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Global warming threat
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If the increasing frequency of extreme weather conditions around the world in recent years still fails to convince us of the imminent threat from climate change, the collapse of an area as large as 415 sq km from the Wilkin Ice Shelf in the Antarctic detected by satellite this week is testimony.

The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 seems to be a manifestation that the majority of countries in the world had reached the consensus that climate change was happening and to a larger extent than we had previously expected.

Yet, it is one thing to know the threat is there, and it is another to take effective measures to stop the threat from becoming a reality.

In the past 11 years, negotiations have been continuing on a global climate agreement, the roadmap of which was worked out at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last year. The agreement is expected to be reached next year.

The collapse of the ice shelf in the Antarctic is a further reminder that we have not much time left to take actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Yes, we have to feed a large population of more than 6.5 billion, which is still increasing and expected to reach 8 billion in three decades. That may explain why it is difficult to reach the goals of reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions to the level that may prevent global warming from posing a real threat to our existence.

But the fact is that the way we consume the limited resources on this planet is increasingly lavish, the number of cars we drive is on the increase on a daily basis around the world, so is the amount of electricity we use, and the same is true with almost all commodities.

The collapse of the ice shelf should be a wake up call that it is high time that we humans reconsidered the way we pursue our economic development and the way we live our lives.

We are proud of our capability to produce what we want and the scientific discoveries that have considerably elevated our living standards.

But what we need to realize is that we seem to have been carried away by such capabilities and discoveries that we have become obsessed with what we want from science and economic development rather than what we actually need.

The increasingly speedy global warming manifested by what is happening in the Antarctic leaves us no time to hesitate. We hope that it will not be too late before we adjust our way of life to effectively ease global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emission by a considerable amount.

(China Daily March 28, 2008)

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