- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

WORLD AT RISK

Britain’s environment minister fears the world faces doom from drought, starvation, pollution, overpopulation and global warming unless immediate steps are taken to save the planet.

“Change is coming,” Hilary Benn said Thursday, referring to climate change. “We must adapt. … The time to meet the challenges is now.”

“These threats are real, immediate and will affect us all,” Mr. Benn, secretary for environment, food and rural affairs in the British Labor government, added in remarks at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

Mr. Benn warned of a population explosion that will expand the world’s 6 billion inhabitants to more than 9 billion by 2050.

“Nine billion people living on this small and fragile planet of ours,” he said.

Despite his doomsaying, Mr. Benn did not despair. He believes governments can save the planet through carbon taxes, wind and solar power, energy-efficient buildings and vehicles, and better farming and pollution controls in the Third World.

“We need an agricultural revolution,” he said.

Mr. Benn noted improvements in places such as China, where the government is paying farmers to grow more wheat and less rice, which requires more water. China also is creating massive canals to channel water to farmland.

Britain, he said, created a fund that is already financing about 600 projects in 100 countries.

Mr. Benn’s solutions include: “living within our environmental means,” building a “green economy,” also “creating incentives to make investments” in green projects, “lowering our carbon footprint” and bringing “the world together to deal” with food and water shortages.

Most of all, he added, “we need America to apply all of its great energy” to help solve the global environmental threats.

Praising President Obama, Mr. Benn added, “The message we hear loud and clear is that America is back.”

‘CANDLE OF HOPE’

Four retired U.S. ambassadors who served in the Middle East are urging President Obama to promote their five-point peace plan when he meets Arab and Israeli leaders over the next two weeks.

“Your bold leadership can rekindle a candle of hope for the two-state solution, which has been flickering,” they said in a letter to the president this week, referring to a the creation of a Palestinian nation that will live in peace with Israel.

Mr. Obama is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday at the White House. President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is to expected in Washington on May 26, and Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is to meet with Mr. Obama on May 28.

“We believe that the present moment is increasingly propitious for diplomatic action,” the ambassadors told Mr. Obama.

“Your election and your first months in office have captured the attention of the entire world - including the peoples of the Middle East - giving you latitude that few, if any, of your recent predecessors had.”

The ambassadors called for the immediate renewal of Israeli-Palestinian talks; the cessation of Palestinian attacks on Israel; a freeze on West Bank Israeli settlements, the dismantlement of illegal settlements and an end to the destruction of Arab homes in East Jerusalem; as well as the reconstruction of Gaza; and the pursuit of peace talks between Israel and its Arabs neighbors, including Syria.

The letter was signed by Samuel W. Lewis, ambassador to Israel from 1977 to 1985; Robert H. Pelletreau Jr., ambassador to Egypt from 1991 to 1993; Thomas R. Pickering Jr., ambassador to Jordan from 1974 to 1978 and to Israel from 1985 to 1988, and Edward S. Walker Jr., ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1997 and to Israel from 1997 to 1999.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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