June 16, 2011

Malcolm Turnbull Comments

If you've been wondering what Malcolm Turnbull, Liberal member for Wentworth, Australia, was doing at 7:21 am on June 8th, 2011, wonder no more - he was busy being the first commenter on an opinion piece in The New York Times.
Sobering stuff. Recently I was visiting with an Asian Environment Minister I knew well from my own days as Australia's Environment Minister. We discussed these issues and he said to me "My conclusion is that the short sightedness and greed of mankind - especially in the rich developed world - is so great that in a hundred years this planet will be uninhabitable for billions of people." I don't share that gloom and remain optimistic that before it is too late we will cut global greenhouse gas emissions and contain, if not stop, global warming. But there are some environmental challenges which are profoundly existential. The unsustainable extraction of water from aquifers in North China and Northern India (for example) will result in large areas of irrigated agriculture being no longer productive.And while water can be pumped long distances and/or desalinated the cost of doing so precludes its use for growing wheat and other crops. So a large agricultural region goes out of production. On that score it is worth noting that Anatol Lieven in his excellent new book on Pakistan "Pakistan- A Hard Country" identifies climate change and water scarcity and volatility as the greatest existential threat to that country. In my own country and indeed in the United States we tend to focus on the water scarcity problems we face domestically- I fear that it wont be long before water scarcity on either side of the Himalayas is more significant to each of our nations than the very serious challenges of water scarcity at home.
The Earth is Full 

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