Global warming bigger threat than terrorism, says Canada
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA — Global warming poses a greater long-term threat to humanity than terrorism because it could force hundreds of millions from their homes and trigger an economic catastrophe, Canadian Environment Minister David Anderson said.
"Current preoccupation is with terrorism, but in the long term climate change will outweigh terrorism as an issue for the international community," he said. "Terrorism will come and go; it has in the past ... and it's very important. But climate change is going to make some very fundamental changes to human existence on the planet."
Anderson said Canada would need to cut its emissions of greenhouse gases by 60 percent of 1990 levels by 2050. Canada has ratified the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which calls for a 6 percent cut from 1990 levels by 2012.
"The British have decided ... that a 60 percent reduction (in greenhouse gas emissions) by 2050 is necessary and we will probably have to be in a similar range," he said.
In 2001, those emissions were 18.5 percent above 1990 levels and energy producers say the costs of fulfilling Kyoto will be prohibitive.
But Anderson said the consequences of doing nothing would be disastrous; he said the wheat-growing prairies of Canada and the Great Plains of the United States would eventually no longer produce enough food to support the population if nothing were done to fight global warming.
"Terrorism is unlikely to give us the strong possibility of 500 million refugees. Climate change is likely to give us that if it goes unchecked from flooded areas ... in countries such as such as Bangladesh," he said.
Canada spent hundreds of millions of dollars on increased security after the Sept. 11 attacks and sent 2,000 troops to Afghanistan to take part in the U.S. war on terror.
New Prime Minister Paul Martin said Monday that Canada would stick with Kyoto but the existing government plan on how to cut emissions was not detailed enough.
Anderson said it was "simply wrong" to say that putting the Kyoto accord into effect would cripple the economy.
"There is going to be some cost but I think you could do Kyoto probably five times over with the same cost as the cost of the Canadian dollar increasing by 15 cents last year. That really has an impact ... and I don't think that ended our economy," he said. "We are going to have to have quite radical changes. This is not a minor issue; it's going to have a disruptive effect in some areas. That said, it will also have many positive effects: health benefits, productivity benefits," he said.