|Norwegian official: 'Absolutely no doubt' climate change is real|
| [07.01.2012, 09:27am, Sat. GMT]|
|Norway's minister of foreign affairs stood at a Petroleum Club lectern on Friday and delivered a few blunt words on climate change, about which, he said, "there can be absolutely no doubt." "If you want to see evidence, go to the Arctic," Jonas Gahr Støre said. His resource-rich country borders the polar region, where melting ice has expanded shipping lanes and cut sailing time on certain routes from Asia to Europe by 40 percent during parts of the year. Last year, Støre said, 34 ships used this "northeast passage," up from six in 2010.Environmental impact notwithstanding, governments risk political "revenge," as Støre described it to an attentive World Affairs Council crowd, unless they start addressing this warming. Failure to set ambitious targets for cutting emissions and enact environmental regulations, he said, will erode the public's confidence in its institutions.|
"I think the time is comparatively short and the imperative is clear," Støre said at the close of a question-and-answer period that drew so many written questions about his views on climate change that the moderator combined them into one final broad query.
Yet the foreign minister was hardly a flamethrower. He spoke warmly of Houston's energy sector and encouraged more ventures in the "High North."
He noted proudly that Norway is the world's second-largest exporter of natural gas - providing a third of the gas used in Germany, Britain and France - and the sixth-largest exporter of oil.
He pointed out that those new thaw-induced shipping routes have the benefit of cutting fuel usage. And he did not address the contentious issue of human contribution to climate change until that final question, when he expressed "no doubt there's a man-made dimension."
Støre was equally clear that Norway does not intend to stop producing fossil fuels. Cutting natural gas supplies to Europe, he said, would only increase the use of more-polluting coal there.
He stressed that while it is dangerous to deny climate change, it also is dangerous to deny the world's energy needs.
"I think denial is the worst," he said, "and it can have a backlash that none of us should live to see."
The crowd - mostly male, lots of suits, strongly representing the energy business - applauded Støre, and lines to greet him formed immediately once he'd finished speaking. In a cramped elevator afterward, one attendee noted to murmured agreement that the climate-change remarks appeared to have struck a nerve.
"It's the man-made part that I think is a bunch of hogwash," responded an elegantly dressed woman who appeared to be in her 60s. "I'm sure at the end of the last ice age there was global warming, too. The Earth warms and the Earth cools. God made it that way."