Climate Change

Be it resolved, climate change is mankind's defining crisis, and demands a commensurate response...

December 1, 2009

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CO2 levels in the atmosphere are climbing steadily higher. Some believe this is having a devastating effect on humans and nature, while others argue that the threat has been overstated. Is this the moment for a bold international treaty to curb carbon emissions? Or, are the social and economic costs of reducing CO2 emissions too high in world where a billion people live on a dollar or less a day?

Just days before the United Nation’s historic Copenhagen summit the Munk Debates will tackle one of the great public policy questions of our time: Climate change is mankind's defining crisis, and demands a commensurate response.

The Results

Pre-Debate

61%

Pro

39%

Con

Post-Debate

53%

Pro

47%

Con

CON gains 8%. CON wins

The Debaters

George Monbiot

George Monbiot

Pro

"The real costs of climate change are not measured in dollars and pounds, the real costs are measured in lives and in ecosystems . . . immeasurable."

George Monbiot

George Monbiot

Pro

"The real costs of climate change are not measured in dollars and pounds, the real costs are measured in lives and in ecosystems . . . immeasurable."

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books Heat: how to stop the planet burning; The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain; as well as the investigative travel books Poisoned ArrowsAmazon Watershed and No Man’s Land. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper.

In Heat, published in 2006, Monbiot focuses on the issue of climate change arguing that a 90% reduction in carbon emissions is necessary in developed countries in order to prevent disastrous changes to the climate. He then sets out to demonstrate how such a reduction could be achieved within the United Kingdom, without a significant fall in living standards, through changes in housing, power supply and transport. Monbiot concludes that such changes are possible but they would require considerable political will.

During seven years of investigative journeys in Indonesia, Brazil and East Africa, he was shot at, beaten up by military police, shipwrecked and stung into a poisoned coma by hornets. He came back to work in Britain after being pronounced clinically dead in Lodwar General Hospital in north-western Kenya, having contracted cerebral malaria.

In Britain, he joined the roads protest movement. He was hospitalised by security guards, who drove a metal spike through his foot, smashing the middle bone. He helped to found The Land is Ours, which has occupied land all over the country, including 13 acres of prime real estate in Wandsworth belonging to the Guinness corporation and destined for a giant superstore. The protesters beat Guinness in court, built an eco-village and held onto the land for six months.

He has held visiting fellowships or professorships at the universities of Oxford (environmental policy), Bristol (philosophy), Keele (politics), Oxford Brookes (planning) and East London (environmental science). He has honorary doctorates from the University of St Andrews and the University of Essex and an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff University.

In 1995 Nelson Mandela presented him with a United Nations Global 500 Award for outstanding environmental achievement. He has also won the Lloyds National Screenwriting Prize for his screenplay The Norwegian, a Sony Award for radio production, the Sir Peter Kent Award and the OneWorld National Press Award.

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Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May

Pro

"We need to look at all of Canada’s priorities, but we must address the climate crisis . . . if we fail to address it, nothing else we do makes any difference."

Elizabeth May

Elizabeth May

Pro

We need to look at all of Canada’s priorities, but we must address the climate crisis . . . if we fail to address it, nothing else we do makes any difference.

Elizabeth May is Leader of the Green Party of Canada and is an environmentalist, writer, activist and lawyer active in the environmental movement since 1970.  Before winning the leadership in 2006, she was the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada.

Elizabeth is a graduate of Dalhousie Law School and was admitted to the Bar in both Nova Scotia and Ontario. She has held the position of Associate General Council for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, representing consumer, poverty and environment groups in her work in 1985-86.  In 1986, Elizabeth became Senior Policy Advisor to then federal Environment Minister, Tom McMillan.

She first became known in the Canadian media in the mid-1970s through her leadership as a volunteer in the grassroots movement against aerial insecticide spraying proposed for forests near her home on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  Her volunteer work also included successful campaigns to prevent approval of uranium mining in Nova Scotia, and extensive work on energy policy issues, primarily opposing nuclear energy. 

Elizabeth is the author of seven books, Budworm Battles (1982), Paradise Won: The Struggle to Save South Moresby (1990), At the Cutting Edge: The Crisis in Canada’s Forests (Key Porter Books, 1998, as well as a major new edition in 2004), co-authored with Maude Barlow, Frederick Street; Life and Death on Canada’s Love Canal (Harper Collins, 2000), How to Save the World in Your Spare Time (Key Porter Books, 2006), Global Warming for Dummies (co-authored with Zoe Caron, John Wiley and Sons, 2008) and most recently Losing Confidence: Power, Politics and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy, (MacLelland and Stewart, 2009). 

She has served on numerous boards of environmental groups and advisory bodies to universities and governments in Canada, including the Earth Charter Commission, co-chaired by Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev. Elizabeth is the recipient of many awards including the Outstanding Achievement Award from the Sierra Club in 1989, the International Conservation Award from the Friends of Nature, the United Nations Global 500 Award in 1990 and named one of the world’s leading women environmentalists by the United Nations in 2006. In 1996, she was presented with the award for Outstanding Leadership in Environmental Education by the Ontario Society for Environmental Education. She is also the recipient of the 2002 Harkin Award from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). In 2006, Elizabeth was presented with the prestigious Couchiching award for excellence in public policy.

Elizabeth was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2005. She is a mother and grandmother.

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Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg

Con

". . . we are knowingly squandering colossal sums of money (on climate change) while fractional sums can save millions of lives right now."

Bjørn Lomborg

Bjørn Lomborg

Con

. . . we are knowingly squandering colossal sums of money (on climate change) while fractional sums can save millions of lives right now.

Bjørn Lomborg is adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He is the organizer of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which brings together some of the world's top economists to set priorities for the world. Lomborg is also author of the best-selling The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool Itin which he challenged mainstream concerns about the environment and argued that we need to focus attention on the most important problems first. 

Time magazine named Lomborg one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2004. In 2008 he was named "one of the 50 people who could save the planet" by the UK Guardian; "one of the top 100 public intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazine; and "one of the world's 75 most influential people of the 21st century" by Esquire

Lomborg organised "Copenhagen Consensus" in 2004, a project which brought together some of the world's top economists to prioritize the best solutions to the world's biggest challenges.  Essentially, he asked these experts to tackle the question:  With limited resources, how can we do the most good possible?

In 2007 Lomborg published Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Climate Change , a groundbreaking book that is transforming the debate about global warming by offering a fresh perspective based on human needs as well as environmental concerns. It has already been translated into 17 languages.

Lomborg’s commentaries have appeared regularly in such prestigious publications as the New York TimesWall St. JournalGlobe & MailThe GuardianThe Daily and Sunday TelegraphThe TimesThe AustralianThe Economist, the LA Times and Boston Globe. He has appeared on TV shows such as Politically Incorrect and ABC 60 minutes, Larry King, 20/20, and BBC Newsnight along with shows on CNN, BBC, CNBC, and PBS. 

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Lord Nigel Lawson

Lord Nigel Lawson

Con

"We have entered a new age of unreason which threatens to be as economically harmful as it is disquieting. It is from this, above all, that we need to save the planet."

Lord Nigel Lawson

Lord Nigel Lawson

Con

We have entered a new age of unreason which threatens to be as economically harmful as it is disquieting. It is from this, above all, that we need to save the planet.

Lord Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, was Chancellor of the Exchequer between June 1983 and October 1989.  Lord Lawson is currently Chairman of Oxford Investment Partners, majority owned by a number of leading Oxford Colleges, and also of Central Europe Trust, an advisory and private equity firm focused on Central and Eastern Europe. He is the immediate past President of the British Institute of Energy Economics. Most recently his major interest has been the economics and politics of global warming, about which he has written a best-selling book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, which has made him a prominent and high profile climate change skeptic.

Educated at Westminster and Christ Church, Oxford, Lawson had a distinguished career as a journalist before entering parliament. After ten years as a financial journalist he was appointed editor of the Spectator in 1966, a post he held for four years.

In 1981 he entered the Cabinet as Energy Secretary and in 1983 he began a six-year stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer. He set about simplifying the tax system and reducing the level of direct taxation, actions that made him popular with both the party and the Prime Minister. 

Lawson was a key proponent of the Thatcher Government's privatization policy. During his tenure at the Department of Energy he set the course for the later privatizations of the gas and electricity industries and on his return to the Treasury he worked closely with the Department of Trade and Industry in privatizing British Airways and British Telecom.

After the government's re-election in 1983, Lawson was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer.  The trajectory taken by the UK economy from this point on is typically described as 'The Lawson Boom' by analogy with the phrase 'The Barber Boom' which describes an earlier period of rapid expansion under the tenure as chancellor of Anthony Barber in the conservative government of Edward Heath. 

After leaving government, Lawson took a life peerage as Lord Lawson of Blaby, accepted a directorship of Barclays Bank and wrote his memoirs, The View from Number 11.

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