Americans are ‘illiterate’ about climate change, claims expert And Canadians are at Least Equally Illiterate
Americans are ‘illiterate’ about climate change, claims expert
America’s lack of knowledge on climate change could prevent the world from reaching an agreement to stop catastrophic global warming, scientists said in an attack on the country’s environmental policy.
Published: 10:16PM BST 28 Sep 2009
Professor John Schellnhuber, one of the world’s leading global warming experts, described the US as “climate illiterate”
He said Americans have a lower understanding of the problems of climate change than people in Brazil or China..
More than 100 scientists are meeting at Oxford University to discuss the dangers of climate change causing droughts, floods and mass extinctions around the world.
The conference is designed to put pressure on world leaders coming together at the end of the year for the “most important meeting in the history of the human species”.
The UN Climate Change Conference in December will try to reach an international deal on cutting carbon emissions so global warming stays below an increase of 2C (3.6F) above pre-industrial levels.
Prof Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change, said the chance of getting such a deal was “pie in the sky” because rich countries like America are unwilling to sign up to ambitious enough targets.
“In a sense the US is climate illiterate. If you look at global polls about what the public knows about climate change even in Brazil, China you have more people who know about the problem and think deep cuts in emissions are needed,” he said.
His comments come as Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, made renewed calls for rich countries to cut emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 while also paying poor countries to reduce greenhouse gases.
Prof Schellnhuber said rich countries have to cut emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2020 on 1990 levels to stand a chance of stopping catastrophic climate change.
However President Obama is already struggling to get legislation through the Senate that will commit the US to cutting emissions to 1990 levels and will face an even greater public backlash trying to meet more ambitious targets.
Prof Schellnhuber, who has played a key role in waking the world up to climate change through his work advising the German government, described the Copenhagen conference as “the most important meeting in the history of the human species”.
He said even if the US, which is second only to China in the amount of greenhouse gases it produces, refuses to sign up to targets the rest of the world should make cuts.
“Not in Copenhagen but maybe in the conferences following Copenhagen, some countries including China and EU, will simply say whatever the US does we will go ahead. It is not only responsible but will be good for us economically.
“Why can’t we save the world without the US?”