Climate change must be viewed as much more than an environmental issue if the world is to understand and tackle the scope and nature of the threat it represents, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said last night.

Introducing former United States Vice-President Al Gore, who presented a “live” version of his documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Annan said humans need to reform the way they live and do business to deal with global warming.

“We also need to reframe the debate,” he said. “Climate change still tends to be perceived as an environmental concern. But it has profound implications for jobs, growth, health and almost all other aspects of human well-being, including security. Until we properly understand the full nature of this threat, our action will fall short.”

The Secretary-General, who invited Mr. Gore to speak as part of his lecture series, said the commercial success of the documentary – and the accompanying book version – “shows there is a real concern about climate change, and most of all a real hunger to do something about it.”

In his presentation Mr. Gore began by saying: “We face a planetary emergency. A full-scale climate emergency that threatens the future of civilization. The planet itself will do very nicely, thank you very much, but what is at risk is the future of human civilization.” Yet while climate change presents the most dangerous crisis the world has ever faced, Mr. Gore said it also presented human civilization with the opportunity “to rise to meet a common moral purpose that is compelling enough to give us a chance to transcend more of our limitations and set aside more of the petty bickering to which we as human beings are just naturally vulnerable.”

Mr. Gore’s lecture closely tracked his documentary and was accompanied by many of the same slides that were included in the film and the book. The visuals included pictures depicting the loss of ice cover around the polar caps, the melting of glaciers, and the effects of floods and droughts caused by changing climatic conditions.

“We have to change everything in the way we go about burning energy, designing products and going about the architecture of buildings,” Mr. Gore said. “With the new tools coming out of the information revolution,” he added, “we can shift our economies away from the massive flows of waste that are themselves mainly responsible for this problem.”


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