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Ecologists urge action on climate change


The British Ecological Society supports the UK government’s initiative during its G8 Presidency to get world leaders to set out a clear direction for political action on climate change, based on the clear scientific evidence for climate change and its impacts.

Ecologists have shown that climate change is already affecting natural systems and are predicting significant impacts on the earth’s life support systems and on biodiversity in the future. The British Ecological Society urges G8 leaders to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change, and to take immediate and substantial action in light of that evidence.

In addition to supporting low-carbon technologies, the G8 summit should move forward international action to help countries to analyse future risks due to climate change and adaptation strategies for coping with the immediate impacts of climate change. These strategies are needed to meet the Millennium Development Goals and the 2010 target to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

According to British Ecological Society President Professor Alastair Fitter: “Climate change is altering natural systems already. Spring is coming earlier in the northern hemisphere, with many plants flowering two weeks early. That is an early warning system for us; it has happened extraordinarily rapidly and gives us real cause for concern for the longer term implications of climate change. We expect to see much greater problems from invasive species in the future and also the spread of parasites, pests and diseases.”

Ecosystems are also big players in the global carbon cycle. Twice as much carbon is stored in soils as in the atmosphere, and soils are slowing down the rate that carbon dioxide is building up in the atmosphere, by storing about a third of the carbon we release. In a warmer world, we know that this carbon stored in soils will soon start to return to the atmosphere. When that happens there is the risk of runaway warming.

Professor Fitter says: “After the industrial revolution, societies recognised that we could no longer just throw our waste into the environment. We long ago passed laws to stop people and companies polluting rivers with sewage and the air with smoke, because the economic gains to the polluters are much less than the losses to the rest of society. Now we must fully extend that protection to the atmosphere: we can no longer regard it as a dumping ground for our waste gases, for it belongs to the whole globe.”

Becky Allen | alfa
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