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Experts Address State of the Planet

March 26, 2010

World leaders and environmental experts met via video conference on Thursday, discussing climate change, poverty, economic recovery, and other topics at the annual State of the Planet summit.

During the conference, which was hosted in the United States by Columbia University in New York, also featured panelists from Monaco, Mexico City, Beijing, London, Nairobi, New Delhi, and other locales from around the world.

Among the topics discussed, according to Sebastian Smith of AFP, was that the planet was “overheating, under-resourced, and almost out of time, but technical innovation and green economics could save the world.”

Those who spoke at the conference also “called on the United States and other rich countries to show leadership, for example by investing in carbon capture technology and other long-term methods of reducing greenhouse gasses,” Smith also noted in his March 25 article.

Also at the conference, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced intentions to reduce carbon emissions, emphasize reforestation efforts, and begin utilizing renewable resources for up to 25-percent of their energy production.

Furthermore, India and China were lauded for their pursuit of low-carbon technologies, the market for solar and renewable energy forms were said to be “huge” and the use of animal-powered electricity generators in India and mobile phones in Africa were applauded.

However, they also expressed concern about the public’s perception of the science behind climate change, especially in light of a failed UN environmental conference in Copenhagen last year and the ‘Climategate’ scandal. “What we have faced now is a crisis of trust, trust first in the science,” Nitin Desai at the Energy and Resources Institute in New Delhi, said during the conference.

Columbia professors Mark Cane and Wallace Broecker suggested that visible evidence is required for many government officials or citizens to act.

“Pessimistically, it takes some kind of crisis, or some kind of threat that they feel really viscerally,” Cane, a climate sciences instructor, said.

“I really think it’s not going to happen until nature performs and we start to see the effects and people get worried,” added  Broecker, an environment professor. “If the Arctic ice disappears in 20 years, that will send a very strong signal that things are happening.”

Image Courtesy NASA

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