Disasters show need for action on climate

It is not often this column agrees with the prime minister, but Tony Blair hit the nail on the head by complaining about the reluctance to face up to the reality of climate change. His warning, ahead of this week's conference of rich and developing nations on global warming, can be heeded on several levels.

George Bush is the bete noire of environmentalists for ignoring the Kyoto protocol, but this was a feature of the Clinton administration as well.

However, after a summer of climactic catastrophes, some American states are starting to talk about cutting emissions.

It is a sad aspect of humanity that people only face up to the consequences of their actions when disaster strikes. The one constructive side-effect from all this mayhem is that denying climate change is now a sure sign of stupidity. With many of the world's major cities located on coastlines, there is an opportunity here for governments to impress on people that today's New Orleans might well be their tomorrow.

Elsewhere, major business interests moan that taking a lead on cutting emissions will damage the UK's competitiveness. This says a lot about the perspective of those making the complaint. It is at best an eye on short-term profit margins rather than focusing on future trends.

Unfortunately, there will be no chance of a robust economy if a fair bit of the country is under water. The business sectors that are the first to get real will be ahead of those that will be forced to change later on. As the Institute for Public Policy Research also points out, future prosperity will be created in industries using low-carbon technology.

The jobs are not with the old polluters.

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