Click the audio player to hear my interview (5:30) with the esteemed economist and academic Jeffrey Sachs.
I have the utmost respect for Mr. Sachs and the tireless work he is doing on sustainability and poverty alleviation. I have my doubts, however, about his comments in our interview that we can somehow achieve high living standards for all while also limiting climate change and environmental deterioration. He didn’t go into detail about how this could be achieved and I’m still waiting for an economist to explain this to me. Facing an extremely serious environmental predicament and a population projected to grow to 9 billion by mid-century, we will likely have to think hard about what we mean by “better living conditions for all” as Sachs describes it. Is he talking about western-style living standards for everyone or some other notion of prosperity?
Jeffrey Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. In 2004 and 2005 he was named among the 100 most influential leaders in the world by Time Magazine. He is also Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. From 2002 to 2006, he was Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed goals to reduce extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015. Sachs is also President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty.
He is widely considered to be the leading international economic advisor of his generation. For more than 20 years Professor Sachs has been in the forefront of the challenges of economic development, poverty alleviation, and enlightened globalization, promoting policies to help all parts of the world to benefit from expanding economic opportunities and wellbeing. He is also one of the leading voices for combining economic development with environmental sustainability, and as Director of the Earth Institute leads large-scale efforts to promote the mitigation of human-induced climate change.
According to Britain’s chief scientific advisor, John Beddington, water shortages will be the world’s most pressing problem in the next decade. Yet look a little deeper and, once again, climate change seems to be the real culprit here. One of the principal reasons Beddington feels water shortages will be so serious is due to disrupted rainfall patterns around the globe as a result of our changing climate. And a rapidly growing world population will lead to a “perfect storm” of food, energy and water shortages by 2030. Unless, of course, we have the foresight and political will to do something about it!
Beddington was speaking this week at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.
Not to be a total downer (see the uplifting post below on the state of the world’s rivers), but according to new research released this week, more than a fifth of the world’s plant species faces the threat of extinction, a trend with potentially catastrophic effects for life on Earth. Up until now, the earth’s mammals were thought to be more seriously imperiled by the risk of extinction but the study, entitled Sampled Red List Index for Plants, concludes that plants are just as threatened as mammals. The research provides a major baseline for plant conservation and is the first time that the true extent of the threat to the world’s estimated 380,000 plant species is known.
Why should we care about some trees and shrubs? Quite simply, because plants provide the foundation for most of the world’s ecosystems and are vital for providing food, clean water and soil, medicine and regulating our climate. And the reason for the demise of plants? You guessed it – humans. One of the greatest threats facing plants today, is the conversion of natural habitats for agriculture or livestock use. The report says that human activities (81 percent) far outweigh natural threats (19 percent) to plant biodiversity and are being fueled by agriculture, logging, plantations and livestock. And the most threatened habitat is tropical rainforest.
A founding member of the Quebec environmental NGO Equiterre, Steven Guilbeault has established himself in recent years as one of Quebec’s, if not Canada’s, leading voices on environmental issues. He has taken a leadership role in numerous environmental campaigns and has recently been particularly active as a climate change campaigner, writer and spokesperson. He coordinated Greenpeace Canada‘s Climate and Energy campaign for 10 years before returning to Equiterre. Guilbeault is also serving as the co-president of the international Climate Action Network and is the president of special committee on renewable energy established by Quebec’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
Guilbeault has participated in the majority of United Nations meetings on climate change and he published his first book on climate change in 2009. He was recently identified by Le Monde as one of the 50 most important people working in sustainable development in the world.
Click the audio player to hear my interview with Steven Guilbeault from the 2010 Millenium Summit in Montreal in which we discuss the climate crisis, the current state of renewable and alternative energy and the links between climate stabilization and poverty alleviation.
Right click here to download the interview and select ‘Save as’ or ‘Save target as’.
Click the audio player to hear my interview with Stéphane Dion from the 2010 Millenium Summit in Montreal.
Stéphane Dion is a Canadian member of Parliament for the riding of Saint-Laurent-Cartierville in Montreal. He was the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada from 2006 to 2008. Dion resigned as Liberal leader after the 2008 election where the party suffered its second worst result ever. Dion is a former professor who served as a cabinet minister under Jean Chretien and Paul Martin.
I caught up with Mr. Dion at the 2010 Millenium Summit, an annual event in Montreal that brings together representatives of government, NGOs and academia to discuss progress on the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). The 8 MDGs range from cutting the spread of extreme poverty in half and halting the spread of HIV Aids and providing universal primary education by 2015. These goals were agreed upon in 2000 through the UN Millenium Declaration, which committed nations to a new global partnership. Progress on the MDGs has been slow to date.
This year’s Summit focused on the theme of development and climate change. During his time as leader of the Liberal Party and Minister of the Environment, Stéphane Dion became well known for his efforts to champion the cause of climate change. His Green Shift proposal in the 2008 federal election campaign would have marked a signal shift in ongoing efforts to internalize the price of carbon emissions in Canada – something that economists from across the political spectrum say is necessary to reign in greenhouse gas emissions. Mr. Dion was defeated in the election and the current Conservative government has since done nothing to reduce Canada’s runaway emissions or to implement any form of carbon pricing policy .