Unabated and unsustainable industrialisation has brought the human race to a crossroads. There is a need for a sustained strategy to combat climate change before it’s too late, writes Aasiya Manzoor.
Human beings shape the processes of the environment, which act as a service sector for supporting and nourishing living things. The complex and dynamic interaction of biotic and abiotic components serves the cause of humans and other living beings. The food web complex supports the feeding links and helps preserve the living kingdom.
Initially, the tribal life was heavily dependent upon the environment for its survival. Therefore, the principle of “live and let live” was adopted for sustenance. This style and approach to life were termed the ‘deterministic approach.’ It held nature as a dictator and human beings as helpless creatures who have no choice but to follow the dictates. Hence human beings share a good relationship with the environment. They eked out food, fodder, and fuel from it and, in turn, preserved its pristine beauty. In contemporary periods, we have examples of tribes like Tiwa in Assam who help preserve the environment.
The advancement of technological solutions and improvement in trade and commerce paved the way for the exploitation of resources and thereby interference with natural balance. The man went on without caring much about the environment. Economic development took precedence at the expense of environmental health, leading to climate change.
Climate is defined as average weather conditions for a considerable period, usually 35 years. The parameters include temperature, wind, air pressure, etc. make up the weather complex of our atmosphere. The natural makeup of earth lends it the sobriquet of ‘blue planet’ where water and temperature balance helps in survival which is not the case on other planets. The disturbance in any of these components sends a red signal along the length and breadth of the whole complex.
There are two reasons behind climate change – natural and anthropogenic. Planet earth has witnessed intermittent periods of extreme climatic conditions. As has been proved, today’s tropical and subtropical latitudes have witnessed the ice age in the geological past. The recurring periods of cold and warm phases on earth have occurred naturally. On the other hand, solar output variations, the Milankovitch cycle, volcanic dust hypothesis, and continental drift have shared the cake in climate change from natural causes.
However, the contemporary realisation of climate change is attributed to anthropogenic causes. Climate change is attributed to the rise in temperature due to abnormal human-environment relations. The natural system that maintains a habitable climate, especially temperature, for the living world is called green or glasshouses. The atmosphere contains carbon dioxide and other gases, which act as a blanket for trapping long-wavelength terrestrial radiations. Such gases, along with CO2, are called greenhouse gases (GHGs). This effect of keeping our planet’s temperature to a habitable level is known as the greenhouse effect. The earth would have been a cold desert had there been no atmosphere.
Any rise in the composition of atmospheric gases due to human lifestyle increases the temperature. This phenomenon is termed as climate change, but the range of effects on other parameters due to temperature rise is also included in the ambit of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established due to the collaboration of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and WMO (World Meteorological Organization), maintains that the present nature of climate change is human-induced. It further established in its assessment report that all the long-lived GHGs – CO2, CH4, and N2O (nitrous oxide) are emitted due to human activities.
The IPCC assessment reports gauge the level of rising temperature and other related parameters of climate change. The 4th IPCC assessment report in 2007 held that between 1995 to 2006, there has been a record of the top warmest years. In addition, a most applied parameter called Climate Sensitivity demarcated in the 3rd assessment report projected that by 2100, the earth’s surface temperature will register an increase up to 5.8 degrees Celsius, adding to the present average of 15.2 (WMO).
The rise in temperature due to human activity is apparent, and the necessary modification in human lifestyle is emerging as the need of the hour. Climate change has various repercussions for humanity. The first and foremost impact is the rise in mean sea level due to thermal expansion and melting of glaciers. The projected increase of .9 m as per IPCC by 2100 due to climate change is supposed to cause the submergence of numerous islands and coastal areas. As per national reports of Maldives and Mauritius, the island nations are facing an acute crisis of submergence due to rising sea levels. The Andaman and Nicobar islands are also on the danger mark in our backyard.
Change in agricultural patterns due to severe floods and erratic behavior of climate directly impact the feeding link of human beings. Moreover, floods, water-logging, and so on may give rise to water-borne diseases in an integrative manner. The habitable patterns of the whole living system would change. Temperate climate-adopted living beings may face threats in the case of rising temperatures. The habitability of earth will face a crisis in the coming future.
The advancement of technological solutions and improvement in trade and commerce paved the way for the exploitation of resources and interference with natural balance.
Although international efforts have evolved a wide array of dimensions for combating climate change, the implementation stage faces an acute crisis.
When the climate and its impacts reared their ugly head, humankind started to take pains. After the Sierra Club and Club of Rome, the classical approach of awareness cautioned about irrational exploitation of the environment and questioned the mad race for development. They held that “there’s no blind opposition to development but opposition to blind development.” After this, UNCED, also known as Stockholm Conference, was held for international collaboration to preserve the environment as a heritage of humankind. After that, the Earth summit changed the whole narrative from theoretics to an action-oriented strategy for curbing the temperature rise. It also tried to correct the anomalies through the ‘polluters pay’ principle and kept developing and underdeveloped outside the commitment bracket.
The historical role of pollution in the case of western developed countries was presumed to be the cause of recent climate change. It evolved specific measures to keep the global rise comparable to pre-industrial levels because the initiation of the Industrial Revolution has raised the composition of GHGs in the atmosphere. Agenda 21 and COP started to keep the agreement alive in letter and spirit. The recent COP15 in Paris outlined less than two degrees Celsius rise above the pre-industrial level through binding emission reduction targets for participating countries. The agreement has come into operation. India has committed to a 33% reduction up to 2050 in emissions to participate in global efforts. In India, NAPCC (National Action Plan on Climate) is in process, including nine ancillary missions, to abide by emission cut target.
Afforestation, the use of non-conventional sources of energy, and replacement of carbon dioxide emitting fuel in transport and industries with cleaner fuels can be delineated as areas of focus. For this to happen, intra and international collaboration is a must. Transfer of technology is an oft-repeated adage, but that hardly ever happens in reality. The developing world is constrained by such technological solutions to switch to renewable energy sources. And the non-serious attitude of the developed world is no more hidden.
A couple of years ago, Donald Trump signed an exit from Paris Agreement by calling climate change a hoax. Although international efforts have evolved a wide array of dimensions for combating climate change, the implementation stage faces an acute crisis. As far as awareness level is concerned, the propounds do themselves doubt the global issue. Climate change is a reality whose repercussions are already visible through the receding of glaciers. The sloganeering phase is over. There’s a need for a sustained strategy to combat climate change like Kyoto Protocol. In light of the limit to growth principle, the solution lies in sustainable development: “Earth is like a spaceship with no outer supply source”.
Terming climate change a hoax is a threat to humanity. It’s only the judicious utilisation of the environment and its resources in a spirit of sustainability that will ensure the survival of the human population. Else, humans will encounter a disastrous end. The latest IPCC report reiterates its stand for climate change and the correlation between Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions. It puts the three countries of South Asia, viz India, China, and Pakistan, on a red signal. The report quotes the recent storms along the length and breadth of the planet and presumes their intensity to increase in years to come. A son’s hindsight is the father’s farsight. Humanity needs to awake and make serious efforts to combat climate change.
The author hails from Bandipora and can be reached at [email protected]