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takes the initiative
It was this desire by young Europeans to take the initiative that lay behind the Eurovisions for the Future - Climate Change meeting held in the United Kingdom, during 'Week 2000', at the initiative of the British Association (BA). The Reading meeting was more than a year in the making. It was in the summer of 1999 that the BA first sent out invitations to secondary school teachers from all over Europe asking them to submit essays from their pupils on global warming. The work of six schools in six countries (Italy, Spain, France, Poland, United Kingdom, Austria) was finally selected, each of them being invited to send six delegates to the meeting.
But what exactly will happen in Europe if the earth's global climate heats up? Julia Vowles, of the Climate Impacts Programme (Oxford), explained the principal conclusions of the major ACACIA study(1), carried out by a network of European researchers with EU support. 'On our continent, the effects of climate warming, of between 1°C and 4°C during this century, will be felt very differently depending on whether you live at the coast (with the threat of a rise in sea-levels of between 13 cm and 68 cm), the southern regions or the north-east plains (with very hot summers and increasingly severe drought), or northern Europe (with increased rainfall). Each region must therefore anticipate the specific impact this will have on its society, economy and environment.'
But is it possible to change the course of events? Irène Lorenzoni, of the Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment (CSERGE) of East Anglia University, believes the way our activities influence the environment must be analysed. This means projecting the impact of various actions (such as reducing greenhouse emissions and optimising the rational use of resources) on the scenarios with a view to ultimately changing our behaviour. 'All the measures taken in response to the threat of climate change will also have positive effects at other levels, on the quality of the air we breathe or transport mobility, for example.'
The discussions went well. Everyone tried to place the significance of climate warming in the geographical context of their own country or region. The Polish and Italian students, for example, are concerned by the catastrophic floods that have hit their countries on repeated occasions during recent years. The young Austrians and Spaniards spoke of the possible effects of climate change on tourism, an essential driver for their national economies. Someone also pointed out, very pragmatically, that climate warming in a region such as Scotland could boost agricultural activity and reduce heating costs, while Maiwand Halaimzai, who lives in London, argued for an alternative future: 'The ecosystem provides infinite hydrogen resources and there must be major investment in research so that this combustible and non-polluting gas can be used in the service of man.'
The Reading meeting ended with a discussion entitled What must be done? Citing the bargaining inspired by short-term national interests as displayed during the difficult negotiations on the Kyoyo protocol, this panel of young Europeans defended the idea that, when faced with these problems, humanity must have 'the firm individual and collective desire' to respond to them. Whatever the case, the Reading meeting showed that if such a desire is to be acted on, then education - of young people in particular - must become a priority component of strategies designed to deal with the threat of climate change.