Why we must limit greenhouse gas emissions

“Greens” try to live in a way that respects the Earth and all life on it. Many of us are involved with groups that aim to change the system towards a more sustainable state of affairs.

Single-issue campaigns are great as they are focused and some have been very successful, such as the one to ban CFCs as propellants in aerosol cans and refrigerators.

But the problem with CFCs polluting our thin atmosphere, destroying one important natural chemical – ozone (which absorbs cancer-promoting ultraviolet light) – was only part of the pollution jigsaw. It has nothing to do with the meta-problem of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

These – carbon dioxide from oil, gas and coal, methane, nitrogen oxide (aeroplane engines and artificial fertilisers) and dozens of other chemicals – are changing our habitat rapidly, and will have a devastating impact on our ability to grow food, to continue to live in lowland areas and keep our borders secure from “climate refugees”.

In 1997, most of the world signed up to the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions, but the reductions were small and many people think that carbon trading has failed. Later this year, we have our last chance to do something better. I say it is our last chance because many scientists believe that, when carbon dioxide levels rise above a certain threshold, tipping points will be reached and we’ll face catastrophic climate chaos and social meltdown. The world’s last chance to limit greenhouse gasses is at the Copenhagen talks in December.

The single-issue campaign we must all support is to make our representatives understand that they must co-operate with other states, and set strict and binding greenhouse gas reductions. There are many campaigns focused on Copenhagen. I’m involved with NotStupid.org, but you’ll find others through web searches. Solving this one needs individual, group, government and international action.

John Cossham is Community Care’s ethical living expert. Read his blog


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