global warming earth

The growing disillusionment with the existing pace as well as the direction of the efforts for checking climate change is leading many people to explore the need for an alternative framework which can be more successful in checking climate change while at the same contributing much more to adaption aspects, and which is better integrated with important justice, equality and peace objectives as well.

Human beings (or their pets and captive animals) use a very diverse range of goods and services. These may be classified into consumption goods and services (for example bread or a musical instrument), infra-structure (roads we use), weapons and war/conflict related goods and services and finally capital goods (machinery and metals etc. needed to produce the other three categories mentioned above).

Most of the discussion on checking climate change has related to how these goods and services must be produced, mainly centering around replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. This is of course needed, this is very necessary. However if we put almost the entire burden of checking climate change on this, then renewable energy sources will have to be scaled up to a level which may not be possible , or a range of other very difficult problems will emerge ( very serious problems relating to false solutions like geo-engineering, large dams and nuclear plants are even better known) . What then is the way out?

We should also consider to what extent certain components of goods and services mentioned above can be reduced without reducing human welfare in any way, while at the same time getting various benefits including, significantly, a big reduction in greenhouse gas or GHG emissions.

Ideally, at a time of a range of survival threatening environmental problems including climate change, we should be capable of thinking in terms of a future without wars and arms race, a big reduction in crime and the accompanying reduction in the proliferation of civilian and police weapons as well, all within the realm of human efforts. In such a situation reduction of weapons production and use, military bases, activities, training etc. by over 90% within a decade should be possible, as also 99% elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. This should come with a guarantee that no military related jobs will be lost, and all will be absorbed at the existing salary and pension in more creative and welfare-enhancing jobs including ecological rehabilitation, disaster reduction and rescue. As the entire journey of weapons from raw material procurement to production and actual use is highly polluting and destructive, this can bring the biggest reduction in GHG emissions, other pollution and destruction.

Coming now to consumption, there are several categories of goods which can be reduced in significant amounts without reducing human welfare and in most cases adding to it. A very big reduction, over 70%, of alcohol, tobacco and all intoxicants is desirable and within the realm of possibility. Over 30% reduction of meat, particularly beef, may be possible, as also somewhat lesser reduction of dairy products, particularly in more wasteful forms. A reduction of several high salt, high sugar, high fat, high additive and chemical content unhealthy and highly processed foods is also clearly desirable. As far as super luxury goods and services consumed by only a small minority of the richest sections are concerned, most of these are highly polluting and can be avoided altogether. Wasteful forms of consumption should be avoided, starting with waste of water and food and extending to wasteful use of mobile phones and computers. Various pets and captive animals are also being brought up in highly wasteful ways which is not good for their own health, and hence these wasteful ways can be checked, allowing animals also to be closer to nature while also reducing pollution and GHG emissions.

Coming now to infra-structure, huge reduction of pollution can be achieved if we avoid over-building, unnecessary grandeur and are adequately careful about environment protection in construction activities. Air traffic should be reduced significantly, to be made up by other improvements.

All these efforts will reduce GHG emissions in a big way without reducing human welfare in any way, only adding to it.  The second aspect is that of producing and distributing goods and services in a different way. The biggest contribution can be made in changing ways of producing food, by shifting to agro-ecology, so that instead of production of food contributing a lot to GHG emissions, it can help in a big way in absorbing carbon in soil and forests. Regeneration of forests and pastures should become an important source of livelihoods for rural communities, particularly the more marginalized sections. While clear felling of natural forests should stop, livelihoods of rural communities should be related not to timber but to minor forest produce (leaves, flowers, fruits, seeds, medicinal herbs etc.) collected only in sustainable ways. Various communities should try to be as self-reliant as possible in food and feed, so that their transport across vast distances is avoided as far as possible, except to meet emergency needs. Small food processing and trading units should be encouraged. For consumption and production to be close to each other, encouragement should be extended not only in the context of food but in the case of several other daily needs, to the extent that it is practical and possible, facilitating smaller scale, low energy using units in place of giant companies (for example small handloom units in the context of textiles). Renewable energy should be encouraged at all levels, thereby reducing fossil fuels steadily.

Satisfactory housing and working places for all should be provided with green spaces in such a way that the need for highly energy-intensive devices for artificially cooling and heating houses and working places is minimized to where it is most essential. While creating future jobs, facilities for living close to working place in a campus or working from home should be increased.

The above agenda is adequate for checking climate change and this will at the same time resolve other aspects of the survival crisis. There is enough space within this for the supply of essential goods and services to increase for the poorer people so that all people can meet their basic needs. The availability of better education and health facilities (including safe contraception methods) to all should be accompanied by other encouragement (but no coercion) for smaller families, preferably one or two child families. There should be a continuing campaign for discouraging consumerism and the related endless quest for more material goods, while at the same time social relationships at all levels should be improved.

This provides an agenda of common universal aims, whose implementation can be facilitated by generous donations by industrial and rich countries that have historically contributed more to climate change and continue to have higher per capita GHG emissions.

This is an agenda for resolving climate change and other survival issues which is well integrated with other highly desirable objectives of increasing/improving equality, justice, peace and democracy. This agenda of course will need governance reform which in turn can be towards overall improvement of democracy as well.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders.


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