Global warming refers to the gradual increase in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere due to an increase in the levels of greenhouse gases. The issue becomes important because it is related to our everyday activities. Global warming is not just about a warmer climate but rather an adverse package of problems.
The search for solutions began at the Earth Summit in 1992 and the Conference of Parties in Buenos Aires in 1998. Much friction is going on for the need for India and the other countries of the South to accept responsibility to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. The North sees the movement to reduce the limit for commitments for emission reductions as debatable.
Reports suggest that concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide have gone up while all the attention was diverted to carbon dioxide reduction. It is exactly this problem that needs to be tackled in order to come out with a balanced report.
The concern is that local air quality is what had made many countries impose stringent controls on emissions of Sulfur dioxide. But scientists seem to conclude that emissions will take long to reduce.
In 1955, the IPCC concluded that the present knowledge points to a discernible human influence on global climate. With the rise in temperature by 3.5 the sea levels will rise. The estimates, however, of chaos, caused by it are being considered a myth and economic growth often does not go with preventive measures for adversaries.
As the scenario of future climate change is developed using three-dimensional models regional developments cannot be well judged, the uncertainty of the ill effects of weather is unpredictable.
Economic and political instabilities make fixed policymaking difficult on an uncertain issue. For countries torn by war, the developing countries etc it’s more difficult since the immediate effects of emissions control are none and benefits in form of disasters that didn’t happen. In such a scenario we cannot establish any straightforward outlook towards policies. The debate is directed towards the responsibility that the present generation owes to the future generation.
The recent inertia in the state of affairs has been a burden that is likely to be imposed to avail the costs and benefits of climate that might take more than a ten years time frame to show up.
Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement setting targets for industrialised countries to cut emissions. The protocol was agreed in 1997 on the basis of the framework of the convention signed in 1992. The industrialised countries committed to cut down their emissions to 5% below the 1990 levels by 2008-2012. EU will cut down below 8% and Japan 5%. In spite of early reluctance, Russia agreed to sign the protocol. The treaty suffered a massive blow in 2001, responsible for a quarter of the world’s emissions, America pulled out. President Bush said that implementing it would hamper the economy. His administration dubbed the treaty “fatally flawed” particularly cause the developing countries need not reduce emissions.
The industrial countries have cut down emissions by 5% whereas climate scientists say there is a need for 60% reduction. In view of this, a proposal was suggested that there should be a per person level of greenhouse emission, this is dubbed as “contraction and convergence” commentators called it “unrealistic” the supporters included the United Nations Environment Programme and the European Parliament.
The IPCC was established to provide an objective source of information on climate change. They do not conduct research nor monitor climate nor collect data. Its role is to access the impacts and options for adaption and mitigation. Highly technical standards are adopted and include a wide geographical coverage.
The first assessment report was published in 1990 which led to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which was opened for signatory at the Rio De Jenerio summit in 1992 and came into force 1994. The second report provided for negotiations for the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
The Earth Summit in Rio was unprecedented for UN conference in terms of size and scope of concerns. Twenty years after the first global conference, the UN sought the help of governments to rethink economic development from a way of halting the destruction of irreplaceable natural resources and pollution of the planet. Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life were drawn into the Rio process to ensure a healthy planet for all.
The UN Conference on Environment and Development. Efforts during UHCED to negotiate an earth charter an environmental bill of rights delineating the principles for economic and environmental behaviour of people and nations produce the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development. The Agenda 21 was drawn up, two conventions, one on climate and another on Biodiversity.
The UN General Assembly passed a resolution in December 1990 that established the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, the pre-negotiations were to be followed with authority.
The European Community argued that the convention should contain specific commitments to limit emissions of carbon dioxide the largest contributor to human-induced changes. The USA argued that such limits were premature and lacked sufficient evidence and that any controls should be comprehensively on all gases contributing to climate change. Jean Ripert says that industrialised countries need to reduce their emission limits and report periodically on their progress without any fixed targets.
The treaty of Rio had a strong objective “stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with climate change system… within time”
Mention must also be made of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Nordic Fund in providing loans to these long-distance programmes. The Berlin Mandate was set forth for the analysis and assessment of steps taken post-2000 to limit greenhouse gases.
All these conventions and conferences have played a sort of significant role in making the world aware of the threat of greenhouse gases at a time when we were not even sore is the many impacts, effects and the nature of these gases. Many have shown concern for reduction of their own gases as well as a commitment to those of others. Our ability to predict the future climate change is very limited thus the notion of ‘unacceptable’ climate change is being challenged.
Questions like the limit and definition of it, the manner of use of resources, instructions to distribute resources once allotted base has been determined remain unanswered and shall probably remain unanswered in future too since the very nature of global warming is so. Scientists feel that immediate steps are not being taken and some degree of climate change is inevitable. Our contribution today might help in preventing tomorrow’s calamities.
Countries like the UK have raised the concern that the climate change figures are grossly exaggerated fear mongering, for, during the 1940s-65 when the fossil fuel emissions were higher, the temperatures were lower. Paul Colinuouse says that global warming is a sort of ‘gospel of nonsense’ it is rather a natural cycle of the earth to revert to its natural state. The earth’s natural abilities to absorb carbon dioxide will work but the problem is that we do not know what the effects will turn out to be. Problems have also arisen with regard to the prediction of GCM not attaining a high degree of reliability so no definitive solution is possible.
In the midst of all this debate, countries are making efforts to contain global warming. Sweden has imposed carbon taxes. Deforestation has been lowered down as complete stoppage is not possible.
Montreal protocol was an important step, it embodies strategies to phase out chlorofluorocarbons. The cost of switching to alternatives is high but worth it. The only problem is that the technology is patented by DuPont and India cannot benefit from it. UN Climate change conference is an attempt to provide poorer countries access to rich nations’ technology. Scientifically tremendous research with satisfactory results has been done to attempt ways to reduce Carbon dioxide emissions.
The Woodlands Conference aimed to reduce vulnerabilities of crops to global warming. Preventive measures should be adopted in case of drought. In this direction, agroforestry will play an important role. The UK has begun preparations to tackle a rise in sea level. They are also working on sustainable developments.
There is also a concern of what beyond Kyoto and there were some negative developments on the international front. Whatever we think of Kyoto, the troubling fact is that the underlying fact is that the approach is bound to fail. As it is premised on setting national emissions targets, it cannot solve the global problem of emissions. That’s exactly why we need to think of a treaty on global climate change.
The Framework Convention on Climate Change at Rio in 1992 drew wide international attention to the danger of global warming from humanity’s use of fossil fuel. But in spite of committing signatory governments for doing something for climate change but did not commit them to take fixed actions. The countries committed to reducing the carbon dioxide levels to the 1990 level within a relatively near, but unspecified future. Emissions have not matched intentions. Emissions of CFCs have slowed down due to the Montreal Protocol of 1987 to protect the ozone layer and there are lesser emissions of carbon dioxide in Europe, Japan and the former Soviet Union.
At Kyoto, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and countries of the former Soviet Union pledged to cut greenhouses gases by 2010 which includes planting of trees. Such things are difficult to achieve for the US where emissions are expected to grow by 30%.
For a country like India, climate change is important. For one degree rise in temperature in areas like Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana could amount to a loss of about 6 million tones of wheat annually. Temperature rise would also lead to effects on grain filling and pest attack.
India believes that there should be no targets for developing countries. There should be technological and financial transfers to help reduce India’s emissions. India is committed to reducing GHG intensity of GDP growth – for the given economic unit of growth, there will be less GHG emission. The voluntary target is 20-25 % reduction by 2020 over 2005. India believes involuntary cuts and even reports to the Parliament.
India has phased out production and consumption of CFCs except for the use of pharmaceutical grade CFCs in the manufacturing of Metered Dose Inhalers for treatment of Asthma, COPD and other respiratory ailments under the Essential Use Nomination provision of the Montreal Protocol. The Delhi Metro, became the world’s first rail network to earn carbon credits from United Nations. India has unveiled one of the world’s most ambitious plans for promoting solar energy targeting an installed capacity of 20,000 MW by the year 2022. Already between 1990 and 2005, emission intensity has gone down by 17.6% when the population has actually risen.
India is trying to do its bit in climate change. From vehicle rating and minimum efficiency standards to increase in energy efficient railway.
No treaties can actually solve the problem unless nations themselves commit to climate change. International treaties fall into two categories – those that set agreed-upon national objectives but leave each signatory to pursue their goals in its own way and those that define mutually agreed upon action.
The developments in international concerns are mixed for solutions are present for global warming but many problems are still in the way till we find real solutions.