[op-ed snap] Facing the climate emergency

Mains Paper 3 : Conservation, Environmental Pollution & Degradation, Eia |

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing Much

Mains level : There is need of radical change in bringing awareness regarding impacts of climate change.


CONTEXT

A recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. shows that global warming during the past half century has contributed to a differential change in income across countries.

Changes due to global warming

  • Already wealthy countries have become wealthier and developing countries have been made poorer in relative terms during this time.
  • India’s GDP growth penalty between 1961 and 2010 is in the order of 31% for the period, whereas Norway gained about 34% on a per capita basis.
  • More recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has reported that, worldwide, the abundance of species has reduced by at least one-fifth, about a million species are under threat of extinction in the next few decades and 85% of wetlands have been lost.

Instances of collusion against climate change warnings

  • What we have, moreover, are numerous instances of elite networks that are taking advantage of the situation to consolidate their control.
  • Collusion among corporations – These networks often involve governments actively or quiescently colluding with fossil fuel companies, agro-industrial elites, financial elites and other big businesses that are ignoring climate change and making a fast buck often even from the growing disasters.
  • Subsidy to fossil fuels – The International Monetary Fund estimates in a recent working paper that fossil fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion in 2015 and estimated to be $5.2 trillion in 2017.
  • Power Struggle in the Arctic – The Arctic is melting rapidly and the tenor of the recent discussions among Arctic countries suggests that even as increasing glacier melt is responsible for opening up shipping in the area, superpowers are angling to access wealth from the oil, gas, uranium and precious metals in the region.
  • Case study –  Recent example is the draft Indian Forest Act of 2019, which enhances the political and police power of the forest department and curtails the rights of millions of forest dwellers.

Movement to bring changes

  • Luckily  we are witnessing is a large-scale movement for “planet emergency”, climate and ecology.
  • Greta Thunberg has been leading this among school-going children, and Extinction Rebellion has been organising “die-ins” in many parts of Europe and now in Asia.
  • Their non-violent civil disobedience is just what is needed and it is indeed inspiring to see children and grandparents protest together.
  • People’s movements, whether made up of students or adults, cannot be ignored for long and governments will have to pay attention.

Spread of misinformation

  • The atmosphere now has concentrations of over 415 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, compared to 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
  • But then, fossil fuel companies and politicians have known about climate change for at least 30 years.
  • They have funded misinformation regarding climate directly, taking lessons from tobacco companies that propagated lies for decades about cigarettes being safe.

Conclusion

  • We are now at a stage where we need major overhaul of our lifestyles and patterns of consumption.
  • The U.K. Parliament became the first recently to declare a climate emergency.
  • It remains to be seen if appropriate actions will follow this declaration.
  • When a 16-year-old speaks with far greater clarity and conviction than the thousands of dithering policy wonks who have been debating for over three decades, we know the politics of the climate crisis must undergo a radical transformation.
Climate Change Impact on India and World – International Reports, Key Observations, etc.
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