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Lord Stern warning

Published 4 August 2009

Billions of people will be in conflict as they migrate from parts of the world made uninhabitable by climate change unless global warming is managed.

That was the stark warning from Lord Nicholas Stern (pictured right), economist and academic, as he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of Brighton.

Lord Nicholas Stern received a honorary degree of Doctor of Science from the University of BrightonLord Stern, author of the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change, said: "If we fail to manage climate change we are likely to put ourselves in the position by the end of the century where temperatures will be four to five degrees higher, temperatures we have not seen for something like 10 or 30 million years."

"It will redraw the physical geography as to where we can live, and billions of people will be put into severe conflict."

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Brighton Dome, he said: "It would be madness to go there but we can find our way to low carbon growth, to a future that will be cleaner, quieter and safer."

"We are in the most exciting times for innovation and we will need the skills just seen, heard and rehearsed here today, in maths, software, design, communications, business and architecture - all these will be at the heart of low carbon growth."

Lord Stern told graduates: "This is a time to celebrate, a time to savour the fun, but also a time to look forward."

"We have to recognise two challenges of this century - overcoming world poverty and managing climate change, and we stand or fall on these two things."

"We don't just celebrate what you (graduates) have achieved but we are relying on you." Lord Stern predicted there would be another 20 or 30 years of growth but he warned: "I won't suggest it will go on for ever."

If the world is to respond to overcoming world poverty, he said, then growth "had better go on for a while", although it can only continue with proper management of the stress it causes to the environment.

Lord Stern was introduced by Professor Stuart Laing, the University of Brighton's Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs.

Professor Laing said: "There is today increasingly compelling evidence that the greatest threat to the future economic security and welfare of mankind will be from global warming and environmental degradation."

"Until the early years of this new millennium most politicians, business leaders and ordinary citizens were all too ready to turn a blind eye to this truth - a truth so inconvenient for our immediate material comfort."

"Yet there have been few profoundly wise and clear-eyed women and men whose ideas and judgements have gradually and steadily changed our collective perceptions, forcing us all to confront the immensely challenging economic and social consequences of the environmental dangers we and our successor generations now face."

"Among this group there has been no voice more calm, authoritative and influential than that of Lord Stern."

The former Head of the UK Government Economic Service, Lord Stern's 2006 Review, commissioned by the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon, Brown, is seen as a defining moment in the acceptance of the human causation of climate change.

Professor Laing said: "It concluded that a one per cent investment of global gross domestic product now to minimise climate change could avert up to a 20 per cent drop in global GDP in the future.

"Lord Stern argues it is not a matter of choosing between material prosperity and doing the right thing to save the planet, rather if we do not do the right thing then, for future generations, there will be no economy and no material prosperity worth the name."

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