Worldwatch Paper #130: Climate of Hope: New Strategies for Stabilizing the World's Atmosphere

June 1996
Christopher Flavin
ISBN: 1-878071-32-7
84 pages

The climate dialogue is now marked by growing alarm over the risks the world faces, and by optimism that an historic shift away from our fossil-fuel-dependent energy system is feasible.

Scientific studies now indicate that human-induced climate change may already be leading to disruptive and unpredictable changes in local weather patterns. Floods, droughts, fires, and heat outbreaks will likely increase as global temperatures rise. Chronic water shortages already plague 80 countries, home to 40 percent of the world's population. Weather extremes have reduced harvests in China and the U.S. twice in the 1990s. With 87 million more people each year, we can ill afford such disruptions.

This Paper describes the path to a low-carbon energy system that would protect the atmosphere from dangerous disruption. To many, a world without the fossil fuels that drove postwar economic expansion is inconceivable. Yet the authors offer a vision embraced by a new coalition that favors stabilizing the atmosphere. This coalition includes island states threatened by rising seas, insurance companies suffering from record storm-related losses, and business groups that believe slowing climate change could create one of the biggest economic booms the world has seen.

The same decentralized electronic technologies reshaping communications, entertainment, and medicine can make the transition away from fossil fuels easier. If effective policies are adopted soon, this transition could spur economic development while protecting society from disruptive climate change -- a common interest shared by both industrial and developing countries.