Burning Down the House

World leaders must act on all global challenges when they recognize them. Preventing bank failures and stopping terrorist attacks are important goals; unless we get serious about addressing climate change, we are likely to have more of both.

ABIDJAN – What does it take to generate a global response to a global threat? The financial crisis of 2008 and the threats from insurgency and terrorism in 2014 are seen as “clear and present dangers” to one and all – and both have drawn a global response.

Meanwhile, climate change, and the devastating effects of carbon-dioxide emissions, pose greater and longer-term threats, and yet have elicited only a feeble response from the global community for the past 30 years. In New York this week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has convened a summit of world leaders to address this global phenomenon, which urgently requires collective intervention.

The world has played politics with climate change for long enough. Immediate electoral or economic imperatives will never alter the fact that global warming will be as damaging for the rich world as it already is for the poor.

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