Monday, September 14, 2009

"The politics of climate change starts with science" says Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland at the 3

Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Climate Change, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland addressing the at the 3rd World Climate Conference said "the politics of climate change starts with you, with the science. Science, in turn, must be translated into political action. When deciding on what to do with climate change, political leaders must be guided by the best available scientific knowledge."

Following are some excepts of her speech;

In a situation where climate politics has become high politics, it is extremely useful to have international scientific bodies made up of nationals from all groups of nations. This protects the independence of the research undertaken and increases the credibility of the scientific results produced.

The importance of having a scientific and rational basis for opinions and actions was imprinted in me during my studies to become a medical doctor. A doctor must base any action on sound science to be credible. The same applies to politicians. Climate politics must base itself on the results of the work of many of you who are here today.

We now know that even if we manage to halt and reduce emissions of green house gases, the climate will continue to change and so, therefore, must we. All countries will need to adapt to a changing and more erratic climate. Droughts, floods, storms, and a rise in sea levels will increase the risk of famine, disease, and displacement, in particular in vulnerable least developed and small island developing states. It is therefore imperative that we focus on adaptation.

The basis for all adaptation is a high quality early warning mechanism. The first challenge is therefore to establish a sufficiently comprehensive and fine-masked system for collection of relevant data over time. Once that is in place, we need a sufficiently advanced system for modeling and prediction, into which the data is fed.

The result is a weather forecast. The problem is that a forecast is not enough. We already know that by 2020, up to 250 million people in Africa will face growing shortages of water due to climate change. Still, very little is done to prepare for such a development.

Our challenge is to communicate information about what to expect in a more efficient manner to those who need this information in order to make the right decisions, for their country, their business, their farm, their family, and their lives. Climate information must be fed into the process of decision-making at all levels.

Women and children are among the most vulnerable. But women are also among the most powerful agents for change. Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement is one example. Improved climate information must empower women and make them drivers of adaptation.

Many may think that we already have access to the information we need, and question the relevance of an initiative for a new framework for climate services. To do so is, to say the least, a blatant expression of ignorance or arrogance, or both.

It was heartbreaking to hear the stories from the Horn of Africa in 2006, when shepherds were not alerted ahead of a long awaited drought. Consequently, they were not able to take precautionary action and slaughter and sell off their herd before it starved to death and famine set in. It is always the poor who are left out of the information stream. This has to change. Improved communication of weather information will save lives.

When we know that disaster sooner or later will strike, we can prepare and thus reduce suffering. Bangladesh, Cuba and Vietnam are examples of countries who have invested in disaster risk reduction. Studies have shown that these kinds of investments are among the most cost-effective adaptation investments the world can make.

If we are to achieve the Millennium Development Goals we have agreed upon, it is essential that we integrate climate science into our development plans and strengthen adaptation efforts. Adaptation is an essential investment in a safer, more prosperous future for us all.

The need for strengthened climate science has never been more apparent - or more necessary. We need to work together, harnessing the world’s best minds for more informed, science-based decision making to meet this grave threat.

And as we do so, we must draw on all the strengths of the United Nations system, for climate change is far more than an environmental issue. It affects everything from the health of our economy to the health of our citizens. It is about the future of life as we know it on our planet – the only home we have.

Clear, credible scientific data is essential for informed decision-making at the global level in Copenhagen this December. It is essential for those in the business community who are creating the new green technologies that can drive low-carbon growth. And it is vital to creating a more informed public discourse on our response to climate change. The science demands we act boldly, or we may not get a second chance.


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