The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scary — scary for the whole planet and all life form on it. It is scary because what to talk of meeting the 2015 Paris commitment to contain global warming below 2 degree centigrade of the pre-industrial age temperatures (1850-1900), it finds that even a 1.5 Centigrade increase could be disastrous for and human and animal life in vast swathes of the globe. The crazy weather patterns seen in various parts of the world, including unprecedented heat and cold waves, droughts and floods, fierce cyclones and landslides, etc, should have served warning about the reckless dependence on unclean energy for powering growth.
The advanced nations were the biggest polluters, though, of late, China and in a much smaller way India is getting to be no less guilty in this regard. Economic growth and environmental degradation have been inseparable twins all along, but the challenge now is to separate one from the other and go for clean, carbon dioxide-free energy. Yet, neither solar nor hydro power nor, for that matter, wind, or other sources of renewable energy can be enough to prevent the catastrophic rise in global heating. Something far more drastic, far more imaginative is needed to prevent the disaster of rising oceans wiping out entire populations and unusual weather phenomena wasting human lives in settled regions and destroying human and marine life. Scientists are talking of trapping carbon emissions before they escape into the atmosphere and burying them in capsules under the earth, expecting these to dissolve into lifeless forms after a passage of several centuries. Humankind will have to make difficult but doable adjustments in consumption and life-style. Going vegan, relying on clean energy for cooking and transport, using air-conditioning at moderate temperatures, forgoing personal vehicles for public transport, etc are the obvious first steps.
But given that we have environmental deniers like Donald Trump who upon becoming the US President reneged on the Paris Agreement, and his fellow skeptics who are determined to press ahead with fossil fuels like coal, there can be little hope of the world saving itself from a self-created but certain doom. The latest IPCC report says that even a 0.5 centigrade warming would translate into greater number of weather disasters across the globe. The recent heat wave in Europe and Japan and the severe cyclones that lashed the eastern US last month, leaving in their trail horrific devastations, ought to have served as a reminder to Trump and other naysayers that climate change is for real, it is no hocus-pocus, old wives’ tale, but a scientifically proven phenomenon. Unfortunately, even those who remain loyal to the Paris Accord have shown bad faith in its implementation. One of the foundational pillars of this accord was the creation of a $100 billion fund to compensate the developing countries for substituting clean energy in place of fossil fuels. Developed countries have failed to keep the commitment, though they insist that nations like China and India temper their economic growth with an overriding concern for environment. India has sought to step up the installation of nuclear reactors for power generation, though countries like Japan and Germany have been shutting down theirs in recent years. Meanwhile, there should be an on-going mandatory audit of all government policies from the environment point of view as well.