Fight global warming, Clinton urges leaders; President says world must stop measuring prosperity by energy use


CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand -- President Clinton called yesterday for a new commitment to halt global warming, saying that unless humans reduce emissions of gases that cause temperatures to rise, the melting of polar ice caps will produce catastrophic consequences around the world.

Clinton made his remarks near the conclusion of his state visit to this environmentally aware South Pacific island nation.

In his address, Clinton painted a dire picture of the consequences of global warming.

"Unless we change course, most scientists believe the seas will rise so high they will swallow whole islands and coastal areas. Storms, like hurricanes, and droughts both will intensify," he said. "Diseases like malaria will be borne by mosquitoes at higher and higher altitudes and across borders, threatening more lives -- a phenomenon we already see today in Africa."

Clinton said the chief obstacle to reform is not "the huge array of wealthy vested interests and the tens of thousands of ordinary people around the world who work in the oil and the coal industries," but the notion that energy consumption indicates wealth.

"The largest obstacle is the continued clinging of people in wealthy countries and developing countries to 'a big idea' that is no longer true -- the idea that the only way a country can become wealthy and remain wealthy is to have the patterns of energy use that brought us the Industrial Age," Clinton said.

Advances in alternative energy forms make it possible, he said, "to grow the economy faster while healing the environment and that, thank God, it is no longer necessary to burn up the atmosphere to create economic opportunity."

Clinton also announced the release of seven declassified digital images of the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica, detailed "snapshots" of about 7,500 square miles of the rare "cold polar desert" that he said will enable scientists to better understand the ecological dynamics of extreme environments and their response to climate change.

Pub Date: 9/16/99

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