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Tony Blair to push for international commitment to tackling climate change through science

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has outlined how he intends to use the country's EU and G8 Presidencies in 2005 to push for a commitment to tackling climate change through science and innovation. Science offers both an explanation for what is happening to the Earth's climate, as...

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has outlined how he intends to use the country's EU and G8 Presidencies in 2005 to push for a commitment to tackling climate change through science and innovation. Science offers both an explanation for what is happening to the Earth's climate, as well as solutions, emphasised Mr Blair on 14 September. He therefore intends to use the European and international platforms available to him next year to attain a consensus on the basic science on climate change and the threat it poses, as well as an agreement on a process to speed up science and technology in order to meet the threat. 'From the start of the industrial revolution more than 200 years ago, developed nations have achieved ever greater prosperity and higher living standards,' said Mr Blair. 'But through this period our activities have come to affect our atmosphere, oceans, geology, chemistry and biodiversity. What is now plain is that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialisation and strong economic growth [...] is causing global warming at a rate that began as significant, has become alarming and is simply unsustainable in the long term.' Mr Blair then explained that 'long term' in this case means within his children's lifetimes, and possibly within his own. The Prime Minister also listed scientific evidence to emphasise the immediate danger posed by climate change: the ten warmest years on record have all been since 1990; over the last century, average global temperatures have risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius; glaciers are melting; sea levels are rising and are forecast to rise another 88cm by 2100; the number of people affected by floods worldwide has risen from seven million in the 1960s to 150 million today; and while Europe's summer heatwave of 2003 would normally occur every 800 years, one in two summers is likely to be even warmer by the 2040s. He did however sound one note of optimism: 'through the science we are aware of the problem and, with the necessary political and collective will, have the ability to address it effectively.' Mr Blair called for an international 'green revolution', and urged the UK to lead the way. The government has already set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and is on track to meet the Kyoto target. The UK has also done this without forfeiting economic growth - between 1990 and 2002 the UK economy grew by 36 per cent while greenhouse gas emissions fell by around 15 per cent. 'But business itself must seize the opportunities: it is those hi-tech, entrepreneurial businesses with the foresight and capability to tap into the UK's excellent science base that will succeed,' said Mr Blair. Referring to his strategy for the G8 Presidency, the Prime Minister pledged to promote the development and uptake of cleaner energy technologies, and to push for large scale investment in existing technologies as well as encouragement for the further development of new low carbon technologies. Significant progress has already been made, emphasised Mr Blair: fuel cell cars are now available, as are heat and power generators and new low carbon fuels. The next generation of photovoltaics is unlikely to need panels as smart windows could generate the power required for new buildings, and carbon sequestration is also showing potential. 'What we need to do is build an international consensus on how we can speed up the introduction of these technologies,' said Mr Blair. The Prime Minister finished by announcing that not only will he be pushing for commitments at the G8 summit, but that the UK will hold an international scientific meeting on climate change prior to the summit: 'More than just another scientific conference, this gathering will address the big questions on which we need to pool the answers available from science - 'what level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is self-evidently too much?' and 'what options do we have to avoid such levels?''

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