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1 November 2004 FINANCIAL TIMES


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 ecology.

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


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