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April 14, 2007

Ingenuity, activism best hopes for climate

Storm surges. Heat waves. Coastal erosion, landslides, fire and drought. An increase in sea levels and disease. Shortages of food and water.

The news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change isn’t great. It is too late to stop these and other dire consequences of global warming, the panel says in its latest assessment report, and we need to focus on how we will adapt to what’s coming as much as we focus on mitigating the impact.

The report was unveiled April 6 in Belgium, and additional details were released Tuesday in a series of briefings around the world.

While many other reports have focused on slowing down or even stopping global warming, this report, the second of four to be released by the IPCC this year, focuses on adaptation. Yes, the global community needs to work together to protect and preserve our world, but we also must work together to find ways to live in it as it changes. Governments and communities and individuals need to prepare for disasters. Health-care workers need to be ready for disease outbreaks and mass-casualty situations. Policymakers need to plan for the worst. And the rest of us? We need to stay informed, do what we can to make a difference, and hope for the best _ even when the prognosis is grim.


As long as people are imagining better ways of doing things, there is hope.

And sometimes, nothing motivates people to apply their ingenuity more than the promise of money and fame. Remember the Ansari X Prize? In October 2004, the X Prize Foundation awarded $10 million to the first team to build a privately owned craft that could fly in space.

Now, the nonprofit educational organization is holding another multi-million-dollar competition: the Automotive X Prize, for a clean, super-efficient car with a fuel economy equivalent to at least 100 miles per gallon. It can’t be a concept car; it has to be a real vehicle that manufacturers want to make and people want to buy. In draft guidelines released last week, the foundation says the goal of the contest is "to inspire a new generation of super-efficient vehicles that help break our addiction to oil and stem the effects of climate change."

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