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G8 Summit – a slow process on tackling climate change


Climate change and the need for governments to take action
Aaron Klug Scientist
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The situation has got much worse because China and India are industrialising on a great scale, and so we visited China, or one of my colleagues did, to discuss pollution, and indeed I went to China myself in 1997 and discovered Beijing was totally polluted. They already had motor cars in Beijing as the Chinese got prosperous, and they were beginning to think seriously about pollution although they didn't distinguish between global warming and environmental pollution. But we spoke to the Chinese Academy of Sciences. So we produced this document and recommended, and it was important because the nuclear power stations were running down... had limited life time and the question was that we had to produce more, and that's still a serious problem because if it's not... I went to see various Government Ministers when we produced our paper and I found very little interest because unfortunately governments are... as of some years ago it's changed a bit, at least in words by Tony Blair and David King who's an Institute of Scientific Government adviser, and the... you see, they work on a short term basis. It's difficult to have strategy when governments are elected on a short-term basis. How can you do long term planning? It is a real conundrum for western... for societies, for democracies which have elections where the politicians are interested in... of course, in general terms... So actually, I wanted to call... I wanted to call this carbon tax, but my colleagues wouldn't let me called it the Grandchildren Tax, you see, as you're doing it not for currency, but for your grandchildren. Although, nowadays I would say, I'd call it the children tax because the rate at which it's happening... so we produced this document and I think we worked at it and I did... in my speeches if you've ever read them... I think almost every year I refer to global warming, rather like the Elder Cato, you know the man who says, whatever the subject being discussed in the Roman Senate was, Carthage must be destroyed, the implacable enemy of Rome! Unfortunately, the... quite a few of the younger people haven't done Latin or history at school. They don't know who the Elder Cato was, let alone the younger Cato. So I'm not sure... I may have appeared like a bit of an old fuddy-duddy talking about the Elder Cato, but I did mention it every year.

Born in Lithuania, Aaron Klug (1926-2018) was a British chemist and biophysicist. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1982 for developments in electron microscopy and his work on complexes of nucleic acids and proteins. He studied crystallography at the University of Cape Town before moving to England, completing his doctorate in 1953 at Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1981, he was awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University. His long and influential career led to a knighthood in 1988. He was also elected President of the Royal Society, and served there from 1995-2000.

Listeners: Ken Holmes John Finch

Kenneth Holmes was born in London in 1934 and attended schools in Chiswick. He obtained his BA at St Johns College, Cambridge. He obtained his PhD at Birkbeck College, London working on the structure of tobacco mosaic virus with Rosalind Franklin and Aaron Klug. After a post-doc at Childrens' Hospital, Boston, where he started to work on muscle structure, he joined to the newly opened Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge where he stayed for six years. He worked with Aaron Klug on virus structure and with Hugh Huxley on muscle. He then moved to Heidelberg to open the Department of Biophysics at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research where he remained as director until his retirement. During this time he completed the structure of tobacco mosaic virus and solved the structures of a number of protein molecules including the structure of the muscle protein actin and the actin filament. Recently he has worked on the molecular mechanism of muscle contraction. He also initiated the use of synchrotron radiation as a source for X-ray diffraction and founded the EMBL outstation at DESY Hamburg. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1981 and is a member of a number of scientific academies.

John Finch is a retired member of staff of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. He began research as a PhD student of Rosalind Franklin's at Birkbeck College, London in 1955 studying the structure of small viruses by x-ray diffraction. He came to Cambridge as part of Aaron Klug's team in 1962 and has continued with the structural study of viruses and other nucleoproteins such as chromatin, using both x-rays and electron microscopy.

Tags: China, India, Beijing, Tony Blair, David King, Elder Cato

Duration: 2 minutes, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: July 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008