Rough weather ahead

April 01, 2014 - 6:36:38 am

A stark warning by a UN report on climate should goad the world into action.

Scientists meeting in Yokohama have come out with a damning indictment of the way climate change is being handled. Issuing a stark warning about the most dangerous challenge facing humanity, the UN report paints a gloomy and disappointing picture of the future of humanity if there is no action to contain the surge in greenhouse gases that are primarily responsible for the rise in global temperatures.

The post-Industrial Revolution society has seen a surge in automation processes — the automobile, heavy machinery, chemical processes and burning of fossil fuels — leading to a debilitating load on natural systems like air and water. The atmosphere, with its vital mixture of gases has become the biggest casualty in an intrigue of development that has leapfrogged society into new paradigms featuring systems providing the highest comfort levels. Gas is extracted to provide warming across half the world where winter temperatures make life hard. Petrol and diesel are used not only in public transport, but also in luxurious gas guzzlers like private aircraft and large trucks used for something as banal as buying daily provisions.  The report warns that our health, homes, food, and safety are all threatened by rising temperatures. 

The report, partly leaked last week in the media, as expected has come out with a harsh critique of the indifference with which climate change has been treated. It says people will be affected by flooding and heat-related mortality. The report warns of new risks including the threat to those who work outside, such as farmers and construction workers. There are concerns raised over migration linked to climate change, as well as conflict and national security.

Report co-author Maggie Opondo of the University of Nairobi said that in places such as Africa, climate change and extreme events mean “people are going to become more vulnerable to sinking deeper into poverty”. By drawing a link between climate change and migration, the report has stirred a subject that has political ramifications across the globe. Displacement of people affected by conflicts is an issue already being debated by the international community and informs major discussions at the United Nations. Some nations are already grappling with conflict related migration. If climate change is going to drive exodus, the world doesn’t have much time to ponder.  Climate has been the most vexed issue confronting humanity recently. It is a war in its own way. At major international forums, what divides nations the most after border disputes is who should foot the bill of rising carbon emissions. Increasing carbon footprint is driving the agenda of international environmental organisations and pushing groups like Greenpeace to work harder.

The report shouldn’t become another document to shed tears over. It should propel major world powers into immediate action beyond the sanctity of avowed steps.