Should the international community do more to tackle the threat of global warming?

Global warming has long been recognized as a serious problem by most climate scientists. Governments around the world have begun to take the necessary measures to address it. However, as our understanding of the scale and nature of the problem is still developing, efforts to tackle global warming need to be reassessed from time to time.

Recent evidence suggests that some risk factors associated with climate change may have been overstated. Sea levels are now expected to rise by approximately one metre, not two metres, as previously thought. This is because some glaciers and ice sheets appear to be contracting, the Arctic, for example, while others, such as the Antarctic, appear to be expanding. Also, it is now thought that the Gulf Stream is unlikely to vanish. It may, therefore, be possible to scale back plans for flood defences in coastal areas.

However, there is also evidence that some of the consequences of climate change may have been understated. Tropical forests are now believed to be more vulnerable to drought. Hurricanes and typhoons may become more severe. Greater efforts should therefore be made to protect vulnerable populations, especially in tropical areas. Buildings in storm-prone areas may also need to be re-designed to withstand high winds.

These recommendations, however, address the symptoms of global warming, not the root cause: the generation of greenhouse gases. Whatever the precise scale and nature of the consequences of global warming, they are all undesirable. Clearly, more needs to be done to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. Stricter emissions targets should be set and use of alternative sources of energy encouraged. It would be profoundly irresponsible to do nothing about the causes of global warming.