The Financial Express

Costly indifference to climate threat  

Costly indifference to climate threat   

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year old Swedish climate activist, could not expose the charlatanism of seasoned or fluke leaders more emphatically at the special United Nations climate summit in New York. The teenage girl has come to the limelight not for nothing -she has inspired her generation the world over to take the climate issue very seriously. In her brief impassioned speech she did not try to hide how outraged she felt at the dilettantism exhibited by some of the world leaders when there was actually an urgent need for action to stem the deterioration of climate on account of human activities.

That the planet Earth is warming up beyond the tolerable limit is a scientific fact and still world leaders deceptively giving the impression that they could not do more to arrest it. So Greta accuses the older generation for stealing her generation's dream and the future. The world is precariously poised to cross the 2.0 degree Celsius cap above the preindustrial temperature level. But the political leaders do not pay heed to the warning climate scientists have issued about the danger facing the planet. Weather has turned more capricious than ever before. More and more cyclones and storms are wreaking havoc -sometimes within days or weeks - across wide swathes of the globe. Europe experienced an unprecedented sweltering heat wave from Spain to France to Switzerland. Billions of tons of ice melted in the arctic regions with Greenland's ice sheet losing 11 billion tons to the ocean. In summer air temperature was 10-15 degrees Celsius above the normal.

Surprisingly, Nature's convulsions are happening before everyone's eyes -no matter how fortified the leaders of world's powerful nations may think they are. The fact is they are diverting people's attentions to issues that can wait sometime before they are addressed or even to negative or non-issues. Politics gets the better of scientifically proven fact that the world is heading towards mass extinction, as Greta warns. That she inspired the largest ever climate protest across the globe in 185 countries to which millions -young and old -joined on September 20 last.

Indeed, the voice of youth has risen this time above that of men in politics. This proves Tolstoy's famous saying that children may be wiser than their elders. A 10-year old boy carried a placard at the Miami Beach demonstration, which read, "There's no planet B". What teenage Greta and the 10-year child understand often does not touch the heart of those people who wield enormous power and make policy decisions. Or else, how could they evade the government action so necessary to arrest the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius, as agreed under the 2015 Paris agreement?

However, the urgency has become overriding with carbon emissions recording a record high last year. No wonder, the UN-backed Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change has reviewed its findings to bring forward the deadline for slashing carbon emissions by half within a decade or so. However, governments the world over are not serious about taking drastic measures apart from some skin-deep surgery to reduce carbon emission and limit global warming. Arms competition and trade war are likely to make the situation even worse because instead of investing more in advanced and costly green technology, governments will go for traditional natural fuel-based production means.         

Political leaders have the compulsion to appease voters and promise them more economic prosperity and a better living standard caring little for the damages caused to the environment. Greta was right to chastise leaders when she dealt squarely with this issue, saying, "...all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth." Presently, money can be made and economic growth maintained but this is at the cost of the future of the planet and the next generations who will inhabit it.

Greta's concern is unmistakeable. Already the signs are clear that the human beings are the only species to have spoiled the ecosystem beyond repair. In their quest for domination, exploitation and luxury, they have gone an extra length to damage the ecosystem where it is becoming less and less sustainable. The richer are the countries, the greater the pollution. This means that wealth creation and higher living standard are usually not compatible enough with the means of production. There is a need for reviewing the value system, consumerism and living standard.

If the goose laying golden eggs is killed for getting all the eggs at a time, the folly is quite unmistakable. The so-called wise political heads must equally recognise that if the world perishes, no ivory tower will be able to protect their progenies. So, extravagant living style has to be restrained in the first place in order to reduce dependence on natural wealth and system. This does in no way refer to an ascetic life but a moderately affluent and healthy living for all mortals on the planet. Sure enough, waste and exploitation of natural wealth can be avoided if only peaceful coexistence among nations can be established on the basis of mutual respect. If money spent on armament can be diverted to improve technology and living standard, the job can be accomplished well beyond expectation.




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