Climate change: Debating solutions

By Dean Irvine | CNN

CHICAGO, Illinois (CNN) — Fish tanks, financial markets and the future of the world’s climate came together at the third Principal Voices debate of 2008 in Chicago.

In the tranquil and slightly surreal aquatic setting of the city’s Shedd Aquarium, the panelists and audience members plunged into the problems of climate change, their solutions and ultimately why there are still reasons to be cheerful.

Despite the potentially catastrophic consequences of climate change, and the hammering the financial markets were receiving that very day, the panelists were able to find many reasons to be optimistic.

From a growing consensus that climate change existed to the myriad opportunities we have to protect the environment, there were plenty of positives.

In regards to fluctuating fortunes of the global economy, that should not make us lose sight what is at stake; “it is just a distraction,” said Dr Rajendra Pachauri, his face projected onto a giant screen, beamed into the room via video link from Mumbai.

It will cause a period of introspection and worry, he said to the audience and fellow panelists, but the results would ultimately be positive and a new system would emerge.

The good news, said Dr Carl Hodges, was that, perversely, the situation was so terrible that was it raising awareness from all quarters.

Reconnecting people with how their everyday lives impact the environment was one challenge that both Alexandra Cousteau and Suzanne Malec-McKenna, the other panelists, were working towards in different ways.

As Chicago’s Environment Commissioner, Malec-McKenna is working at the sharp end of balancing policy with the real practicalities of managing a city and transforming its environment, and its citizens’ attitudes.

Adding some political noise and bite to proceedings, she championed the latest climate initiative by Chicago and continued the upbeat tone.

Could the city’s green policy, and world in general, afford an economic recession, asked co-host Stephanie Mehta. It’s all about re-thinking, replied Malec-McKenna. “Maybe people will hunker up rather than hunker down.” Give people the opportunity to see new ways to do business and look at the assets rather than the liability, she continued, and a new energy infrastructure would follow.

Pachauri called it a “silent revolution,” and one that people across the world would follow. But, they need some form of leadership, he cautioned, otherwise, “the positive forces of human energy could be misleading and we could have another cyclical problem.”

Read on here.

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