Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Too late? A first answer on Friday

This week, Paris is the world center of worries about the weather. Some 500 experts associated with a UN-sponsored body called IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] have gathered together at the Unesco headquarters in the City of Light with the aim of examining their latest scientific report on the state of the planet's climate. This report has not yet been released to the general public, but leaks from IPCC members suggest that the findings and predictions are dramatic, if not grim. Is there still time to intervene before global warming makes the planet an unpleasant place for our descendants? Greenpeace apparently thinks so, according to this sign attached to the Eiffel Tower:

One of the hypothetical climatic changes that interests me is the possibility that the nearby Alps, losing their capacity to host skiing, would become a summer paradise for visitors who, literally, want to keep cool. At the moment I'm writing these words, a log fire is burning in my fireplace down in the living room. Indeed, a touch of global warming would be greatly appreciated at Gamone (particularly by the donkeys and the billy goat, whose snouts are chilled by their having to scrape aside the snow to get at the grass).

I'm dazzled by the evolution of environmental thinking over the last quarter of a century. By chance, I had an opportunity of attending the first UN world conference on the environment in Stockholm in 1972, where I collaborated with Eric M Nilsson in making a documentary film for French television. At that time, environmental issues were being publicized by a curious organization known as the Club of Rome, founded by the industrialist Aurelio Peccei [1908-1984] at a 1968 reunion in the Italian capital.

This "invisible college" or "think tank" commissioned a report exploiting mathematical methods invented by an MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] model-maker, Jay Forrester. The results were published in a book, The Limits to Growth, which became an overnight best-seller. I've still got my copy, purchased up in Stockholm in 1972, but—to borrow a quaint expression I discovered this morning on the Dilbert blog—nobody would give a rat’s ass today about the totally fictional scenarios cooked up by those alleged MIT experts back at the start of the '70s.

Once again, I like to apply my favorite yardstick, credibility, to all apocalyptic declarations (particularly, but not exclusively, if they happen to be made in America by experts). For the moment, although I admire the evangelical work being carried out in this domain by Al Gore, Nicolas Hulot and others, I believe that only a world body can tackle effectively this gigantic challenge for survival. In any case, next Friday, we should get some tangible and credible feedback from the specialists meeting in Paris.

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