Climate conundrum

March 01, 2014 - 5:27:26 am

While some global issues remain in the spotlight, climate change faces the crisis of priority. 

While political upheavals beset the world and its people, affecting hundreds of thousands directly — Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and lately Ukraine, are examples — something that keeps happening everyday and with gruesome intensity is intermittently forgotten. Either a conference brings out the seriousness of the subject or an advocacy group comes up with an innovative idea to protest — like Greenpeace members did against Russia drilling for oil in the Arctic. Once in a while, a politician makes a statement against the most feared of phenomena — climate change. David Cameron did it on Wednesday in the Parliament when he called it one of the most serious of threats. 

The Americans, especially those living in the east and Midwest felt the bite of winter in the worst possible way this year. The draft from the Polar Vortex, a huge mass of cold air, precipitated by the shifting Jet Stream froze vast swathes of the United States, bringing to a halt flights and trains and disrupting normal life for days. 

Man-made climate change continues to hit us every moment. From the pristine climes of Chicago in the Western Hemisphere to the hazy and toxic environs of Beijing, it is the climate that is making life miserable for everyone. While the cold blast made it hard for residents of Chicago, those in Beijing are always seen sporting a pollution mask. Not only has suspended particulate matter (spm) been a threat, latest studies show that respiratory suspended particulate matter (rspm) can also enter the bloodstream through the lungs. 

Climate change conferences are held periodically with a lot of hope. They start with much on the agenda but end with empty platitudes. The UN climate meet becomes a platform for the developed and developing world to collide with a lot of sparks flying that coalesce into promises of carbon credits and emission targets. What comes out in the end doesn’t contribute much to the solution to the problem. Thermal power plants keep spewing venom into the air, aircraft remain flying chimneys, public transport keeps enforcement authorities on their toes and widespread corruption ensures that green norms are not implemented. 

The issue of climate change suffers from a crisis of priority. Natural calamities — which are again often inspired by climate change, political upheavals, crises of democracy, fight against poverty, healthcare, terrorism, economic issues, problems faced by children, women’s rights and the like keep occupying our minds. International sports events take a lot of time and energy of nations with resources, during which the last thing a government does is care about the climate. 

The global fight against terrorism and surge in healthcare spending to fight diseases has built up a tempo that is far ahead of what the battle to fight climate change has achieved. It is not that one cannot fight climate change, what is needed is the realisation that it is at least as important as other global issues.