Onion prices are high, even though in Hyderabad the Telangana government has controlled prices at Rs 100 per kilo. It is a result of climate change: heavy rain in October and a cyclone off Maharashtra meant severe damage to the crop. Similarly, in Andhra Pradesh, construction has slowed down to a standstill because of climate change. There is no sand to construct; heavy rain through October put the Krishna river, for instance, in spate and the barrages had to be opened not just once but four times this season. There is thus no riverbank, and no sand. One could go on and on about the effects of climate change, but this newspaper has only 16 pages.
It is currently being discussed at the 25th Conference of the Parties (CoP) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), on for two weeks in Madrid. Yet if UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres himself says that the world is “at the point of no return”, then one cannot but be gloomy that even incremental steps will be taken to ensure that humanity can at least keep pace with climate change and adapt to it.
The World Meteorological Organisation has said that global temperatures were 1.1 degrees (Celsius) above the pre-industrial average, and that 2019 was one of the three hottest years ever recorded. Oceans, which are supposed to absorb the excess heat have themselves become too acidic, threatening the marine ecosystem on which most humans significantly rely. Each decade produces a rise of 0.1 to 0.2 degrees, which means that before long we will hit the danger mark of a global average of 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial mark.
Mr Guterres pointed out that though humans had the technology and the money to arrest this trend, we lacked the will to do so. This is most obvious when it comes to the US , whose President pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement and who is so beholden to his fossil fuel industry that he pooh-poohs the overwhelmingly scientifically supported theory of climate change. India has done well to push forward on cutting emissions to help slow down the temperature rise, though the greenhouse effect is a legacy bequeathed to us by the developed West. Also heartening is the determination of youngsters like Greta Thunberg who have emerged as a rallying point to push climate change higher on the globe’s political agenda.
The CoP this year is a preparation to strike a deal at the CoP to be held next year in Glasgow. It will take much preparation — the Paris agreement took six years to conclude. And the US is openly a disruptor. It means that it is up to India, among others, to take the lead in the negotiations. A lot of political capital has been lost of late in various matters on the government’s ideological agenda; purposeful action and leadership to ensure an agreement by next year is a way for India to recoup (and more) that political capital.