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"Leaders Preserving Our Future" with the World Preservation Foundation

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When Gerorge Media attended the Leaders Preserving Our Future: Pace and Priorities on Climate Change conference, it marked somewhat of a departure from our normal reporting avenues. The conference focused heavily on food securities and threats (including resource exploration) that face glacial melts in regions such as Antarctica. It was an importat event for looking at how the day-to-day efforts of many companies featured are viewed by environmentalists and some of the down-path causes and effects for food and farming. With a mind to resources that have more of a direct application to global food securities, such as phosphate, we saw what experts had to say.

Kicking off the day’s proceedings was Geoff Tansey, Trustee for the Food Ethics Council UK, who spoke about raising awareness of near-term climate change solutions. Tansey spoke about how we might ensure food security on a global level, including ethical thinking which ought to be at the heart of discussion, such as considerations for local justice. In laying out our attitudes to food today, Tansey explained how we have “a dysfunctional food system” and what it will take to really turn to more sustainable food systems. He talked about the threat climate change poses to international food security, such as its unpredictability for crops and the demands on food pricing. His definition of good “food justice” centred on fair sharing of food, on the issue, fairly playing by the rules, production, waste, consumption and dialogue.

“We need to see this as a time of opportunity as well as danger,” Tansey told attendees.

His approach was later praised by John Topping, President of the Climate Institute, who said that a focus on food and world agriculture was “often underplayed” in climate change debate. Topping looked at why a focus on carbon dioxide alone is not sufficient to stop irreversible tipping points, including the role of shorter lived climate forcers in global warming and the presence of black carbon in the Antarctic. Topping presented a business-as-usual scenario, detailing what will happen over the coming years if we continue with global emissions as we do today. He looked at methane, troposphere, greenhouse gases (GHGs) and black carbon, the latter of which he said is “probably where we can make the biggest difference in the near term.” He explained that successful climate change solutions will involve thinking beyond carbon dioxide challenges and said that the recent U.S. mid-term elections underscore our need to move from focusing on GHGs and focus more on tackling black carbon.

“[Sceptics] breathe so they have to be concerned about climate change solutions,” he said, before identifying the benefits of black carbon reduction including black carbon policy within the Kyoto Protocol, models for poor—rich cooperation and a need for developed countries to continue with black carbon reduction.

Topping ended positively, citing the Tickell Interactive Network in Mexico and first initiative of the state Pueblo for moving aggressively on black carbon. Another speaker to tackle black carbon was Professor Jefferson Simcoes, Director of the Brazilian National Institute for Cryospheric Sciences, who gave an approving nod to the global-scale discussion presented by Topping and applied the subject directly to its presence in Antarctica, its significance and its sources. He touched on the public difficulties involved in understanding climate change, noting that while the focus on GHGs has made the institute a household name, black carbon remains in relative obscurity for the general public. Another speaker to look more closely at Antarctica—having visited the region as an expert on the role of ice sheets, threat of climate change and rising sea levels—was Dr. David Vaughan, a climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey. The running theme for unveiling the complexities behind contributions to climate change continued as Vaughan said that discussion of sea levels has become somewhat of a “poster child” for climate change, but it is a lot more complex than often construed. He called for greater consideration of longevity, not carbon emissions, acknowledging that with climate change in the region, once the damage is done there is no going back. He said that the world is now at rising sea levels of 3.2 millimetres per year, which may not sound like much, but “it is a one way street.”

Amidst the scientists and ecologists, a wholly different voice on the issue came from Chris Williamson, Shadow Minister for Communities and Local Government, who came from the UK Houses of Parliament to talk about how climate change and energy efficiency are (and will in future), be a high priority for the United Kingdom.

“I recognize that climate change is the biggest challenge facing the planet,” Williamson told the crowd.

Williamson highlighted the problem of political cycles, which owing to one party’s time at the top being limited often gives way to short-term views and solutions to the issue. Williamson stressed the need for “a cross-party consensus” which might carry over agreed climate change policy, rather than leave it limited by party control. He said he hopes that the recent launch of the Green Paper might open up potential for such an agreement, and also emphasized how local government can assist with combating climate change—not just in-house, but with a policy-shaped agenda. Giving the example of his time leading Derby Council, Williamson talked about how a local level can contribute and cited the city’s plans to go green by 2020. Talk of the recent political backlash against ex-UK ruling party Labour also emerged as Williamson explained that opposition as seen by the recent “anti-Labour tsunami” can be detrimental to cross-party climate change agreements. Between the work of many acclaimed scientists and organizations in tackling climate change on a global and national level, consideration for lesser explored issues such as food security and some insightful comment from political circles looking to improve our long-term policy for the issue, the day offered many different voices and raised awareness of some key factors behind GHGs and carbon dioxide. An accompanying exhibition made further dialogue and exploration of issues informal and enjoyable, while live web streaming offered a larger audience access. The result was a highly thoughtful, positive day.

George Media Network

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