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Warmer, warmer

Published : Feb 25, 2005 00:00 IST

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FOR dozens of industrialised nations, February 16 marks the day when they will have to begin translating word into deed, when they must start to limit proactively the emission of greenhouse gases to agreed limits - so that they can achieve their goals three to seven years from now: typically 5 per cent below the levels of 1990.

At the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland, in late January, governments, scientists and industry agreed that global warming was the single biggest threat facing mankind. David King, who heads the Science and Technology Office in the United Kingdom, said it was the threat of the century, even bigger than terrorism. Jonathan Lash, president of the United States-based World Resources Institute, said, "The drum beat of scientific findings on climate change accelerated last year... driving an increased level of concern." U.S. Senator and one-time presidential aspirant John McCain called it "the greatest threat to our globe", suggesting that his country's ostrich-like official attitude is not necessarily acceptable to all its citizens. The experts at Davos proposed that developing economies such as India, China and Brazil, hitherto exempt from energy reduction norms, must be part of a new Group of Eight task force on climate change.

None of this is particularly palatable to the `other side', which has sought to acquire some sort of respectability by gathering under the flag of a U.K.-based "Scientific Alliance". The Guardian newspaper reported that the Alliance has links with U.S. oil company ExxonMobil through collaboration with the George C. Marshall Institute. Lobby groups of such "professional sceptics" are increasingly trying to neutralise the media perception created by governments of countries such as the U.K. that speak strongly of the dangers of warming. A meeting held at the Royal Institution, London, suggested that "global warming will not have a catastrophic effect, and if it does, there is little the world can or should do about it," reported the paper. These climate change sceptics claimed that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had overestimated the risk posed by carbon dioxide.

Natureo

It is a doomsday scenario that is guaranteed to generate precisely the "state of fear" that Michael Crichton's novel warns about - albeit for all the wrong motives.

(This story was published in the print edition of Frontline magazine dated Feb 25, 2005.)

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