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Climate Change Falling Off Public Radar, Speakers Say

 

Professor Gwyn Prins, Alliance Research Professor, Research and Projects Development Division, London School of Economics at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alberta Friday, September 17, 2010.

Professor Gwyn Prins, Alliance Research Professor, Research and Projects Development Division, London School of Economics at the Global Business Forum in Banff, Alberta Friday, September 17, 2010. Photograph by: Stuart Gradon, Calgary Herald

A year after the Copenhagen conference on global warming that failed to produce a comprehensive international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions, climate change has taken a back seat to issues such as the recession but continues to influence economic and government policy decisions, the Global Business Forum heard Friday.

But business leaders such as Trans-Alta CEO Steve Snyder said that industry needs to be mindful of balancing economic growth with environmental sustainability. Copenhagen broke down partly over the inability of Western nations to convince developing countries such as China and India on the need to curb carbon dioxide without damaging their emerging economies.

Although Snyder agreed some were “disappointed” that Copenhagen failed to achieve an agreement, he said the outcome underscores the need to develop solutions that tackle carbon emissions without sacrificing prosperity.

“Hopefully we can now have a much more realistic conversation about where we are, where we need to be and how best to get there,” he said. “Telling people to reduce their standard of living is not nearly as motivating as saying there is a way to reduce emissions and still use all the energy you want.”

Gwyn Prins, a research professor at the London School of Economics, said governments which put environmental issues over economic ones are generally kicked out of office. Although he said he supports taking action to reduce carbon emissions, Prins said government policies have done little to achieve that goal.

“The best climate change policy is no climate change policy,” he said.

He stated that polls show that public concern with climate spiked between 2005-9 and is now rapidly subsiding and that the Gallup Longditudinal Poll which has been conducted continuously since the Second World War shows that man-made climate change is currently top priority for 0.25% of Americans polled. He also stated that the alternative to a formal “climate policy” is an aggressive policy of energy innovation.

Nonetheless, environmental groups are mobilizing through the U.S. courts to sue industries such as automobile manufacturers for producing products they see as contributing to global warming, said Kevin Holewinski, a Washington-based lawyer specializing in environmental and climate change issues.

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