30 June 2013 (Brisbane Times) – The world's population is 7 billion. By 2050, it is forecast to be 9 billion. The pressures to feed and sustain this increase in people can only magnify in coming decades, unless world leaders can take meaningful and long-lasting action.
There need to be aggressive moves on tackling climate change, ensuring food and water supplies, fostering democracy, and lifting people out of poverty. To do nothing is to condemn their lives and future generations; and in the inaction lies condemnation of this generation.
US President Barack Obama last week brought climate change to the top of his administration's agenda. He disclosed that he had issued an executive order, thereby bypassing Congress, to the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate power plants' greenhouse gas emissions. America needed to reach a reduction in carbon emissions of 17 per cent on 2005 levels by 2020.
It was the main plank in a speech at Georgetown University, which provided a holistic strategy for dealing with climate change. ''We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society,'' he said. ''I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing.''
Words are, of course, easy. It is actions that count, and one man, even the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, still has to battle his political and business critics on the matter. There are no guarantees that a pronouncement made in June 2013 will live on in the next administration. This would be both a pity and reckless.
In Australia, the return of Kevin Rudd as prime minister has put climate change back on the agenda, too. Before he became prime minister in 2007, Mr Rudd declared that tackling climate change was ''the greatest moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation''. There is speculation that Mr Rudd may dump the fixed carbon price for a speedier introduction of an emissions trading scheme.
Mr Obama's speech on climate change coincided with a report from the World Bank that the food system worldwide was ''vulnerable'' because of increasing demands on supply from a rising population and the increasing uncertainties of climate.
The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation says 70 per cent more food will be needed by 2050 to feed the extra 2 billion people.
The US President flew to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania at week's end. During the trip the President attended a meeting of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which was formed last year by the US, G8 nations, the corporate sector and the African Union. Its aim is better agricultural processes to lift people out of poverty. A US government report says those experiencing food ''insecurity'' - measured as a person eating less than 2100 calories a day - will rise to more than 830 million in a decade. Part of this chain of despair is corruption, and the promotion of democracy is a key to change. [more]