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G8 must take steps now to fight global warming
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Beset by so many agonizing problems, the Earth is screaming for help. Amid increasingly disturbing signs of the planet's woes, leaders from the Group of Eight countries will gather in the Lake Toyako resort in Hokkaido next week for their annual summit.

As crude oil prices continue to rise, much of the talk among international pundits is about "the third great oil shock". Grain prices are also soaring, causing a "food shock" across the planet.

Until recently, it was widely expected that global warming would be the biggest and almost sole focus of the Lake Toyako summit. As the twin travails of soaring oil and food prices are worsening by the day, however, the discussions at the gathering are likely to be less focused on climate change.

Still, global warming remains the most important challenge facing the world's top policymakers. That's partly because creating an effective policy response to the challenge of harmful climate change will also help remove fundamental causes of other serious problems.

One psychological factor behind skyrocketing crude oil prices is the widespread fear that the world will run out of underground oil reserves in the not-so-distant future. The effects of this psychological factor will weaken if nations demonstrate a strong commitment to building a society less dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.

Among the factors that have driven the sharp climb of grain prices in recent months are droughts in many agricultural countries. Since global warming makes droughts worse and more frequent, stemming the rise in the Earth's temperature is vital for preventing such damaging dry spells.

There are certainly legitimate concerns that increased production of biofuels, which are touted as green alternatives to oil and other fossil fuels, may further drive up food prices.

From a long-term perspective, though, halting global warming to protect farmland is crucial for solving the problem of surging food prices.

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