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Global warming is already happening, and is impacting human well-being on an ever larger scale. That was the message delivered Tuesday by Kennedy School Professor John P. Holdren at the United Nations General Assembly’s first-ever thematic debate of climate change.
“Global climatic disruption is already causing serious harm to human well-being in many places around the world,” Holdren informed the gathering. “This includes increased floods, droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and severe tropical storms.”
The popular term “global warming” is misleading, Holdren said, because it implies that climate change is uniform, gradual, and benign. “What is actually happening is non-uniform, rapid, and damaging,” he said.
During his presentation, Holdren touched on the policy implications of our growing understanding of climatic disruption, urging states to act sooner rather than later to develop solutions to confront the immense challenges that climate change poses.
“Far more serious mitigation efforts than seen so far must be started at once in industrial nations and soon in developing ones,” he said. “Even assuming great success in mitigation efforts, moreover, an immediate and large increase in adaptation efforts is required in North and South alike. Increased international cooperation in both domains, including an expanded role for the United Nations, will be crucial.”
Holdren’s remarks followed up the call to action issued in the opening remarks by UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon (MPA 1984) who told the gathering that, “we cannot continue with business as usual. The time has come for decisive action on a global scale.”
The two-day climate change debate concluded on Wednesday. It was intended to further the discussion, heading toward the next conference of the parties to the UN Climate Change Convention, scheduled for December in Bali.
John Holdren, Teresa and John Heinz Professor of Environmental Policy
Photo: Rose Lincoln, Harvard News Office