"The Bali Roadmap has many good ideas, but was criticized as being too vague to induce a major policy shift," Scheffran said. "Nevertheless, the seeming conflict between environment and the economy will be best overcome with the recognition that protecting the climate in the best interest of the economy."
In addition to global cooperation, Scheffran believes that those occupying Earth now can learn a lot about the future by studying the past.
"History has shown how dependent our culture is on a narrow window of climatic conditions for average temperature and precipitation," he said. "The great human civilizations began to flourish after the last ice age, and some disappeared due to droughts and other adverse shifts in the climate. The so-called 'Little Ice Age' in the northern hemisphere a few hundred years ago was caused by an average drop in temperature of less than a degree Celsius.
"The consequences were quite severe in parts of Europe, associated with loss of harvest and population decline," Scheffran said. "Riots and military conflicts became more likely, as a recent empirical study has suggested."
However, as history has demonstrated, humans are quite capable of adapting to changing climate conditions as long as those changes are moderate.
"The challenge is to slow down the dynamics and stabilize the climate system at levels which are not dangerous," Scheffran said.
He remains optimistic that this is still possible in large part, because public awareness and educational efforts taking place today are making concerns about climate change a priority.
"Global warming receives now more public and political attention than a few years ago," Scheffran said.
"Grass-roots movements are emerging in the United States for protecting the climate and developing energy alternatives, involving not only many local communities and companies but also influential states su
|Contact: Melissa Mitchell|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign