After many years of governmental dithering on global warming, the dominos have begun to fall around the world over the past few years.

In the face of mounting evidence and increasing public concern, political denial is rapidly becoming untenable. Fossil fuel industry stalwarts, not so easily embarrassed, continue their rearguard action – the ever-dependable Exxon Mobil still funds groups such as the CEI, who produced these ads for US television to coincide with the release of An Inconvenient Truth.

While the Bush Administration remains largely noncommittal on global warming, Britain’s Blair Government appears to be anything but – contrast these ads being run on UK television.

Last year, Australia’s environment minister also declared the debate about global warming over. But a few weeks back on ABC’s Four Corners, John Howard’s response to Australia’s adopting a similar target to Britain’s was dismissive – apparently it’s not in the national interest.

A report due for release next week suggests that the effects of global-warming induced drought could be far more widespread and severe than initially anticipated. In this context, the narrow discussion of national interest fails on two counts.

First, being already naturally subject to periodic drought, Australia is likely to be severely affected by any increases in their frequency. Secondly, the poor, particularly those in parts of Africa, where periodic drought is similarly endemic, are likely to be hardest hit.

It is this social justice element that any national cost-benefit calculus completely ignores. The atmosphere is the ultimate symbol of globalisation – it lacks borders and is completely impartial as to who produces what and where. We know this.

Imagine if circumstances were reversed, so that poorer nations were responsible for a process that threatened not just the ‘interests’ but the lives and livelihoods of the wealthier ones. The safety and security rhetoric would be loud and clear. Wait, that sounds familiar…

Peter Fray

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