Climate change has grabbed the media’s attention and finally forced G8 leaders to put it at the top of their agenda.
By propelling climate change to the forefront of discussions this year world leaders took responsibility that had been lacking. Although no concrete targets for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions were agreed, G8 members committed to make sure that a global deal is struck by 2009. They also confirmed that the UN should take a lead on negotiating the deal.
Even Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time of the summit, said he was ‘surprised and pleased’ at the progress.
But what’s the urgency? Why does there seem to be a race to stop the changing environment in its tracks? Because these changes are already affecting millions of people.
Take Bangladesh – it’s experiencing rising sea levels first hand from the effects of climate change.
Abul Kalam lives on one of Bangladesh’s coastal islands. He woke up one night to see his house sink into watery mud. Astonished and unprepared, his family escaped with their lives but lost everything else.
Abul set about creating a temporary shelter out of polythene and bamboo for his family. It took him a year to build a new house – as he had to wait to buy materials until he could afford them. But as sea levels continue to rise, even this house could be swallowed up at any minute.
Sea level rises, similar to that which Abul is facing, are predicted to increase as a result of climate change and begin to occur in places that have never experienced such phenomena before. The greenhouse gases the world has released into the atmosphere are already changing the climate and impacting poor communities. But by acting now, we can reduce further emissions and avert catastrophe.
Many Britons might be quite happy at the thought of an increase in temperature – good for the garden, no need to holiday abroad.
But a warmer planet could mean catastrophe for billions of people elsewhere. And that is billions of people, not hundreds, or thousands.
Tearfund believes that if the earth’s temperature increases by just 2 to 3 degrees, more than a billion people could face water shortages and 250 million could be looking at food shortages.
As Abul’s story shows, it’s poor communities who are affected by climate change first and God calls us to act justly on their behalf.
And that means continuing the campaigning so that world leaders take urgent action.
In December, the UN Climate Change Conference takes place in Indonesia. The pledges made in June have the potential to be made a reality as negotiations start and the UN drives forward the G8 countries' promises.
There is a chance to avert disastrous climate change because of the pledges that have been made; and it’s for the taking. If we continue to make poor communities' voices heard, a catastrophe could really be stopped.
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