At the dawn of each New Year, there is renewed hope for a better future. With all of the international challenges and struggles of ‘2007, it was also a year where significant groundwork was laid for our collective future. We have many opportunities as we begin ‘2008. The question is whether we are ready to do the hard work and meet the challenges before us to realize these opportunities.
Today we see our planet threatened. It is slowly dying from the effects of climate change caused by man’s footprint while facing instant danger and possible extinction from nuclear weapons - relics of the cold war, either by accident or design. This past year has witnessed a heightened awareness and connection of these two perils.
In January, 2007 we saw a remarkable event when a bipartisan group of cold war defense experts including Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, George Schultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, William Perry, Secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton and former Senator Sam Nunn presented an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for “A World Free of Nuclear Weapons”. They called on the United States to take a leadership role internationally and initiate the steps necessary to rid the world of nuclear weapons. This group is now referred to as the Hoover Group following a conference on its recommendations at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. The group continues their work and efforts to build international support with plans for a forthcoming book and international conference.
Climate change awareness also made significant gains this past year with the United States as the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gasses stepping up, if not reluctantly, to the international stage. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released it’s three working group reports on climate change in ‘2007 along with its “Summary Report” in November. These consensus statements addressed the Physical Science Basis of Climate Change, The Impacts of Adaptation and Vulnerability, and The Mitigation of Climate Change. This work contributed to by thousands of scientists from countries around the world including the U.S., confirmed the role man has played in climate change and set forth the initial steps that must be undertaken to stem the potential devastating effects to our global biosphere. For their work the IPCC was awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. This difficult consensus work continued this past month at the United Nations international conference on Climate Change in Bali. Again, a consensus statement, albeit tame, was signed by all nations including the U.S.
‘2008 has been designated the “International Year of Planet Earth” by the 60th United Nations General Assembly. In this New Year we are faced with real opportunities to effect change for the future. As our country continues its quadrennial election cycle with little or no dialogue on these critical issues, we wonder who among the candidates has the political will and courage to truly address them? The threat of nuclear weapons risk and climate change are bridge issues that transcend political affiliation and national borders cutting to the core of our “common humanity.” The hope for the future depends on the choices we make and the example we set.