By Sanjay Menon*
How many of you will agree with me if I state that the changes in climatic patterns had made the Syrian drought(2002) two or three times more likely, leading to the migration crisis ? The statement can be more convincing if you could recollect the Russian heat wave in 2010, that destroyed the country's wheat crop. It lead to the ban on grain exports, shooting up world food prices, pushing 44 million people below the poverty line across 28 countries. Scientists have proved that Climate change has indeed displaced people from their land, relinquishing stability.
The loss of mesic trees in the Sudan-Sahel zone, switching off of Northern seas from polar to more temperate species, the "water war" in Bolivia have all been similarly authenticated. The most recent being the finding of 2014 as the 'hottest year' since modern records began, around 1850. However, future climatic changes can be described only within a range of uncertainty.
To be precise, as the definition goes, Climate change is the statistical distribution of weather patterns when that change lasts for an extended period of time. Rising global temperature,extreme heat waves,frequent droughts,heavy rainfalls are the end results. Enough and more evidences of catastrophes have added thrust to the definition over the years across the globe. It is an undeniable theory that the effects of climate change are more inclined towards anthropogenic activities- Greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions.
The greenhouse effect is not a new phenomenon. But it has turned into a growing problem over the years. Carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas has boosted economies of richer countries, since the advent of industrialisation.With the rising emissions since then, our annual CO2 emissions are now at an all-time record level of nearly 40 billion tonnes per year.
The alarm bells started ringing by the beginning of the 1960s. It was duly heard by the United Nations, which promptly formed the Inter- Governmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC). The subsequent Earth Summit held at Rio reflected the reports and views of around 400 scientists about global warming. Since then, countries have resorted to tackling climate change to avoid dangerous consequences in the future. An agreement, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change(UNFCC,1992) was signed incorporating all major economies and polluters.
If Montreal Protocol (1987) urged nations to act against the depletion of ozone layer, Kyoto Protocol(KP), the brainchild of UNFCC, in 1997, formulated an international legal binding on emission reduction targets on member countries. KP was weighed on the premise that global warming exists and that man-made CO2 emissions have caused it. The protocol worked on the principal of "Common but differentiated responsibilities", entrusting more obligations upon developed nations( Annex I Parties).KP's first commitment period started in 2008 and ended in 2012. However, it did not acquire enough wings as the US relentlessly seemed to kill the Kyoto, which it never ratified.
Also, the Conference of Parties(COP) which met every year to discuss Climate Tackling soon turned into "Climate Tourists” (as put by Richard Black, BBC Reporter,2006). While countries are leisurely talking about climate action, GHG emissions have been rising steadily with industries emitting about 600 billion tonnes of CO2,thanks to fossil fuels(1992-2013). As a result, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have risen dramatically, by more than two- fifths. That is, our planet is now absorbing more energy from the sun than is escaping back into space.
The global pondering on Climate change has eventually transformed into a North-South face-off. If the current consequences of climate changes can be attributed to the imperialistic 'North’ countries, then the future implications will be surely on the shoulders of the emerging 'South’ economies. As it is evident from the fact, carbon emissions per capita in the developed world were about five times those in developing countries.On the contrary, figures are now pointing right in the face of the developing nations where the emissions have doubled, especially in China where it tripled!!.The target that has been set since the KP, is to limit the rise of global temperature by 2C. It was an achievable target until few years back when due time was on our side. Much of the time has been wasted deliberating the agendas of the two blocs. While the North advocates for an Environmental Justice - ‘minimise overall cost and maximising total welfare’, South pitches for an Compensatory Justice systems with an emphasis on historic distributive inequities.However, the advanced nations have agreed to bear more of the burden with a sense of charity, brushing aside historic culpability. Emission pledges of South will be at the cost of providing decent standards of living that contemporary technology can offer to its citizens. Rich countries have to shift their focus from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to internal redistribution and changing lifestyles, which could in fact improve the quality of its citizens. In tandem, Developing world has to reorient its growth in cleaner, efficient and greener directions. Fortunately, the stand-off is been facilitated, reaching a point where centrist disposition is giving way to potential new articulations ahead of the Paris meet in November this year.
Per Capita emissions of 2.1 tonnes is a meagre figure for India, comparatively.As the nation is striving to achieve prosperity;alleviating poverty and furnish its people with the basic necessities,climatic aberrations have been the evolving problem.The country has often felt the hapless effects of global warming, not to mention the series of droughts and floods.Therefore, it cannot rely on the actions of developed nations and it is high time the government and the leaders ‘walk the talk’ on emission cuts. The fact about rising CO2 emission is out in the broad daylight.It is nothing but poorer,age-old technology and inefficient mechanisms in place.Mr.Modi, an aspiring to-be global leader,urged nations to eradicate poverty to attain sustainable development at the recently held United Nations Sustainable Development Goal(UNSDG) conference at its headquarters.The speech was culturally and organically oriented as he related earth to mother. But the PM’s dilemma begins with growth and ends with environment. If he chooses the latter, a generation of people will miss the bus to prosperity.He can definitely make a breakthrough by broadening the renewable energy scheme that he implemented in his territory when he was the CM.
As Paris is gearing up for a ‘globally warming’ mediation, nations (both north and south) have acted swiftly, rather proactively, by pledging future emission targets and climate aids. Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) acted as the pathbreaking principle to keep every nations on board in the run up to the Paris conference. It calls for an amicable voluntary contributions(Bottom-Top approach) in contrast to legal binding and strict emission targets(Top-Bottom approach). Switzerland was the first country to formally communicate its pledging ( 50% GHG by 2030) followed by the European Union (EU) with 40% reduction.The capitalistic and the communistic power came to the fray when Mr.Obama and Mr.Keqiang declared unconditional ‘War on Coal and War on Pollution ‘ respectively. The US, refuter of KP, pledged a reduction cut of 26-28% by 2025 while China, World’s largest greenhouse gas emitter promised a reduction rate of 60-62%/GDP.India, too has pledged a reduction averaging 35-40%, which is a prospective approach.
May the city of lights showers its hope on all of us and sustain our Mother Earth !.
* Author is Research Intern at CPPR. Views are personal.