Lifestyle Environment 07 Aug 2016 Big ideas: Changing ...

Big ideas: Changing climate discourse

Published Aug 7, 2016, 7:04 am IST
Updated Aug 7, 2016, 7:26 am IST
Bengaluru has  witnessed a major deluge due to  incessant rains — the highest rainfall in seven years
 Bengaluru has witnessed a major deluge due to incessant rains — the highest rainfall in seven years

Around this time in 2015, the focus in Paris was to see the extent to which India could be persuaded to announce its National Determined Contributions.  India is the third largest emitter (after China and the US) and hence the success of the Paris agreement hinged on India’s position. We soon announced a target to reduce emission intensity of GDP by 33 per cent over 2005 levels and a commitment to less fossil intensive growth.

While it has been, mostly, well received, author Amitav Ghosh himself enters a rider on it; that in the text of the Agreement “there is not the slightest acknowledgement that something has gone wrong with our dominant paradigms; it contains no clause as a critique of the practices that are known to have created the situation that the Agreement seeks to address. The current paradigm of perpetual growth is enshrined at the core of the text”.

However, going beyond Ghosh’s rider, Climate Change can be tackled only by a concerted commitment of policymakers as well as the Executive at both national and state levels and by engaging with climate sceptics at policy and administrative levels.

As of now, a doubt seems to persist — are policy makers capable of mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions and improving resilience to Climate Change? If we are to believe murmurs, the answer is a resounding no. The Great Derangement — as Amitava Ghosh points out in his recent book of the same name — has been our collective failure in the face of global warming. There is a need to act now and alter the approach.

But why now?

The frequency of extreme weather events has increased in recent years. In 2015, a strong El Nino effect impacted millions of people with floods, droughts, tornadoes and cyclones at places never seen before. We also saw uncommon temperature anomalies including unheard-of winter highs in the North Pole. The past year was the hottest ever.

Ghosh’s narrative also investigates how it might become for Mumbai if overheating oceans produce hurricanes in the Arabian Sea during the Monsoon. Likewise, flooding during Monsoon in Mumbai is common and severe cyclones have occurred in the past — but is the city prepared to deal with more severe cyclones?

Ghosh warns us that at windspeeds of 240 kmph and a 3-meter storm surge, the high-rise glass paned buildings will shatter, informal settlements will be wiped out. And as this article is written, Bengaluru witnessed a major deluge due to incessant rains — the highest rainfall in seven years. This, after one of the hottest summers ever recorded.  

Alter how?

In South Asia’s rural societies, community ties and a sense of the collective is often invoked as a space for decision-making and dialogue. Ghosh’s insight is that the developing world faces the highest costs but is also capable of action due to this attribute. Last year, several important non-state actors such as Pope Francis (Laudato Si) spoke on Climate Change and to make the issue accessible. The Pope’s text itself recommends that formal political systems alone cannot deal with the crisis. Several Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhists leaders also made similar appeals. These are distinctly more accessible better comprehended by people than the text of the Paris Agreement.

Shweta Srinivasan is a Senior Research Analyst with Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy, Bengaluru. Prof B. K. Chandrashekar is Chairman, Bangalore Climate Change Initiative-Karnataka (BCCI-K).



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