Climate change is a race against time. The sooner we find out, the better. It is possible to alleviate the urgent crisis by focusing on collective actions that include making sustainable lifestyle choices, discouraging fossil fuel industries, stepping up pressure on governments, and securing accountability at every level of governance. In addition, strict laws and an appropriate enforcement strategy to tax and penalize the giant corporations that are the biggest polluters are in the interest of every country, writes. AJIT SINGH.
OVID-19 has disrupted the personal and professional lives of most people. More than three million people around the world have died from the virus and in all sectors, people have lost their jobs and their livelihoods. The pandemic has been the greatest human tragedy the world has known in the past 100 years. Thanks to the indomitable efforts of the medical community, many lives have been saved and with more people vaccinated, herd immunity is likely to set in in the distant future. But there is an elephant in the room: climate change.
On June 5, we will observe World Environment Day and like every year, world leaders will tweet empty and empty promises to protect the environment and biodiversity.
Desperate Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg said: “Act like our house is on fire. What is needed is action on the ground. There are five key issues we need to work on so that the impact of climate change is minimized
Climate activism is somewhat lacking in countries of South Asia, Africa and South America. In poorer and developing countries this is believed to be an “elitist concern”, but according to data from The Economist, countries in these regions will be severely affected by the impact of climate change. From increasing frequent heat waves to rising mean sea level due to melting polar ice caps, people living in coastal areas and near the equator will be severely affected by the climate catastrophe.
Climate activism is needed to raise awareness and public participation should pressure governments to take steps in the right direction to mitigate climate change.
Lessons can be learned from Western youth where protests, strikes and demonstrations under the banners of Fridays of the future and Save the Earth The initiatives have gained momentum. With the heightened awareness of the climate among young voters, governments are at least pretending to act.
In Australia, the federal court referred to duty of care to protect young people from the climate crisis. This means that the government is obliged not to act in a way that would be detrimental to the health, well-being and safety of young people. It is extremely encouraging. This landmark judgment is also proof that climate activism works and that growing pressure can force governments and political parties to treat it as a pressing political issue.
This market for meat and dairy needs is responsible for the widespread destruction of habitat and overexploitation of limited resources, including indiscriminate cutting of trees, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and the release of methane and other harmful greenhouse gases from dairy animals.
Countries like New Zealand pay the price of being the world’s largest dairy farmer.
The use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers for pasture cultivation has increased in recent years. This resulted in excess fertilizer and cattle urine in the streams and led to eutrophication of the country’s main streams. This not only made two-thirds of the rivers and lakes non-swimmable, but uninhabitable for local fish and animals.
According to WHO data in 2018, around 820 million people, mostly from South Asia and Africa, did not have enough food to survive and efforts must be made for the wise use of valuable agricultural land to feed millions hungry people and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (Zero hunger) by 2030.
Laboratory-grown or cultured meat could be a viable alternative to slaughtered meat and this could help free up agricultural space for more productive use. However, its large-scale production and availability will decide whether it will play a significant role in reducing environmental dilemmas or whether it is simply an overrated solution.
Developed vs developing countries
The richest countries, especially those in Europe, built their royal empires and accumulated a colossal amount of wealth through imperialism and industrialization, both of which began in the late 15th and 18th centuries. respectively. Of the top 20 carbon emitters, Eleven are members of the OECD group.
Over time, developed countries have used fossil fuels like petroleum and coal to support industries and factories. They were responsible for a large part of the greenhouse gases and the least that could be expected of them was to take responsibility for them. They need to reduce their per capita carbon emissions, which are the highest in the world.
Second, richer countries must commit to providing monetary aid and subsidies to poorer countries to reduce their dependence on traditional sources of fuel.
Unfortunately it is do not arrive. Some relaxation could also be given with regard to intellectual property rights related to safer and cleaner technologies so that disadvantaged countries can use them easily without spending millions on R&D.
Promotion of electric vehicles
According to data from the climate analysis indicator tool (CAIT), of total global CO2 emissions, the transport sector contributes about 24 percent.
Three quarters of transport-related emissions come from road traffic alone. Most of it comes from passenger vehicles like cars and buses, which account for 45.1% of total CO2 emissions.
In cities and subways, the government can invest in public transport systems that should be heavily subsidized for students, the elderly and the target population so that people stop using their personal vehicles. Inexpensive and high-quality public transport will help reduce road accidents, as well as the carbon footprint of cities. It will also lead to more pedestrian friendly cities.
Governments can offer tax cuts and subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles (EVs) to increase their sales, which was fair 5 percent of global car sales in 2020.
It must also invest in the construction of road infrastructure and install public charging stations to facilitate interurban and long-distance travel. As for the cost of electric vehicles, which is quite high and unaffordable for most people in developing countries, we can use the economies of scale lower their prices.
Likewise, the nudge economy can also play a key role in influencing consumer behavior by raising awareness of the benefits of electric vehicles and the impact of their contribution to tackling climate change.
Strict laws are needed to limit industries and activities that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. A story by the Guardian found that only 20 companies were responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era.
Saudi Aramco, a state-owned company in Saudi Arabia, leads the rankings with 59.26 billion tonnes of carbon emissions since 1965.
Of these 20 companies, six are based in OECD countries and four in the United States. These oil, natural gas and coal operators were accused tax breaks, tax evasion and siphoning of funds to Bermuda, Bahamas, Virgin Islands and other tax havens.
All of these companies have managed to maintain an influential presence in the US Congress through powerful lobbies that ensure favorable laws and help them increase their profit margins each year. Strong laws and appropriate enforcement strategies to tax and penalize these giant corporations are in the interest of every nation. On a more positive note, some countries already have started, which could have a ripple effect in other countries as well.
Climate change is a race against time, the sooner we realize it the better. With cautious optimism, we can all agree that it is possible to alleviate the pressing crisis by focusing on collective actions that include sustainable lifestyle choices, discouraging fossil fuel industries, stepping up pressure on governments. and set accountability at each level of governance.
According to the 2018 studies by the University of Minnesota in the United States, the longer we wait to act, the more costly it will be to fight the climate crisis.
Research reveals that each year the cost of delay is close to $ 900 billion. The price of inaction is rising sharply and disproportionately every year.
For example, failing to mitigate climate change for five years will cost $ 23 trillion. Compare that with the 2008-09 subprime mortgage crisis that wiped out over $ 2 trillion in the global economy.
This is the scale of the climate crisis.
(Ajit Singh graduated in economics and is currently pursuing a diploma in education. He lives in Jabalpur, MP. Opinions expressed are personal.)