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Climate Justice - The Facts


1 The heat is on

Last year was the second warmest since 1860 – the hottest was 1998. Fossil-fuel use is mainly to blame – with the rich world doing most of the damage.

To stabilize the global climate will require huge cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions – and a big increase in justice. The UN-endorsed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has stated that emissions reductions of 60% by 2050 are essential.1 But many experts now think even this is not enough – 70 or 80% is needed.2

In 2002 the British Meteorological Office’s Hadley Centre reported that climate change was happening 50% faster than originally believed. By 2040 they predict most of the world’s forests will begin to die.4

2 Big emitters

The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

EU average: 10.3; Britain: 11.4; New Zealand/Aotearoa: 14.1; Japan: 10.2.5 * Recent figures indicate sharp reduction due to contraction of steel industry.

Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is responsible for over 50% of global warming.

3 Balance the books

Balance: If account were taken of their rampant use of polluting fossil fuels, industrialized countries would have totted up an environmental debt of $141-$612 billion to the highly indebted poor countries.3

4 Kick fossils

More than 80 per cent of human-made carbon dioxide emissions come from burning fossil fuels for our energy requirements.2


Between the late 1990s and 2020 global energy consumption is projected to rise by nearly 60 per cent. Most of this growth will occur in the developing world where some two billion people currently have no access to electricity or piped gas.7


Wind and solar power are the fastest growing energy sources in the world. Renewable energy technologies have the potential to meet energy demand several times over.7

And while oil exploration costs rise, renewable costs are tumbling due to improved technology and economies of scale:

Renewables are said to be uneconomic. This is often untrue – and subsidies favour fossils.

And while oil exploration costs rise, renewable costs are tumbling due to improved technology and economies of scale:

  1. UN World Meteorological Organization.
  2. Guy Dauncey with Patrick Mazza, Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Climate Change (New Society 2001).
  3. Christian Aid, Who Owes Who: Climate Change, Debt, Equity and Survival(1999).
  4. Ross Gelbspan, Another Tragically Beautiful Day, interview, www.zmag.org February 2003.
  5. Hal Turton and Clive Hamilton, The Australia Institute, Comprehensive emissions per capita for industrialized countries, September 2001, www.tai.org.au, based on UNFCCC 2001a; UNFCCC 2001b; World Bank 2001.
  6. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre, Emissions for Fossil Fuel Burning and Cement Manufacturing, World Resources 2000-2001,WRI.
  7. Janet L Sawin, 'Charting a New Energy Future' in Worldwatch Institute, State of the World 2003.
  8. Greenpeace International, Solar Fact Sheet, 1999.
  9. Carbon Trade Watch, The Sky is Not the Limit, Transnational Institute Briefing Series, 2003.

New Internationalist issue 357 magazine cover This article is from the June 2003 issue of New Internationalist.
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