Planet on the Boil: Twinkle-Uncle Dialogue on Climate Stalemate
Uncle: There are varied and different opinions about the climate crisis. How do we understand these differences, Twinkle? I hear, the greenhouse effect was discussed by the French mathematician Joseph Fourier some two hundred years ago. Most recently the Nobel Prize for Physics for 2021 was awarded to climatologists Syukuro Manabe of Princeton University, US; Klaus Hasselmann of Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany; and physicist Giorgio Parisi of Sapienza University of Rome, Italy. The first two got the prize “for the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.” The third won the prize “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.”
Twinkle: Yes, uncle, depending on their politics, some people take the issue seriously and others pooh-pooh it. We can mark these two positions at the extreme ends of a continuum. And in between these two stands, we can identify a whole array of other positions. Let us distinguish two of them: those who babble something without clear understanding of the issue, and those who confuse and mislead the public intentionally for their own socio-economic-political gains. In brief, these are the four A, B, C, D positions we can discern:
Acceptors – Babblers – Confusers – Deniers
Uncle: Wow, that’s very useful. Tell me more about the A position, Twinkle.
Twinkle: A stands for Acceptors. They do acknowledge the presence of the issue and that is the most important first step in dealing with the crisis.
George Monbiot’s Heat, Fred Pearce’s When the Rivers Run Dry, and The Rough Guide to Climate Change, Jonathan Neal’s Stop Global Warming: Change the World (Bookmarks, 2008), and Mark Lynas’ Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet (Fourth Estata, 2007) are some of the important books that are out there accepting the climate crisis.
Udganda’s President Yuveri Museveni called the rising emissions as “an act of aggression” by the rich nations against the poor. At the COP26 talks, President of Palau, a tiny Pacific island nation, said, “You might as well bomb us.” In his recent book, The Nutmeg’s Curse, celebrated writer Amitav Ghosh calls the climate problem a “planetary crisis” which he describes as “a kind of bio-political war, akin to those of the past.”
In the run-up to the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, the UN did a campaign called ‘We The Change’ and selected 18 young men and women for their pioneering work in India. These people, aged between 18 and 33, were chosen for their work in areas ranging from conserving water in restaurants to saving Olive-Ridley turtles from trawlers, from turning factory waste to fashion to using community radio to spread awareness in local dialects.
Uncle: Who are the B’s?
Twinkle: They are the Babblers. Right after the Glasgow summit meeting in 2022, Greta Thunberg, the 17-year-old Finnish climate activist branded the insincere statements of some of the world leaders as “blah, blah, blah.” Vinisha Umashankar, a class 10 student from Tamil Nadu, India, said that young people had every reason to be angry with leaders who had failed to deliver. The younger generation is upset with these babblers. For instance, in a ‘tongue in cheek’ type article, one columnist suggested cannibalism to the environmentalists going to meet in Copenhagen to discuss the climate crisis. If we could not reduce emissions by reducing industrial activity and road-rail-air travel, he proposed, “let’s reduce the final cause of those emissions: people” by feeding human greed with humans. The babblers lack genuine understanding of the issue and its serious impacts on the globe.
Uncle: And the C’s?
Twinkle: They are the Confusers. They contradict themselves and go back and forth on the issue at hand without a clear understanding or a concrete position. For instance, the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak decided not to attend the UN climate meet, COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh, Egypt, as he was focused on preparing an autumn budgetary statement. Then in a sudden U-turn, Sunak tweeted: “There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change. There is no energy security without investing in renewable. That is why I will attend @COP27P next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.” Britain’s shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband hit the nail on the head when he said: “Yet again we see a Prime Minister who only makes decisions for reasons of political management, not the national interest.”
Justice S. Srimathy of the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court declared ‘Mother Nature’ as a “living being” having the status of a legal person with all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person, in order to preserve and conserve it. All this is done to direct the State and Central governments to take appropriate steps to protect ‘Mother Nature.’
I’d give one more example. India pushed for a deal at COP27 to phase down all fossil fuels , oil, gas and coal, rather than just focusing on coal as agreed upon at COP26 in Glasgow. Oil and gas-exporting countries would certainly not accept this idea as it should hurt demand for their fossil fuels.
Rohan Chakravarty’s ‘Green Humour’ comic strip entitled “Western Leaders at COP27” (in The Hindu, October 9, 2022) sums up the Confusers’ stand precisely. In the first strip, one Western leader asks the others: “Guys, guys! And ideas about how to solve our energy crisis other than switching back to coal?” And the second strip depicts them all burning a heap of coal and dumping some papers onto it, and exclaiming: “Yes, let’s also burn decades of our climate vows!”
The writer is a social and Green political activist from the southernmost tip of the South Asian peninsula, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Shubashree Desikan, “Explaining the global warming phenomenon,” The Hindu, October 10, 2021.
 Amit Baruah, “’Planetary crisis is a kind of bio-political war, akin to those of the past,” The Hindu, November 19, 2021.
 Bindu Gopal Rao and Divya Gandhi, “The Climate Crusaders,” The Hindu, November 7, 2021.
 “Tamil Nadu teenager Vinisha Umashanker makes a clarion call at COP26,” The Hindu, November 3, 2021.
 Jug Suraiya, “Cannibal climate,” The Times of India, November 25, 2009.
 Sriram Lakshman, “In a U-turn, Ridhi Sunak says he will attend COP27 in Egypt,” The Hindu, November 3, 2022.
 “’Mother Nature’ a ‘living being’ with legal entity: Madras HC,” The Hindu, April 30, 2022.
 “Climate change debates stall while the Earth heats up,” The Hindu, November 15, 2022.