Climate change is no more just a topic of debate or a global protest to demand actions from countries, and its impact is not limited to a few countries.
It’s real, it’s here, and its effect is much more significant than we can ever imagine
While penning this article, Australia is on fire, the US is freezing, India is suffocating, and Venice is flooded. I am sure there are probably a million other places that are experiencing some impact of climate change — a phenomenon which was disregarded entirely until a decade ago and perhaps there is a good bunch who is in complete denial till date
Climate change is an extensively researched and debated topic, with most of you knowing about the basic tenets — what is climate change, how it happens, how it impacts us, and what we can do about it? What doesn’t always get as much coverage is the politics involved in climate change.
However, a quick refresher in case you are interested to know about the basic what, when, how and why?
- What — Climate change refers to long term rise in global average temperatures that causes extreme, sudden and unpredictable climatic conditions for particular geography that it has not experienced before and
- What impacts — Climate change impacts the wildlife and forests, food, farming and livestock, water supplies, coastal erosion, health and diseases, coral bleaching, to name a few. It causes glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, rampant flooding in the coastal areas, extreme heatwaves, dust storms, fire season amongst several other smaller indicators that you’d be able to observe each day
- When — the solution to climate change is to limit global warming to a pre-industrial baseline which is the early 19th century. The Industrial Revolution began in the 1700s in Britain and spread around the world with signs of climate change beginning to show in 1830. The industrial activities have raised atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from 280 parts per million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years.
- Why — Internal and external forces can cause climate change. Internal forces such as volcanic eruptions and solar activity. But what we refer to climate change we are talking about the human-induced climate change, and there is scientific research that points human activity causing more than 100% of global warming
5. How — Global warming is caused due to human activities, primarily fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere. Greenhouse gases refer to water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane and chlorofluorocarbons
6. Then, what’s happened — On 22nd April 2016 a Paris agreement that was signed (Earth Day) wherein almost 187 countries have agreed to pursue efforts in bringing the increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees or at least 1.5 degrees.
7. How are we faring against this agreement — Countries drafted their own goals (called nationally determined contributions). Still, most of these countries are falling behind their promises, much like the electoral politics. There remains a substantial gap between what governments have promised to do and the total level of actions they have undertaken to date
There are massive protests (like Friday’s for future) being held globally by the school children (a million student’s asking for a better future for themselves). Greta Thunberg, a Swedish climate change activist, started the movement by sitting outside the Swedish parliament that inspired millions of school students around the globe.
You might think that who denies climate change and with such dramatic effect seen, felt and experienced in the first place that would lead anyone from denial to a believer. But you’d be surprised to know of the backlash that the 16 years old received to call out facts as facts. She was criticised by most of the world leaders from the Trump (US) to Angela Merkel (Germany) to Scott Morrisson (Australia) and a host of other countries.
Let’s find out about some of the major economies and what politics is brewing in each of these countries
After the recent spate of bush fires across NSW in Australia, the former Fire chiefs said that he had advised the then Government of the bushfire crisis. Something so grave that is looming the country but the Government chose to ignore this advice. Not just the Fire chiefs, it seems even the UN had predicted this in Oct 2018 and had warned both US and Australia of the extreme weather conditions.
To the extent that one of the party leaders said ‘it’s a disgrace to talk about climate change during bush fires. Seriously, Mr.Ignorant Arsonist? We shouldn’t talk about the cause of these bushfires and the reason why hundreds of Koalas were burnt alive, why Sydney was engulfed in a thick cloud of smoke, why there are more than 200 bushfires across the country that is still burning. Think of the carbon footprint that has left behind.
While firefighters are dying, volunteers and local police are stepping up to save their towns from being scorched and protect their communities, Scott Morison, the current Prime Minister of Australia was seen holidaying in Hawaii and he received heavy backlash from the media and everyone back home. Australia is fighting the worst fire crises of all times and unfortunately, it lacks leadership that has the vision and the direction to lead the country out of the climate crises in future. As rightly called out in this article Australia may not be the biggest contributor to Greenhouse gas emissions (3.6% of the world’s emissions) but it has one of the highest per capita emissions in the world. It has made no policies to meet the target of emission reduction of 26% below 2005 levels. In fact, when asked between the two goals of power price reduction and meeting the Paris targets for 2030, Scott Morisson didn’t flinch in selecting the former. Also, in the recent Madrid summit on Climate change, Australia said it plans to shamelessly use it’s Kyoto carryover credits to meet the Paris targets. As if the whole climate crises is an accounting problem, if anything it is more of an accountability problem. If Australia, China and Mexico all use their Kyoto units this would not just reduce the target by 25% but also delay the plan to move to new energy systems. Not surprising why they scored a zero on climate policy in a global ranking of countries, zero on compassion and international citizenship.
In the US, the Niagra falls had partially frozen due to he the arctic blast from the north. In most cities, the weather that is typically experienced in mid-Jan is seen in mid-Nov this year. All the weather records are already broken.
Trump’s denial of climate change is similar to OJ Simpson’s denial in his ex-wife’s murder. We all know it, facts aren’t hidden, but we don’t have any power over them. But if we recall everything that Trump did in his tenure, it would make sense why we are paying such a high cost to nature today.
As far as the Paris Climate Agreement and the goals are concerned, the US falls in the insufficient category currently. Trump has rolled back most of the regulations that were enforced during the Obama administration in the Oil and gas sector and coal industry, explicitly surrounding methane emissions. It doesn’t come as a surprise that he has relentlessly tried to cut the budget allocated for Environmental Protection agency — the agency that provides technical assistance to cities to build infrastructure that can adapt to climate change. The agency that helps the Government in writing legislations surrounding environment protection and also oversee enforcement of these laws. And not just the rollbacks it seems like they are undoing every sane aspect of the climate change policy — they will not enforce regulations to limit highly potent HFC emissions; will allow methane leaks to continue for longer than earlier in oil and gas production before being detected and fixed, and lastly might not be able to fulfil their 2050 long term goals
However, with almost all Government support and backing falling off, you would be surprised to know that at the sub-national level (cities, states, businesses, and other organisations ) — they are taking action to reduce their carbon footprint. And this resulted in emission levels that are 17–24% below 2005 levels in 2025.
This video clip of Narendra Modi that went viral wherein a schoolgirl asked a question on climate change, and he replied saying — that it isn’t the climate that has changed, but we have changed, the oldies will tell you how they feel the chills during winter more than you do. Seriously Mr Absurdity expert? India has enjoyed the status of being 1.5 degrees compatible. While India has never been a significant contributor to the Green House Gases, the Government’s increased focus on investing in the renewable energy sector over fossil fuels have also given a massive boost to reach the 1.5 per cent compatibility goal. However, what is of concern is the emissions graph is showing a steep increase since 2010. India is adding 46 GW of capacity addition fueled by coal between 2022 and 2027, which is a significant step back to reach full decarbonisation — the state of reducing and, ultimately eliminating, carbon dioxide emissions. It means no new coal plants should be built. However we are seeing a reverse trend with increased capacity powered by coal and putting the number (46 GW ) into context, India has a total of 186 GW capacity, so that’s an increase of roughly 25% which is huge. To add to it, having a pro-industrialist Government in the centre doesn’t help the cause. It has allowed rampant deforestations (as we saw in the case of ‘Aarey wherein 3000 trees were axed). Twenty-one cities to run out of water by 2020, which translates to water scarcity experienced by almost half the population. And let’s not even touch the remarkably severe air quality experienced by Northern India crossing the hazardous limit by five times.
So, while we can enjoy achieving our short term goals, we are far far away from the basic tenets of a sustainable ecosystem. An environment that provides clean rivers, pure air and green cover, is a basic fundamental human right.
No points for guessing who the major contributor towards climate change is but do you know what China has done or is aiming to reduce this carbon footprint? Sorry to disappoint, but to write the truth, it has increased its consumption of fossil fuels, and that has led to an increase in GHG emissions by 2.3%. Picture this fact — China has started construction of 28 GW of new coal-fired power capacity in 2018. So it is far far far away from the goal for coal to exit the power sector globally by 2050. You may argue saying it was way too ambitious at the preset itself, huh? Not when the impact of global warming can be felt by half the world population today. And especially not when instead of reducing its consumption of coal, it rather has set shop in the Middle East. Wherein it has committed to funding some of these coal plants and that too will have an impact on the future global GHG emissions too. But to give you a complete picture, China has taken a few positive steps as well to reduce its carbon footprint. It has increased the promotion and sale of electric vehicles, levied more stringent emission standards for most vehicles, and shall introduce the emission trading system in 2020. However, when you look at the holistic picture, this is like a needle in a haystack.
So, in a nutshell, the major contributors aren’t doing enough to reduce their carbon footprint and the ones that are meeting their goals currently are on a wrong trajectory.
Why we need to deal with Climate change with utmost priority
Two primary reasons that I gathered are
1) The voices in support for climate change action aren’t very organised and focussed. A Greta Thunberg and a million schoolchildren have ignited the fire, but it is upon the corporators, the lobbyists, the bureaucrats to take concrete steps in this direction
2) Most countries today are run by right-wing politicians, and they have been in the denial mode for a long time. While the impact is now being seen, felt and experienced, it is difficult for them to deny it on its face, but there is no action either. Their inaction can cause significant harm to our and our future generations.
Did you know?
(Some interesting facts that I discovered while doing my research)
- In 2018, the US overtook Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of crude oil which is not the direction you want to take if you’re going to decarbonise by 2050
- The world’s largest consumer of coal and the largest solar technology manufacturer is China, almost like they couldn’t decide between the better and worse. Come on China, make up your mind — you contribute to roughly 30% to the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and 30% of it is because of coal.
- India has emerged as a global leader in renewable energy, with investments in renewable energy exceeding investments in fossil fuel. After adopting its National Electricity Plan (NEP) in 2018, India remains on track to overachieve its “2˚C compatible” rating in the Paris Agreement climate action targets
- Morocco is a role model complying with the 1.5 degrees compatible.
- The land ‘down under’ to be hit the most by climate change. There was an article by The Guardian in 2015 that talks about Australia will warm faster than the rest of the world and come 2019 (just four years later) this has come true already with corals dying, magnanimous bushfires claiming wildlife and forests, soaring temperatures.
Time to act on Climate change is now. Cliche. Time to act on climate change was in the last century, now is the time for an awakening
How can you help in this movement?
- Spread more awareness on Climate change — we need more people to know the impacts that climate change can have and join the worldwide protests to build pressure on national governments to take action.
- For those in the US, this request is especially for you — please vote responsibly and in favour of the Green New deal. There is a resolution in the US to introduce the Green New deal. Trump administration would never pass such a decision (knowing the resentment and denial towards climate change and how it affects the capitalist cronyism). However, if it does, that would mean the US would be able to meet the 1.5 degrees C Paris agreement goal, and this would motivate several other nations to follow suit.
- There are several steps that you can take at a personal level — for starters, stop using single-use plastic. In India Government has already banned this, other countries should follow suit, but until that happens, try to restrict your usage of plastic. Conserve water — turn off that running tap in the shopping mall you see it the next time, save energy — switch off that iron or geyser or TV if you are not using it. I am writing this, but I know I am myself guilty of not following this more stringently. Use solar appliances if possible. Spend a little more on those recycled products than the cheap synthetic plastic products. Check out the clothes swap event around you. Find out more about sustainable fashion. Reduce your intake for red meat if you can’t give up. Don’t partake in the lantern festival. Use menstrual cups if you are a woman. There are a million ways in which we can contribute to the world.
- Donate, Volunteer or Protest — Do whatever you can in your capacity to make this world a better place — just don’t let the entire burden of saving the planet fall onto our Governments. Imagine if a 16-year-old needs to tell us that we are in a climate emergency, then we have already failed our present generation, leave alone the future ones — they might not even exist for us to save them.
Any small little effort in the right direction x millions = significant impact on the carbon emissions