Political will to solve the climate crisis
Dr Debapriya Mukherjee
The catastrophic bushfires raging across much of Australia that have swept large parts of Australia since October, leaving more than 20 people dead, destroying thousands of homes and devastating wildlife - are a further proof of global warming and a clear sign of unsustainable development. This type development in the name of progress of the society cannot meet the needs of the present. Moreover it will simply destroy the basic requirement of future generations. As a result of climate change, hurricanes are becoming larger and more powerful than in the past. Floods cover vast regions, causing people to lose their homes. Droughts cause crops to die, which means people go hungry. The sea level is rising, and will one day swallow up entire countries. For confronting this climate change problem in which the stakes are high and solutions can be blocked by collective action problems, leadership is essential. Leadership can only make a decisive difference by providing a model that encourages the others to follow. There is another serious aspect that leadership has the potential not only to unite, but also divide public opinion over this issue. In absence of political consensus within countries, the implementation of policy to effectively address climate change is bound to be weakened. Influence of many political leaders in confronting this acute global problem is always contradictory to climate change activitists despite the humanity at stake.
Scientists strongly pointed out that the climate change caused a greater number of violent storms than usual, including 70 tropical cyclones in the northern hemisphere, compared with the long-term average of 53. Storms brought devastation to the Mariana Islands, the Philippines, Vietnam, the Korean peninsula and Tonga, while hurricanes Florence and Michael caused substantial damage in the US. Wildfires also raged in Greece, Canada, California and other areas, while floods devastated Kerala in India and displaced more than 1.4 million people. Japan also experienced serious flooding, as did east Africa. The record-high heat waves, record-low Arctic sea ice, above average tropical cyclones and deadly wildfires are the resultant effect of climate change. It is pertinent to mention that the African savannah, the Australian bush or the US conifer forests have evolved with fires over many thousands of years. But the plants and animals living in the Amazon do not have the traits needed to survive a big fire and regenerate after the blaze. This is because fires were not very common before humans settled in the area. In addition to these, countries particularly island nations are most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change because of losing land on account of rising seas. Since the world has witnessed to more and more such devastation and thereby we are the last generation to be able to do something about it. Unfortunately many political leaders contribute to distrust in climate science and other environmental sciences though we are in the midst of a climate crisis. The meteorological report spells out the worsening threat in startling clarity.
Despite this devastation fires in Australia, President Morrison practically ignored the linkage of this fire with the impact of climate change and told that the fires were nothing new for Australia though the blazes engulfing the country have now reached new dimensions.
Also he was not going to write off the jobs of thousands of Australians by walking away from traditional industries. The International Panel on Climate Change concluded more than a decade ago that human-caused global heating was “virtually certain” to increase the intensity and frequency of fires in Australia. Average temperature rises in Australia were about 1.4C above pre-industrial levels before this season’s fires, showing a more rapid rate of heating than the global average of 1.1C.
To be contd