One of the earliest reports about climate change was issued in 1968 by Stanford Research Institute and warned about the rising carbon dioxide levels, highlighting the problem of climate change such as “increasing temperature, melting of icebergs and sea-level rise” that has certainly become a reality today.
But negotiating the freedom to live on Earth since the known of climate change — along with delayed processes by governments, denial by leaders, and biased researches to support global corporations — has kept on side-lining climate change mitigation techniques and adaptation efforts adopted by climate activists and organisations to keep the Blue Marble safe.
At the time of a near possibility of an outbreaking of World War III, economic instability, ethnic conflicts and toppling of governments, the freedom to live one’s life in their chosen cultural, social and environmental conditions is of utmost importance. The member states of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights acknowledged that people have the right to live free, safe and secure lives (“right to life, liberty, and security of a person”).
In 1960, an imagery known as ‘Blue Marble’ that was taken during the Apollo 17 mission conveyed the fragility and interconnectedness of planet Earth by portraying it above cultural diversity and geographical differences. Thus, hardly any country can resist the impact of climate change as the Earth is a finite system.
The essay unfolds the freedom of the most vulnerable sections in the world who are threatened by the devastating effects of climate change and denial of big leaders despite attempts of international cooperation through treaties, while later suggesting viable alternatives to restore the freedom for present and future generations.
Unfortunately, the ones who register a lesser carbon footprint, especially small, developing island states are more vulnerable to experience the worst consequences of developed states’ actions. They are losing the freedom to live their lives in many ways, such as indulging in sea activities that are becoming extremely dangerous to operate near coastal areas due to increasing hurricanes, coral bleaching, declining of aquatic animals.
The safety and deteriorating food security near coastal zones and wild forests are displacing thousands of people from their homes due to sea-level rise, extreme weather events etc. The celebration of the new decade in Indonesia came with floods and displaced around 36,000 people, according to the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance, with a plan to shift the capital from Jakarta gaining momentum.
A UN expert, on extreme poverty and loss of human rights, warned that climate change will impact the human right to life, food, housing and water, especially of the vulnerable and could push 120 million more people into poverty by 2030. Climate change is happening globally, but poor, underdeveloped and unstable governments are going to experience the worst of situations. These non-climatic factors have determined six most vulnerable countries as Lagos, Haiti, Yemen, Manila, Kiribati and the UAE, which can be seriously impacted by climate change soon.
They might face the most severe consequences due to sea level rise, increasing hurricanes, shortage of freshwater, population growth, loss of sea dependent livelihoods, diseases, etc. Although the UAE and Manila are stable and wealthy enough to blunt out the effects of climate change by adopting various techniques and methods, what about the other four? Who is going to take the responsibility to aid these vulnerable countries in developing adequate means and resources to fight against climate change?
The era of the 21st century is certainly regarded as the triumph of liberal democracy. However, the climate issue rose rapidly during this period and posed threat to all mankind. It contemplated a new debate whether our thoughts and notions about the world are true, or are they forcefully imposed on us to stop us from thinking beyond a defined ambit of the artificial world?
Jair Bolsonaro, ‘a climate change denialist’, is eager to industrialise the largest rainforest of the world by reducing illegal pollution and deforestation fines, growing sugarcanes in Amazon, etc. Similarly, Trump’s decision of removing environmental protection for half of the nation’s streams and wetlands, and labelling climate activists as extremists leaves no doubt about the ignorance back-up by sceptics on the status of climate change that seriously undermines the hopes and efforts of the 21st-century generation.
Denialists keep claiming that the change in the Earth’s temperature has been occurring from millions of years. Though fossil fuel companies have known for decades about the harmful effects of burning fossil fuels, they kept on suppressing such information. The IPCC 5thAssessment Report of 2014 claims that there is 95% probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet. However, ignorance on this issue is a major bulwark in the fight against climate change, especially for the marginalised, impoverished and indigenous communities dependent on coastal and agricultural activities.
The Paris Accord signed in 2016 by 196 countries was an attempt to unblock the veins of our atmosphere by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, dealing with adaptation and finance. But the facts presented by the ‘climate change report card’ showcase the below-average success. Past four years of the accord, very few states could maintain the less carbon emission efforts, with Morocco and Gambia being the top states. following the 1.5 degrees emission reduction strategy by bringing the renewables in use.
The intent of the US to withdraw from the Paris agreement in 2020, and countries like Russia and Turkey yet to ratify the agreement, signals a lack of coordination among the nations and international organisations concerning the individual’s freedom to live safe and secure.
Countries thought to have the means and resources to protect themselves from changing environmental conditions are also experiencing devastating effects of climate change. A recent example is the Australian bushfire that has killed more than 30 people, a billion animals and burned around 3,000 homes. The aboriginal communities are experiencing the worst scenario as they are forced to dispose of their land due to the country’s coal mining requirement, leading to deforestation and declining of jungles.
“Climate change is a human rights issue not only because it’s devastating impacts affect the enjoyment of human rights, but also because it is a man-made phenomenon which can be mitigated by governments,” says Kumi Naidoo, Secretary-General of Amnesty International.
The governments should adopt the following measures to move towards living fossil-free lives:
1. Utilisation of renewable energy resources for running the industries, automobiles and day- to-day lives will kick out our dependency on fossil fuels in the long term. Gambia and Morocco constructed solar farms and photovoltaic plants in order to meet their Paris Agreement targets without polluting the land, water, air and respecting human rights. We must look forward to such alternatives of energy (wind, solar and hydro energy) that can be obtained from our natural environment and require dedication and participation of individuals to re-adjust themselves to develop eco-friendly energy sources and eliminate the coal-based reliance.
2. Road transport accounts for 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The global shift in demand in the automobile industry from carbon-based to electric-based vehicles is a necessity today for the survival of individuals and the environment. But such change would increase the demand for electricity and make us less dependent on oil and gas, for which governments must be ready and realign themselves with low carbon targets as mentioned in the Paris Accord.
3. Heavy reliance on personal vehicles should be reduced by respective governments and the use of public transport should be promoted. One such initiative taken up by one of the most polluted cities in the world, Delhi in India, to combat with air pollution was the odd-even road space rationing scheme, which successfully kept 15 lakh cars off the Delhi roads in its initial days and encouraged people to use public transport in large numbers. In addition, making urban cities cycle-friendly without loss of economic opportunities is another such example that many cities do today. Over 50%, 48% and 61% of the population of the city centres of Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Groningen respectively use cycles despite their capacity to afford motor vehicles.
According to the 2010 Oxfam report, poverty, above any other factor, determines a community’s vulnerability as it puts a limit on its capacity to adapt. As a result, the capacity of remodelling lifestyles of vulnerable societies lies in the hands of major powers, who should not shape it according to their convenience, as underdeveloped or developing nations find it hard to adapt these changes due to lack of resources, capital, and technology. Some steps to re-energise the Blue planet to recalibrate the freedom while respecting the environment are:
1. A need for decentralisation and self-regulation is required at the local level to meet the goals set by the Paris Accord in order to tackle the rapid climate change. Small community engagement and initiatives in society, such as shifting from a red meat-based diet to plant-based diet or keeping construction activities away from coastal zone should be encouraged as it will endanger our freedom to live for earning few cents.
2. The current world scenario reveals that communities with lower-carbon contribution are affected more by climate change, and their freedom depends on the readjusting efforts of others whose actions are causing the climate to change. The obligation of such developed nations, including their political leaders and governments, is to financially and morally support green initiatives and development of skills to adapt and mitigate climate change.
3. It is the duty of global corporations operating in urban, rural and remote areas to shield the lives of people who consume their goods and build their trust. An initiative by Vattenfall group claims to having reduced its CO2 emissions from 84 million tonnes to 23 million tonnes using a participatory approach involving the efforts of Vattenfall’s customers, partners, authorities and cities to become free from fossil fuels through electrification, sustainable production, etc. with an increasing need of more such initiatives.
4. The success rate of participatory approach depends on the remodelling of the curriculum through the introduction of climate-sensitive education in societies, accessible to all, making the individuals realize about the important contribution they can give in green initiatives by reshaping the day to day activities and build a naturally harmonious future for centuries to centuries.
5. Destructive actions performed yesterday would limit our freedom today, and our freedom would disappear automatically if forests vanish. The stakeholders involved in the processes of capital accumulation at the cost of deforestation and ruination of other species’ habitat should be realigned with strict regulations and measures (such as demarcation of natural reserves) for protecting the wilderness that helps in running the ecosystem Recently, an apartment in Kerala, India, was demolished in front of thousands of people as it violated the coastal regulation zone norms.
6. Governments should curb challenges like climate change and environmental imbalance in the nation by regulating the economic lives of people as it does with their social lives. This can be achieved by reducing tariff rates and taking care of migration activities and relocation of displaced people in the process of development.
Do you think we would ever have gathered together on an international platform without any intention of profit to realise the skills and intelligence of human beings to fight with a problem that is endangering our freedom to live and Blue Marble to survive? To build a sustainable future by adjusting to certain changes that will not only limit our freedom but also open up future options for us?
You say you love your children above all else, and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes. –Greta Thunberg
The Nature providing us with alternative forms of energy from the Sun, wind, water and land will take over the world and support better health conditions. The turn from the artificial to human-natural world would register the heroes of today’s generation into the history of tomorrow.