This issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy that deals with issues of climate change, oil, and water and the interconnection of the three with the future of the planet.

Initially our topic was conceived as “Oil & Water” only. We planned to present the proceedings of an Institute for Global Leadership symposium held at Tufts University in 2005. There was then still a debate about global warming, although the Kyoto Treaty was in place. But without the world’s preeminent manufacturer of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the United States (20 percent of the total emissions with 5 percent of the world’s population) as signatory, Kyoto lacks the political muscle to ensure implementation and thus is more often praised for its spirit than for what it has achieved.

But with the publication on February 2, 2007, of the final report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “all has changed, changed utterly.” The report’s findings are “unequivocal,”— the word that six hundred scientists from forty countries used to express their consensus and their certainty: Global warming is manmade, due to greenhouse emissions primarily from burning fossil fuels — coal, oil, and gas — that cause the atmosphere to burn and from deforestation. Unless addressed with urgency and at a global level with the cooperation of the world community, Homo sapiens could face a Toba of a far greater magnitude than the previous one, putting the future of Homo sapiens himself at risk. We are, after all, just a species, and susceptible to the same extinction we have wreaked on others. Perhaps it is fitting, given our disregard for the fate of other species separated from us by miniscule amounts of DNA, that it is our species who may allow other more adaptable species to inherit a vastly different earth.



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