What's with the Climate?

Voices of a Subcontinent grappling with Climate Change


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Oracle of the Oriental: Gandhiji

Could Gandhiji predict where the emissions-producing industrial world will lead us to? Did he know we will poke holes in the Ozone, bleach & finish up the corals, irrigate fields with acid rain, cause floods or cloud bursts or hurricanes every month somewhere in the world? Why did he have to warn us that India will be made a nation of homeless people as a result of driving people out of villages by building dams, ports, industries, highways & SEZs out of them?

How could he a century before the world cup of climate change (read COP15, 2009) warn the world against unrestricted industrialism & materialism? (read Hind Swaraj, 1909). He rejected western development as a culprit back then and today we are talking of polluter pays principle, historical responsibility to highlight western world’s share in the problem.

Did he actually predict all this? Was he an Oracle?

From his writings and speeches, it seems he was simply making an attempt to show the path of harmony with nature. He was emphasizing on the importance of pure air, clean water, and nutritious food to the vitality of each person’s body.

Let’s dig deeper.

He was saying all this at a time when colonial rule was influencing India/Bharat/Hindustan to veer from its ancient systems of living. He profusely criticized and rejected with examples the western technology driven lifestyles that know no limits. Many other Eastern Hemisphere countries also have ancient civilizations with similar values like India. Gandhiji was speaking from age-old wisdom of all these cultures.

Gandhiji could create a whole movement out of charkha, swaraj, salt, fast. These are the keywords of the movements of today as well – people in the west want to buy things made locally, the current government has launched Make-in-India campaign.

Everything Gandhiji did or say had a flipside meaning as well – he hinted at what could/will go wrong. He pointed out what could go wrong if:

We don’t respect & cater to the needs of our people in the non-urban areas aka villages, forest dwellers – led to resistance movements, slums
We don’t respect the limits of nature – led to climate tipping points, species extinction
We don’t value gifts of nature, that is, free & clean air, water, abundant food – now we pay for water, we pay for cleaner air (by buying homes in expensive, cleaner places), we fight over resources (state & clan disputes)
We consume more than we need – carbon footprint has now become a buzzword
We trade our values of decentralized self-reliance with centralized mass production – everything we need now has to be transported to us and we need to pay for it, thus, money assuming supremacy over everything else.
Gandhiji articulated the India of his dreams wherein he thought for the welfare of every form of life. All his virtues gained him the title, Father of the Nation or Bapu. We might add one more title to his name, Oracle of the Oriental.

Let’s make our life rather than a status update our message.


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How The Last Week Turned Out To Be One Of The Saddest Weeks In The Environmental History Of India

Mr. Modi’s recent speech, which received a standing ovation from the Indian delegation in a largely empty United Nations General assembly, is a representation of our collective ignorance. The popularly elected Prime Minister hinted that yoga is a way to mitigate climate change. One is not sure whether he was ridiculing the threat of climate change or mocking the ancient science of Yoga. This is not the first time Mr. Modi has shown his ignorance about climate change. His past statements are well documented where he declared that climate is not changing, our lifestyle is.

A request out of utter humour was posted on the Indian Youth Climate Network Page – “Our sincere requests to our ‘popular’ Prime Minister- please don’t make unnecessary linkages. Yoga is good for health but definitely not a strategy of mitigating climate change. Changing in lifestyle as you stated is needed and should start from your own very self, maybe you should learn from your counterpart in Uruguay. Too much to ask for, is it?!” received absurd responses, which were later removed by the admin.

Many of them actually made connections between yoga and climate change mitigation. According to one of the commentator, yoga helps to still the mind, and that ways we can face climate change. Most people who read it were not able to make any sense of it. It shows our collective ignorance and failure of scientific understanding.

India was founded by its makers to promote scientific understanding. Constitution starts with the declaration of ‘we the people’ and not with invocation of God or Almighty, or any particular religious or spiritual tradition. It seems that as Indians, we have missed the point altogether. We have failed to inculcate scientific values and prefer giving copies of Bhagvad Gita to everyone. While we have low understanding of science, we have become over-obsessed with technology. Let me make myself clear here – technology doesn’t always translate into science, rationale or logic. There are differences which we will not get into now.

Let’s move back to environmental governance and ignorance of the political class in India. A day before the Prime Minister’s visit to New York UN Assembly, Mr. Javadekar, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change sang the old raga of ‘historical responsibility’ of emissions and just made a fool of his very own self in the UN summit on Climate Change called by Ban Ki Moon. The variability in climate will not cause natural disasters in historically responsible developed nations alone. For the weather patterns, these artificial nation state boundaries mean nothing. We all need to take firm commitments, whatever we can afford. And India has a vast potential to take shared responsibility on her shoulders. We have an opportunity to take a leap from the dirty polluting model of development. A pragmatic view is what we are lacking in our leadership. This is something which we need to remind our Environment Minister of….

The piece is originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and is continued here.-


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Agents of Change (IYCN) Helping Educate Students About Climate Change

by Manish Gautam*

Climate Change is a buzzword these days, although one can notice its absence in the English and other vernacular newspapers, education syllabuses and other general discourses, except in the scientific community in India (however due to its jargon language and closed room discussions it does not often grab the attention of the laymen). The question that might occur to anyone is what exactly is ‘this’ climate change and what we mean by climate change knowledge. It consists of definition of (human induced) climate change, the scientific findings supporting that the climate change occurring today is chiefly due to human activities, and it is important to take action timely otherwise the sustenance in this world would be difficult in near future. The main accused of this climate change are greenhouse gases that have been emitted mostly due to human activities (industries, agriculture, etc.), and the primary stress that every scientific study assessing the impact of climate change is to mitigate emission of these gases[1].

The UN summits and other global venues where climate change is being discussed, the developed and developing nations are often at the tug of war on who should be blamed for this 21st century scare. Montreal protocol, Kyoto protocol and other agreements, however, gave an optimistic picture that the future might be better; the agenda of economic growth being at the helm, lately, in developing countries such as India and China are rendering Climate Change issue as less important [2]. Despite the hesitation and seemingly inaction at the world stage, India, however, has keenly started its own set of programs to deal the Climate Change. It has already deployed a national action plan on Climate Change, and the (in)famous words also made their entry to the latest five year plan (12th FYP-Planning Commission). Some states also have followed suit and laid out state level action plans. The scientific communities, NGOs, and other citizen groups are also coming forward to set the action in the right course [3].

‘Agents of Change’, a flagship program of IYCN and into existence since 2008, is determined to disseminate knowledge and information on Climate Change and create awareness among the Indian youth about the issue. The Agents of Change have continuously made their presence at the past CoPs representing the Indian youth and appealing to the leaders of nation-states to adopt measures to curb the carbon emissions, and to combat the Climate Change problem [4].

On the onset of the next CoP in Lima, December 2014, the youth organizations worldwide once again are preparing themselves to mark their presence and let their voices heard. Indian youth are also not behind and they are, in the form of AoCs (IYCN) are doing their homework. The Climate Catalysts workshop, that took off in August 2014, and had its first workshop in Hyderabad city, has been empowering youth through these workshops. The two-day workshops have climate change science, global negotiations summary and policy reviews, interactive sessions with green entrepreneurs and sustainability practitioners, and group discussions among participants to understand the issue along with India’s role into climate change on its menu. The outcome so far – Hyderabad, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh – has been encouraging and the responses from the participating youth are making AoCs to achieve its goal of spreading knowledge on Climate Change.

While the ecological and environmental issues pertaining to India have been at the center of the discussions at the workshops, the youth have started to perceive the issue of Climate Change and to understand it as an imminent threat at national and regional level. The workshops are the groundwork for the Agents to present the youth’s opinion in the dialog of climate change at CoP. Amid the news of increasing levels of CO2 emissions, population growth, and action-inaction of the nation states to make the vulnerable future resilient, the information and knowledge can prove to be a powerful tool to fight for a livable, sustainable world.

*Manish Gautam is a researcher @Indian Institute for Human Settlements and member of Indian Youth Climate Network

1.https://unfccc.int/essential_background/the_science/items/6064.php

2.http://www.vox.com/2014/9/25/6843673/india-climate-change-stance-emissions-rise-30-years

3.http://www.c2es.org/international/key-country-policies/india/climate-plan-summary, http://envfor.nic.in/ccd-sapcc

  1. http://iycn.in/


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Exposing The Hypocrisy Of Modi Government On Environmental Issues

It is highly recommended that the new government change the name of “Ministry of Environment and Forest” to “Ministry of Environment and Forest Clearances”. The interview of Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar, in a news daily on 10th September is a reflection of the same. When the “honorable” minister was asked about the biggest achievement of his ministry, he proudly stated that the ministry has deleted the word ‘delay’ from its system and gives speedy approvals (to everything). What I inferred from it was that the ministry has changed its mandate from ‘environment protection’ to ‘environment clearance’ , and that is the achievement of 100 days of honeymoon.

This comes after our very own PM’s statement on climate change. According to him, it is not climate which is changing, it is humans who have changed. And for the same reason, a meagre Rs. 100 Cr. have been set aside for climate change adaptation.

Yes Mr. Prime Minister, humans have changed a lot, and through the change in their lifestyle, they have made climate far more variable than ever before. But probably our leadership is not aware of that. A day before the interview, in the same newspaper, it was mentioned that the carbon intensity of India has increased by 0.7% in 2013. None of these are good symptoms. We know that the agenda of our government is dictated by few obese merchant households, for whom, nothing matters other than profit. Still, people had some hope from the right wing, as they regularly give sermons on how ‘eco-friendliness’ is a part and parcel of our religion, culture and society.

The piece was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and is continued here


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These ‘Green Entrepreneurs’ Are Our Saviours In The Climate Emergency

Informal economy! I’m not sure whether any of the readers have had heard the term ‘informal economy’ ever before. As far as I know, the term is not there in school syllabus. It is apparently absent from Bachelors’ courses too. Informal economy workers are everywhere. Let me also make one thing very clear, that informal economy workers are neither illegal nor illegitimate children of the republic. It is definitely not the other name of black market.

Informal economy, at very basic level, means the economy or sectors which are not regularized or recognized by the state or other state actors. Most of the developing economies are known for large scale informalities in various sectors. South Asia, particularly India, is no different. According to the Employment & Unemployment Survey 2004-05, 84.7 % of Indians work in the informal economy, a majority of those are women and many fall in the category of youth. A street vendor selling vegetables, a cobbler repairing shoes, domestic help, waste picker collecting –sell-able or recyclable waste, agriculture labourer, carpenter and many more are all informal economy workers. They are the backbone of Indian economy. Their contribution to GDP is rarely acknowledged.

Most informal economy workers are poor, marginalized and in context of India, belong to erstwhile lower castes. They live in informal settlements which are disease prone, with no proper water and sanitation facilities. Their access to social, educational and nutritional security is lowest amongst most social groups. In recent years, a few welfare measures like right to food and right to education have come up, but they are too short of addressing the cores issues which make masses vulnerable.

In the troubled times like the ones we are living in, another monster is standing at our door. The monster is Climate Emergency. The nation-states have not taken any stringent action to mitigate the climate crisis. Instead, they agreed to have a 2 degree C rise in temperature without even knowing what it implies. This means that they have agreed to more floods, droughts, irregular rains and falling agriculture production.

The article was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and can be read here.


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10 Rare Things about Climate Change

By Dimple Ranpara, Project Survival Media

The science of climate change is quite intricate. We all have read about how Climate Change impacts the sea levels, the temperature of the atmosphere, the acidity of oceans and the threat it poses to biodiversity. These are the widely spoken and read about aspects. Scientists from all over the world are still debating on the fundamental question “What if global warming is just a natural cycle?”

While, we can ponder on those questions, let’s talk about some strange and intriguing things about Climate Change which are less known among the masses.

  1. A 190 years old discovery

A French mathematician, Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier, was the first to acknowledge a gradual warming of Earth in 1824. His experiments led to the process of determining atmospheric temperature which later was coined ‘greenhouse effect’.

  1. Mountains are getting taller

Mountains are scaling up as a result of global warming. Since the glaciers, those weigh them downwards and push them into the Earth for centuries, are melting. This has led the surface of the planet to “spring back”; increasing the mountain rise.

  1. Catastrophic Developing Nations

From the arctic and across the tropics, climate has a powerful impact – direct and indirect on human life. But 95% of weather-related natural-disasters deaths around the world have taken place in developing countries.

  1. Aggression on rise

With rising temperature, heart rates are also elevating. This leads to fiery tempers. Humans are more prepped for physical stimuli to situations of violence.

  1. Space satellites zzzooooop

The atmosphere’s density is decreasing with global warming. This means that there is less drag making objects like satellites move faster. As carbon dioxide molecules collide less frequently in the upper atmosphere, they cool the air surrounding them. So higher carbon dioxide means more cooling due to which air settles and density reduces.

  1. A century to clean

The gases in the atmosphere shall stay for years despite limiting its production. So even if the emissions are eliminated entirely, global warming led climate change would continue for least a century.

  1. No Romantic Dates

With rising temperatures, wines productions shall be hit drastically. Farmers will have to adapt to cut down on the excessive heat conditions. Similarly, it will be extremely difficult to cultivate cocoa and coffee. Oysters shall no longer exist on the food menu, for increasing acidity shall be highly non-conducive for its breeding.

  1. The Global “Warming” misnomer

Yes, our planet is getting warmer but the term tends to project a wrong impression on what’s really happening. ‘Global Warming is the average surface temperature of the entire planet’. But it doesn’t mean that temperatures shall rise everywhere and at the same time. Some places like Western Europe and North America can experience a massive deep freeze if melting sea ice shuns down huge ocean currents in the Atlantic Ocean.

  1. Survival of the Fittest

Springs are starting early, so birds might miss out on the worm. It might also have its genes passed on the next generation. As plants bloom early in the year, animals with their fixed time to migrate may miss out on the food. Thus, those who reset their internal clocks and set out earlier, stand a higher chance at having off-springs that survive and thus pass on their genetic information, thereby ultimately changing the genetic profile of their entire population.

  1. Prepare for the worst

Climate change is a chaotic (non-linear) process. Some parts of it are only dimly or not at all understood. No deterministic computer model shall be able to make an accurate prediction of the climate 100 years into the future ever. Can you imagine the unimaginable??

 

The rarity of these facts tells us that Climate Change is no myth, no expression, no terminology but an experience that every living and non-living form is a part of. It is not a mere destination but the journey, which we as travelers, have to undertake.

Nonetheless, it is upto us, to make it a painful or a sustainable one. The choice is clear!!

 

References:

http://www.usnews.com/news/energy/articles/2010/03/29/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-climate-change

http://fusion.net/american_dream/story/surprising-facts-global-warming-11684

http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/climate_change/facts/en/index1.html

http://www.climatechange.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=en&n=20A201A3-1

http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/weird-ways-climate-change-affects-daily-living?s=5

http://listverse.com/2014/08/03/10-things-you-didnt-know-were-completely-misnamed/

http://www.livescience.com/11350-top-10-surprising-results-global-warming.html

http://rense.com/general88/climchn.htm

 


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Climate crisis: An appeal to the governments of Pakistan and India

By Rina Saeed Khan and Kabir Arora

With Jammu and Kashmir inundated and Punjab in Pakistan flooded, the time bomb is ticking away. Climate change has been declared to be the greatest threat facing mankind this century.

South Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar are all vulnerable today.

We have not yet resolved the basic issues of poverty, hunger and inequality, which breed discontent and terrorism. And in these troubling times, we are forced to face the brunt of extreme weather events because of growing climate variability.

Recent scientific research shows near to virtual certainty of linkages between climate change and extreme weather events.

Climate change is a potent threat multiplier that will make all our problems much worse.

The investment on constructing Asia’s largest solar thermal power plant in the Cholistan Desert and subsidies to buy solar technology for households and institutions in India are good starting points for sustainable growth pathways to mitigate climate change. However, a lot more is expected from the South Asian leadership.

In India and Pakistan, we have popularly elected strong governments, who now should show pragmatic leadership to tackle the climate crisis.

Already a proposal has been submitted to the Pakistan government to request India, as part of the current “flood aid diplomacy” to establish a system for the real-time exchange of hydro-logical (rivers flow and reservoirs level) data between the two countries….

The article is originally published on dawn.com and can be read at here.

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