Greenhouse gases must be cut 80 percent by 2020, not by 2050 as U.N. countries propose, to preserve life as we know it, the head of a global conference said.
"If we don't completely rethink and radically accelerate the plans to reverse global warming, we will, in all likelihood, create catastrophic climate change in our lifetime," State of the World Forum President Jim Garrison said Monday, the day before the independent international organization begins a four-day conference in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to develop "climate leadership."
"For the first time in history we must take personal responsibility for our climate," he told United Press International. "We are all responsible for global warming. We must all share the leadership to solve it."
The forum's 13th conference since its founding by Garrison and former Soviet President and Nobel Peace laureate Mikhail Gorbachev in 1995 -- and its first since 2003 -- is attracting some 200 prominent academics, scientists, philosophers, futurists, U.N. agency representatives, environmental advocates and think tank members from two dozen countries, its agenda indicates.
Also participating will be Brazil's environment minister and its top delegate to December's United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Delegates will originate a global 2020 Climate Leadership Campaign to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020 and "call on world leaders and concerned citizens everywhere" to join it, Garrison said.
The campaign will be supported by a multiyear environmental-awareness project by Rede Globo, the world's fourth largest TV network and Brazil's largest.
Globo's project, to be announced Tuesday night, is expected to include new dramatic storylines about global warming in several hugely popular "telenovela" soap opera miniseries, Globo's planning and social programs Director Albert Alcouloumbre told UPI.
It will also include a "permanent" public service TV campaign and increased environmental news coverage, he said.
The initiative will be supported by environmental teacher lesson plans Globo will provide to more than 7,000 mostly rural public schools nationwide, he said.
Right now, the United States and other countries participating in the Dec. 7-18 U.N. climate talks in Copenhagen propose carbon reductions of 80 percent by 2050.
But they're "negotiating as if the world has another 40 years to solve global warming," Garrison said.
By 2050, global temperatures will have risen at least 4 degrees Celsius, or 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, and carbon concentrations will have reached an "absolutely devastating" 600 parts per million, Garrison said, citing a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology study.
"Think about what this means," he said.
By 2050, "the magnitude of climate change will force millions, if not billions, of people into what are now Canada, Scandinavia and Russia, which under most scenarios will become more temperate," he said. "Just imagine the political, military, cultural and humanitarian implications of this."
The scientific evidence "calls for a new form of moral leadership that transcends the narrow self-interests that have so badly damaged our economies and prevented serious efforts to mitigate the escalating effects of climate change," Garrison told UPI.
The conference's climate leadership strategy will be refined in Washington Feb. 28-March 3 and finalized in Rio de Janeiro Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2010, Garrison said.