1 November 2004 FINANCIAL TIMES
LEADERS AND LETTERS
A vibrant global ecology is what underpins the economic and social
pillars of development
From Mr Dave Hampton.
Sir, I enjoyed Poul Nyrup Rasmussen's letter " Europe 's economy
does not exist in some vacuum" (Letters, October 27) and beg
to advance his argument one stage further.
Mr Rasmussen rightly argues that the three pillars of development
(economic, social and environmental) must be strengthened together.
But it is evident that two of the pillars - economic and social -
are subsidiary to, and underpinned by, the third: a vibrant global
Neither dollars nor our species will out-survive our planet. The
earth can survive happily without people or profit. Some might say
better. The state of the planet is the viability of the holding company.
So if the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment,
it is surely bad news that the latter is in bad shape? Our atmosphere,
the air we all share, is not a vacuum but a precious mix of life-sustaining
gases. We take its existence for granted. We place no value on it.
The Russian state parliament has tipped the balance that will change
all that. Under the Kyoto Agreement, the polluter will soon have
to pay. We are fast running out, not of oil but of free air-space
to put all the carbon dioxide our global fossil-fuel-bonfire frenzy
releases (from its multi-million-year-old safe storage place below
ground.) Kyoto will start to bite, just in time.
If carbon dioxide were purple, we would have witnessed the haze
growing as "air-fill" (á la "land-fill")
over just one lifetime. We have radically altered the very chemistry
of the air we breathe. Background carbon dioxide levels, previously
broadly stable for the last 400,000 years or more (at between 200
to 280 parts for million) have risen in just 100 years or so as never
before. This year we hit 378 parts per million - more than a third
higher than ever before, and rising fast. This is a reckless amount
of irreversible change to the chemistry that regulates our climate
- and so to the ecological engine of our economy.
Tackling climate change seriously now promises a bright future
of energy security, energy independence and energy sustainability.
As we succeed in this enormous challenge, collectively and individually,
we can export the capability to the rest of the world and prosper.
Dave Hampton, Director, ABS consulting, London SE1 1HL