International Action to Buffer Against the Rapid Onset of Climate Change

Sir Crispin Tickell

Growing awareness of the possible consequences of rapid climate change has made people aware of the limited, ephemeral and precarious character of our present environment. We are tiny parts of a system of life whose complexity surpasses, and will always surpass, human understanding. The Earth system, however, is highly vulnerable to change; of the many environmental problems facing society, climate change is perhaps the greatest problem of all.

It is mainly because of the shortness of our lives and the narrowness of our perspective on the past that we are mostly unaware of the changes underway and their importance; until very recently, we had scarcely noticed the pressures on the environment. Yet, over the last 40,000 years, the human impact on the Earth has slowly, and then rapidly, increased. A periodic visitor from outer space would find more change in the last 200 years than in the preceding 2000, and more change in the last 20 years than in the preceding 200.

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