires in Greece and the Canary Islands, dramatic floods in England, and heat waves across the Continent. Assadourian urged European leaders to push the U.S. to engage more constructively with the international community on climate change, starting at the United Nations late this month and in the Bali Climate negotiations at the end of the year.
With a global population of 6.6 billion and growing, the ecosystem services upon which life depends are being stretched to the limit due to record levels of consumption:
The expanding world population’s appetite for everything from everyday items such as eggs to major consumer goods such as automobiles is helping to drive climate change, which is endangering organisms on the land and in the sea:
While U.S. carbon emissions continue to grow, the fastest growth is occurring in Asia, particularly China and India. But without a U.S. commitment to emissions constraints, persuading China and India to commit to reductions is unlikely. “The only hope for reducing the world’s carbon emissions is for the U.S. to begin reducing its emissions and cooperating with other nations immediately. The EU may be the only entity that can make that happen,” said Assadourian.
“With the U.S. Congress preparing to take up far-ranging climate legislation this fall, and with President Bush planning to hold an international climate change summit in Washington, now is the time to act. If the U.S. and other nations walk away without concrete plans to implement a binding agreement, the EU should not hesitate to use its diplomatic clout to press the issue,” suggested Assadourian.
Already, the window to prevent catastrophic climate change appears to be closing. Some governments are starting to redirect their attention away from climate change mitigation and towards staking their claims in a warming world. “Canada is spending $3 billion to build eight new patrol boats to reinforce its claim over the Arctic waterways. Denmark and Russia are starting to vie for control over the Lomonosov Ridge, where new sources of oil and natural gas could be accessed if the Arctic Circle becomes ice free—fossil fuels that will further exacerbate climate change. These actions assume that a warming world is here,” said Assadourian.
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