David Anderson, former federal Minister of Environment

For the first five years of this decade virtually all my waking hours as Environment Minister consisted of campaigning to persuade the Canadian public of the urgent need for ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, and for vigorous climate change action in support of our greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The science surrounding the issue was clear back at the time of the Rio Earth Summit of 1992, and had become more certain with each passing year.

Even a decade and a half ago, it was clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the impact of increasing greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere on the people of the developing nations, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and the low lying coastal areas of the Pacific Islands and nations such as Bangladesh, would be extremely destructive.

More intense, more frequent and more destructive weather events--flooding, hurricanes, drought and heat waves-- were the consistent predictions of the sophisticated weather models.

This in turn was predicted to result in increasing malnutrition, deaths by starvation and mass movements of climate change refugees. The first scenes of this predicted scenario are, in fact, now taking place in countries such as Mali and the Sudan.

How can we, in affluent countries such as Canada, Europe, Australia and the United States, continue to practice a lifestyle that the most knowledgeable minds of the planet tell us is sure to have a disastrous effect on the survival of so many people More greenhouse gas emissions mean more death, misery and suffering in the third world.

Is the nominally Christian western industrialized society of the twenty-first century so morally bankrupt that we can simply turn away from and ignore the compelling evidence of the consequences of our current lifestyles

For too long climate change has been dismissed as an environmental issue, that people will put aside and forget when our economy takes a turn for the worse.

Yes, it is an environmental issue, and yes, of course, it is a science issue. But it is also, as Sir Nicholas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank and now Chief Economics Advisor to the British Government, compellingly described in his report four months ago, an urgent economic issue as well.

And of course it is a political and diplomatic issue, as well as a global security issue, and thus almost certainly will become a global military issue.

But overshadowing all of these aspects to this pervasive challenge is the moral question. Will we in the affluent and comfortable industrialized first world face up to our direct contribution to the future misery of our fellow global citizens elsewhere

I was delighted to hear of the letter of Bishop Michael Ingham to the Premier Gordon Campbell, urging the provincial government to take strong action. Well done.

There are many other aspects to the issue of climate change, but surely our moral responsibility for avoiding human misery and suffering on such a massive scale is enough. Speaking out and taking action on this moral issue is surely the duty of our Church and of every one of us.

David Anderson held four cabinet posts in Liberal governments between 1993 and 2004, the last five years as Minister of the Environment. He is a member of the Christ Church Cathedral parish in Victoria.