Thank you very much for inviting me to give a lecture to this international party about how to proceed after the climate summit in Copenhagen. I have divided this lecture into three parts. In the first part I will tell you what the starting point and the purpose of this lecture is and I will give you an outline of the climate problems. In the second part I will give you a summary of the results of the climate summit and the conclusions that we can draw from them. In the third part I will offer you a number of new perspectives and a plan of approach.
Starting point and purpose
We are living in a world that is characterised by increasing globalisation. Everywhere in the world we can learn what is happening elsewhere in the world. Within a few seconds we are fully informed of natural disasters and we will embark upon worldwide help activities. Because of globalisation the economic developments within one or more countries will be noticeable worldwide. In our living room we are directly confronted with the values and standards and view on life of other population groups. We are living in a complex world, that in my opinion finds itself not only in any economic and ecological, but also in a relational and spiritual crisis. Man is struggling with confidence, trust in the other, with the search for sense and meaning, trust in life and issues of abortion, euthanasia, sexuality and increasing terrorism. Worldwide human rights are violated and millennium targets are not reached or only with great difficulty. It is imaginable that people feel powerless in this world, in which they are also faced with the hugely exaggerated, liberal capitalist form of globalisation, by which people enrich themselves in a respectless and inhumane way at the expense of the other. I belong to the alter-globalists and I am convinced of the great opportunities, challenges and perspectives globalisation has to offer us as local, national citizens, but as cosmopolitans, as well. I am trying to make a case for a world in which we will live together as a unity in diversity with fair distribution of prosperity and well-being and aimed at the development of everybody.
My starting point is that our society essentially is a unity. A unity in diversity. We are all creatures interrelated with each other and with all that has been created and each of us has their own place in it and provides their own contribution to the Whole. With this lecture I intend to stimulate you to give this content. In this increasingly more complex world you can do two things: You can feel a powerless drop in an ocean or you can realise that an ocean is a collection of unique drops that can glisten in the sun. You can sit down in a corner in darkness or you can realise that even the smallest light will expel the most powerful darkness. If we all in our own ways light a candle the darkness will be illuminated. We can make our individual and collective contribution both in life, living and working.
There is a lot of powerlessness and a lot of individual and collective suffering. We may all, each of us according to our own ability, contribute to the alleviation and elimination of that. That is the purpose of my personal weblog, my reader and studybook and workbook “De mens in de 21e eeuw” (Man in the 21st-century) and my tweets on twitter. We can all encourage and inspire each other and together try to become a little wiser. It is encouraging and stimulating that worldwide by many citizens, individuals and all kinds of agencies and organisations many initiatives are being developed for the realisation of human rights and the millennium targets. Currently I myself am developing multidisciplinary working conferences in order to achieve the worldwide establishment of globalisation centres from where human rights and millennium targets are to be realised. It is encouraging to notice that at various ministerial departments people are open to multidisciplinary cooperation. I am an idealistic realist or a realistic idealist, if you wish, I’m a very well aware of it that I will need millions to realise this and that I haven’t got the money for it. But where there is a will, there is a way and I go for it. From the conviction that each contribution counts and each action from the deepest of your wishes, from inner motives, will lead to a better, happier world.
The purpose of this lecture is to make a contribution to the awareness that on the one hand we should be modest with regard to the influence on our living environment, but that within that idea we should be more aware of our individual and collective responsibility for the way that we are dealing with the earth. In the plan of approach I will give an indication of what we could do individually and collectively. Individually and jointly we can reduce the harmful role of man and expand our constructive role.
Which climate problems are there?
Now that I have mentioned the starting points and the purpose of this lecture, I will give you a schematic representation of the current climate problems. Since the Industrial Revolution the amount of greenhouse gases have significantly increased by human behaviour. It has been scientifically established that the earth has become warmer by more than half a degree in the past 50 years. It is expected that the world average temperature will rise by at least 1 degree Celsius in the coming decades. That increase will be caused specifically by the use of natural gas, coal and oil, by industrial and agricultural activities and by deforestation. If we continue in the same way as we do now with the emission of greenhouse gases, the world will be 6 degrees Celsius warmer by the year 2100.
Since the existence of the Earth there have been various climates on earth with higher and lower CO2 concentrations, different sea levels and more or less ice on the polar circles. Man had hardly any influence on that or no influence at all. The climate movements that are active now, were active more often and to a much stronger extent. From 1945 until 1975 the average temperature fell and from 1975 until 2005 the average temperature rose. Science is struggling with the climate problems. In the seventies people thought that we were going to have a new ice age. By the end of the nineties people got the conviction that the earth was getting warmer and warmer. Nature characterises itself by all sorts of mechanisms which make that the balance will be restored and major changes will be stabilised. That observation, which can only make our respect for nature grow, does not mean, however, that man can do what they want. Increases in temperature of more than 2°C can cause major changes for man and environment, by the rise of the sea level, increase of periods of drought and heat, extreme rainfall, floods, tropical diseases and food shortages. In short, an enormous attack on the realisation of the Millennium targets.
The role of science
That it is getting warmer, is noticeable. I have ascertained with my own eyes that glaciers in Switzerland are but a fraction of the impressive glaciers that I saw when I was young. People have observed that the ice masses of the North and the South Pole are crumbling down. Most of the scientists agree that there are reasons enough to take adequate measures on a worldwide scale. On account of prevention alone it is justified and necessary to act now.
Good scientists know their limitations in research opportunities and the certainties that they can offer. Scientists are people too and so they make mistakes too. There are scientists that are not impartial and that make the results of their research dependent of political and commercial interests. But there are also incorruptible scientists that do their work to the best of their ability. Often under difficult circumstances.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC was established in 1988. About 1250 scientists from 194 countries are doing all sorts of research that are mutually provided with comments and that are brought into line with each other. Every six or seven years this results in a bulky climate report. Unfortunately mistakes have been found in the most recent report of 2007. In an open letter more than fifty scientists have given a reaction to the commotion that has developed on account of that. They have pleaded for a better quality assurance. That, obviously, is good, but let it be clear that the mistakes that have been found, do not change the main conclusions of the report in any way: The climate is changing and that involves risks. Moreover it is crystal clear that the behaviour of people to a greater or lesser extent exerts an influence on the climate and that we, the people, should take our responsibility for that. Rapidly and globally intervening measures will be necessary to achieve the objective that climate experts indicate to maximise the rise of world temperature to 2 degrees in 2020.