Ever paused to reflect why Chambal river has swelled menacingly due to continuous rain or why landslides in Himachal or various parts of the country continue to wreck havoc. Why have flash floods increasingly come to define Uttarakhand’s terrain. Why is rainfall in Delhi unprecedented and at a record high in the last 46 years setting a new record since 1964. Why are average temperatures(including sea surface) & sea levels rising and glaciers shrinking in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Why has the snow cover in the Himalayas reduced drastically. Or for that matter why the Arctic Sea is melting at 9% per decade. Are we tinkering with ecology and endangering our future?
While we continue to discuss politics, economy and business and take ecology for granted, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has raised a climate crisis alert with global impact and irreversible damage to nature and humanity. Ironic that one of the most defining issues of our times based on many lines of evidence is being brushed aside to be dealt with in future. Yet those who understand the tell tale signs of what awaits us are scientists, policymakers and educators, all rushing to conduct an authoritative enquiry to find answers to the climate change pattern cutting across continents.
Years ago the Club of Rome gave a clarion call to wake up to the dangers of climate change in 1971. Four decades later we stand in 2021, innumerable international conferences and Millennium Development Goals later not much progress has been made. The fact that we live in times where alarm bells for climate change continue to ring, explains the non existent lukewarm approach. In stark contrast to yesteryear Rome is US of 2017 when Donald Trump, the then President announced America’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. Considering developed nations and the large chunk of emissions they produce, this was a move least responsible or expected of a nation leading charge. US funds $3 billion to funding climate change research. Cut to US presidential elections 2020, a change of guard in US and Joe Biden’s first official act was to make America return to the Paris Agreement via executive order.
What is alarming is that inspite of all obvious manifestations, the Mintel Sustainability Barometer 2021 that conducted surveys in across 16 countries including India, revealed that only 48% Indians think of climate change to be an environmental problem pointing to a living-in-denial reaction of majority of the respondents towards an approaching impending climate crisis. While China, Germany and South Korea recognise climate change to be a severe problem requiring urgent attention.
Citizens and governments alike will have to take ownership if we are make a real difference. Recognising energy consumption patterns and then reducing them in smalls ways will lead to reduction in emissions. A small but conscious step by each individual will have a large impact cumulatively.
But if we are not going to recognise climate change as a pressing issue altogether as the 2021 survey indicates, then we are in for serious trouble. By waiting for changes in the environment to occur by themselves we are only going to accept large scale damage and increase suffering in future.
Regions and countries vary in vulnerability and in the extent of affect of climate change. For developed countries that invest in heavy industry & consequent huge emissions, the responsibility lies with them to show the rest of the world the way in making structural changes to adapt to climate crisis.
Lest we realise that we stand at the tipping point with a ticking clock where 250 species face extinction and that damage done now will be irreversible, we will be left with nothing but regret & a feeling of unease about the world we handover to the next generations. Urban planning governance and infrastructure is good provided they have limits. Pushing for business activity in climate vulnerable terrains at the cost of messing with environment will have major and irreversible repercussions that we as a race will not be able to put a stop to. After all physical mechanism like human activity is the main cause behind changes in emission of greenhouse gases that is rapidly causing climate to change and exacerbating matters.
Our fundamental purpose today must be recognise climate change if we are to at all act towards it. Emissions, contributions and geo-engineering for a sustainable future have to go past policy debates if true progress is to be made.
(Aparajita Pande is the Spokesperson for Indian National Congress & a social worker. She is a Political Science & Law graduate and stands for liberalism, philosophy, equality and rule of law).