Political will to solve the climate crisis

-Dr Debapriya Mukherjee
Contd from previous issue
he total area burned stands at more than 10.7m hectares as at 8 January. Smoke plumes posed a significant health threat even to those living miles away, as the wind carried heavily polluted air to Sydney and Canberra, and as far as New Zealand. Meanwhile, scientists fear that when rain does fall, it may taint drinking supplies in cities and kill even more wildlife by washing charred debris into rivers.  With reference to the Amazon forest fires, it is pertinent to mention that deforestation to make room for crops and cattle grazing have contributed to this year’s devastating fires in the Amazon. The trees in the Amazon have relatively thin bark, so during a fire, the heat can seriously damage the cells inside the tree, which eventually kills it. Previous research in the Amazon has found that more than 40% of trees die up to three years after a fire. This means that the carbon stored in their trunks, branches and leaves is released into the atmosphere, either while the fire is burning, or later as the dead trees decompose. The habitat of the endangered southern brown bandicoot has been obliterated by fire on Kangaroo Island. It is one of many Australian species whose survival has been further threatened by this summer’s bushfires. The full effects of these fires will not be felt for months or years to come, but it will certainly cause the extinction for some of Australia’s most iconic, fragile and beautiful inhabitants on account habitat loss and non availability of food. This piquant situation arises because the new Brazilian government does not intend to honor   commitment made in Paris agreement.
Similarly the US president, Donald Trump say in willful ignorance that all this science is wrong and that nothing needs to change – indeed forests must be felled and fossil fuels be further subsidized and promoted as “clean coal”. In 2017, Trump administration began pulling the U.S. ( one of the world’s leading carbon editor)  out of the landmark Paris agreement of 2015 with a comment that Paris accord is an unfair burden  economic  burden to U.S. economy . However he has realized the necessity of clean water and clean air. For this he emphasized on massive tree plantation in America but this approach can not be the alternative to the forest both in structural and functional system.  The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, do not deny the science but coldly calculate how much they would lose and try to water down commitments. Chilli has committed to 30% reduction  in CHG emission below what they were in 2007. But between 1990 and 2016, Chille’s emission increased by 115% which shows the country has a poor history of tackling climate change.
India is the 4th largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, the US, and the EU. In 2018, carbon emissions rose worldwide, primarily due to increased coal consumption in China and India. Although both countries signed the 2015 Paris Agreement, they continue to rely on coal as an important source of energy. This poses a problem for climate change. Sadly  climate issues in the Indian elections were not prominent  though citizens are demanding climate action. If this is true, we should expect that political parties talking prominently about their climate policies compared to the issues related to NRC and CCA. However the good news is that governments both in center and states has started  talk about climate issues.  But what  India thinks about climate change is not adequate considering  its extreme vulnerability with reference to in changed monsoon patterns, higher incidents of heat waves, drought, migration, and so on.
These examples show that political leaders  in many countries are not taking climate change seriously . Many countries are also not doing enough. Unfortunately corporate influence of the climate change debate and policy process has at many levels been cited as a key reason for the relatively slow progress of both the UN COP process and national-level climate legislation.
The lesson here is very simple – climate change must be our number one priority because regular occurrence of  floods, fires, drought, heat stress, species loss,  sea level rise, ecological change and many more .  Our great satisfaction is that these effects could the shake the people all over the world and  even normal people are discussing it. Perhaps that is the silver lining in all this. It can be strongly recommended that people who can vote in elections should consider voting for parties that promise strong action on climate change. Another option is to support global movements organized by many climate activists.. By turning up to rallies and showing support for groups , we can send a strong message to politicians that you care about the planet and all the life on it. Also a legal challenge can make politicians understand the extent of the passions running through people. If we send these messages to politicians, there’s a chance to make them do better and stop climate change, before the worst effects of global warming become a reality.   
Now there is emergent need to tackle the human-induced climate crisis.If not now, when?.
The writer is former Senior Scientist, Central Pollution Control Board from Kolkata and can be reached at 919432370163 & 916290099509 or [email protected]