AT A STANFORD University tech conference three years ago, legendary Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens spoke bluntly about the global energy crisis and the urgent need to use cleaner fuels. Between policy points, the elderly billionaire said: "I can make it to the finish line, but I'm not so sure about our grandchildren . . . For generations to come, this has got to be fixed."
Haunting words, coming not from a soy-eating, tree-hugging, street-protesting U.S. citizen, but from one of the wealthiest and most admired American businessmen and investors of our time. He can buy a natural-gas field quicker than we can fill up our hybrid cars. Enough capitalist cred for you, Business Guy?
The latest scientific warning on climate change comes from the OECD in "OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction." Scary bed-time reading. If you're still in denial about global warming, this might keep you awake into the wee hours. Secretary-General Angel Gurria cautions in the report's foreward that "if we fail to transform our policies and behaviour, the picture is rather grim." That's a rhetorical device called understatement. Gurria writes:
"The 'Baseline' scenario projects that, unless the global energy mix changes, fossil fuels will supply about 85% of energy demand in 2050, implying a 50% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and worsening urban air pollution. The impact on the quality of life of our citizens would be disastrous.
"The number of premature deaths from exposure to particulate pollutants could double from current levels to 3.6 million every year. Global water demand is projected to increase by 55% to 2050. Competition for water would intensify, resulting in up to 2.3 billion more people living in severely water-stressed river basins . . . .
"The costs and consequences of inaction are colossal, both in economic and human terms. These projections highlight the urgent need for new thinking. Failing that, the erosion of our natural environmental capital will increase the risk of irreversible changes that could jeopardise two centuries of rising living standards . . . . "
- OECD, "OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction."
- Washington Post, "Rising concern on climate change" by Editorial Board.
- Sydney Morning Herald, "Death stalks us in the air, says OECD in Outlook" by Tom Arup.
- BusinessWeek, "OECD predicts 'grim' outlook for global environment by 2050" by Alex Morales.
(Top photo) "Quebec - Climate Change Canvas" by Oxfam International, under a Creative Commons license on flickr. The elementary-school students in Montreal, Canada, who created this painting call it "Lasécheresse," which means "drought" and "the dryness" in French.