THE Bali climate deal endorsed the scientific conclusion that global warming looks set to become the biggest social and environmental challenge of the 21st century.
It involves thinking and taking action on a different timescale; decades and even centuries, rather than the usual business or electoral cycles.
Carbon dioxide concentration (the most important cause of the “greenhouse effect”), temperature and sea levels will continue to rise long after emissions are reduced.
The world is already committed to significant climate change, even if emissions stopped today.
The Bali conference late last year agreed that emissions need to be reduced sharply in the next 10 to 20 years if global warming is to be contained to levels where the changes do not become self-reinforcing and likely to spiral out of control.
Pope John Paul II was one of the first religious leaders to sound the alarm that we appear to be locked into a spiralling pattern of self-destruction.
Saying that environmental destruction is not only a danger to us all, the Pope affirmed that it is a sin against God – “I wish to repeat that the ecological crisis is a moral issue”.
For centuries, we in the West have thought of ourselves, of humanity, as the most important thing in the universe.
However, if you plot the whole course of evolution on the timescale of a year, the first humans only appeared during the evening of December 31.
Humans are important – but not through any merit or power of our own.
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