June 30, 2012

the climate change conundrum

Here is something on climate change mitigation effort I wrote in an editorial I contributed for the newspaper I work for:

Climate conundrum
The in-conclusive Rio summit proved yet again we have to think like Mother Earth would

Undeterred by man-made boundaries we call 'nations', but prompted in a large part by the activities of man in some of those nations, the climate of our planet has been getting worse in recent decades. 
The attempt to rein in the severity of the climate change for the entire globe, therefore, means all nations have to co-operate. But since many developing nations have only recently jumped on the bandwagon of heavily carbon-reliant model of development they will apply a big brake. The developed nations too will require to forego many of the low-cost pleasures enjoyed by a reckless consumption of natural resources but they have had their fun. 
The above, in a nutshell, describes the quandary every global summit on environment and development finds itself in. The latest one, 20-22 June United Nations' Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, was also faced with the same dilemma. 
The result: a 283-points declaration that specifically went neither here or there but instead went everywhere. It was a fine rope walk not displeasing both the groups of nations and yet leaving enough scope for either to complain of being held hostage to the other. But even this was recognised -- the conference secretary-general in one of his daily read-outs admitted the declaration document was a compromise text but defended it saying that it is crucial if all countries are to be on board, take ownership and share a collective commitment. 
Be that as it may, it offers very little clarity on what is required of all of us, whether we are Indian citizens or citizens of other countries. Political heads of countries will continue to hanker based on their their perceptions of political fall-out for themselves and their respective political parties in their countries. 
So you will have India and China use the high population figure to arrive at a very low per-capital carbon footprint in order to claim exemptions from harsh carbon-emission norms. Greenpeace, environmental-activist organisation, had come out with a India-report five years ago which stated although the per-capita CO2 emission was just 1.7 ton a year based on the total population, Indians who earned more than Rs 30,000 per month were having a CO2 emission of 5 ton a year, which was not too far from the sixth-largest per-capita carbon emission of France which was 8.6 ton. 
Greenpeace did not give us a figure for Indians earning more than Rs 1 lakh a month but if one were to estimate it could match the per-capita figures of US, Russia, Germany, UK and Japan, having the largest per-capita emission figures. 
Equity stand taken by India, China, Brazil and a few others is also a paradox because their growing consumer markets are the most lucrative for companies from developed nations. Moreover, the biggest beneficiaries of the industrialisation-driven, environmentally-damaging exports from the developing countries are the developed countries themselves who get access to cheap products and services. We can, therefore, still put the ball back in their court.

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