“It’s not a technological or a scientific problem, it’s a question of humanities’ socio-political values… We need a social tipping point that flips our thinking before we reach a tipping point in the climate system.” – Will Steffen
A recent report from Australia issued a dire warning about the fate of the earth as we know it—if we don’t take immediate actions against climate change. The report warned displacement of more than a billion people, two billion lacking access to regular water, and a potential breakdown of nation states and international order under the threats of forced migration, by 2050, attracting global attention.
The earth is warming quickly since the days of the industrial revolution, and a majority of scientists think humans have a role to play. Much of the change has happened since 1975, and although the difference may sound rather small -0.8 ℃ increase of global average since 1880, 1-2 ℃ increase in temperature can wreak havoc. The temperature change can lead to major consequences like extreme weather events as the recent 50 ℃ Indian heat waves and the reduction of crop yields in tropical regions. There are a lot of other direct ramifications for India—water flow in great Indian rivers like Ganga can be reduced drastically due to loss of Himalayan ice sheets aggravating water crisis, and sea level rise resulting in abandoning of major segments of some of the world’s most densely populated cities including Chennai and Mumbai.
One of the significant contributors to climate change is carbon dioxide. While a minor but vital player in the atmosphere, human activities such as burning fossil fuels like coal, and deforestation, have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by more than 30% since the days of the Industrial Revolution. The current concentration of carbon dioxide is much higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. The world leaders, acknowledging the grim reality of climate change, joined together to fight against climate change by pledging to curb their carbon emissions in a landmark agreement known as Paris accord or Paris agreement. However, under the existential threats that we are facing in the light of the new reports, setting modest goals to control carbon emissions will not be enough. We need a massive mobilization of resources worldwide to put zero-emission industrial systems in place by switching to renewable energy sources and stop in track the train of doom we are riding.
Although our per capita emission is lower than most developed nations, India is the third-largest carbon emitter globally. Therefore, we have to be a responsible global leader in the war against climate change and lead by example. It is not that India is ignoring her part. Currently, renewable sources account for 22% of India’s energy. Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which received a sweeping mandate in the 2019 general election promised to increase India’s current capacity of renewable energy at 76.87 GW as on February 2019 to 175 GW by 2022, in their election manifesto.
However, there is a lot of work to be done. Climate change is still not an issue that is mainstream to India’s political debate. However, there is a hint that it is changing. In the newly formed cabinet of the Government of India, Prakash Javedekar was appointed as the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, a ministry whose priority was redefined with the inclusion of the term ‘climate change’ within its name in 2014. Mr. Javedekar has a huge responsibility, and as responsible citizens of the country, our duty is to advocate for scientific-evidence driven climate action.
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader”, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there— on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” – Carl Sagan
We have but one world to live in. We need to act before it’s too late. Our beloved nation is home to more than a billion people. Millions of our countrymen are vulnerable to the disastrous impacts of climate change. The entire world needs to stand unified today and push our politicians to enforce policies to drastically cut down emissions to aid the restoration of a safe climate. 2050 is only three decades away, and we don’t have time to waste. Let this day be a day of action!
N.B. If you have great ideas about climate action that you want to share with Mr. Javedekar, Honorable Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, I encourage you to reach out to him on Twitter: @PrakashJavdekar.