[Outlook]Now is time to face climate change

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[Outlook]Now is time to face climate change

The controversy is settled over whether humans and mother nature are direly threatened due to global warming and other climate changes.
The destiny of the human race, which has populated the Earth for 130,000 years, is sliding down the path to catastrophe.
Climate change is affecting the whole world, threatening not only biological systems but also agriculture, water resources and coastal areas. But of all these, the perils that loom large over humans are most threatening.
Many research institutions, including the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, have warned of those threats many times, based on scientific analyses.
Now the threats are no longer hypothetical but are reality, forcing us to ask the question: What are we to do for our survival?
So why do we drift away, unable to find a reasonable solution to a grave threat to our collective destiny? Are humans too silly to acknowledge the looming dark clouds in front of them?
The answer should be found in the fundamental weakness of humans as political beings and the inevitable limits of our political systems.
Success in the political sphere means solving problems in a current-time slice with absolute priority. If politicians predict future risks and demand resolution for them, such a policy is, as a rule, likely to be considered a failure. This phenomenon is clearer in the age of mass democracy.
The more difficult a decision is, the more likely it becomes that government leaders rely on the brinkmanship strategy of delaying the issue to the last minute to observe popular reaction.
Meanwhile, although an effective response to climate change requires a shared global effort, a leadership that overcomes so wide a gap between countries, regions, class interests and concerns can hardly be expected in reality.
Nevertheless we must not condone the forthcoming threats and let Spaceship Earth cast away or fall apart. A warning bell should be rung for those who do not even yet feel the threats.
The leaders especially, who bear the responsibility for choosing the future of humanity and countries, should give particular attention to climate change, which carries the common destiny of humans, instead of being concerned about political interests.
It is time for us to give leaders courage as well as pressure to cope with the challenge resolutely.
For this purpose, former political leaders, especially of the European democratic social movement, gathered in Madrid last week and took the initiative to solve this common problem of humanity.
Throughout the conference, they reaffirmed the clear principle that democratic socialism espouses not nationalism but internationalism.
In the 1980s at the turn of global history, leaders of democratic socialism played a leading role in addressing the common issues of human beings.
The Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme showed leadership in preventing wars that could cause the annihilation of humanity, particularly nuclear war; the chancellor of West Germany, Willy Brandt, reduced the widening gap in wealth between developed and the developing countries; Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland awakened global attention to the threat of environmental issues.
In particular, under the leadership of Brundtland, the report “Our Common Future” was produced in 1987 by the Committee of Environment and Development, and it received an enormous response worldwide that ultimately reached its fruition in the 1992 Rio Conference and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Also at this Madrid conference, Brundtland, whose presence now evokes the “environment,” honestly discussed worries and doubts about our responses to climate change that have now become a stark reality.
As the optimism of the international order that prevailed just a decade ago, in the 1990s, is rapidly cooling off, she pleaded, the challenge of climate change is the cause in which we all can share our efforts to address a common destiny.
The former French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin also pointed out that the danger caused by climate change could be an opportunity comparable to the Industrial Revolution, which radically changed the history and lives of humans.
Likewise, even former leaders who have left the practice of politics eagerly bring their efforts to design a blueprint to replace the Kyoto Protocol after 2012, so as to establish a comprehensive global strategy for the sake of the future of humanity in the face of climate change.
The mountains are high and wild, and the time for resolution is coming shortly to humanity.

*The writer, a former prime minister, is an advisor to the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Lee Hong-koo
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