Why Checking Climate Change Needs an Entirely New Framework

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Two most prominently stated facts about climate change are—firstly, it is extremely important to check climate change and secondly, that greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced very significantly at a very fast pace, as scientifically determined. Both of these statements are absolutely correct. However if we confine ourselves just to these statements, then by themselves these can only give us a reductionist and isolationist understanding which, while technically correct, is not very helpful either for resolving this problem or for creating a better and safer world.

There is an urgent need to reformulate the climate change framework, a task to which this writer has devoted much attention and effort in recent times. On the basis of this study and effort I would like to reformulate the basic issue as follows—Climate change is a critical survival issue which should be resolved on the basis of urgency by creating a world based on peace and disarmament, justice and equality, real democracy and social harmony, simplicity (avoiding or reducing luxuries and consumerism) and caring, environment and bio-diversity protection with special emphasis on reducing GHG emissions and fossil fuels.

This reformulation seeks to establish an understanding of climate change which is well integrated with other, wider, equally urgent tasks as without such an integration isolationist efforts to check climate change, as presently exist, cannot progress much on their own limited agenda and strength ( as also evident from their recent record). What is worse, such isolationist efforts based on reductionist understanding distract attention from the real and bigger challenges and in this important context can even be counter-productive for the wider task of creating a better and safer world. The isolationism of present day efforts also carries the high risk of leading them to the blind alley of entering perhaps even more dangerous territories than the problems they are trying to resolve, as isolationist approaches generally depend too much on merely technological solutions while neglecting those related to social consciousness and creativity.

Climate change (as also several other serious environmental problems and increasing disasters) is a way of nature of telling humanity and more particularly its leaders that the current management of earth affairs and elite life patterns are not consistent with sustainability of basic life-nurturing conditions of planet and therefore must change in very significant ways. As the elites and their leaders are not willing to accept this, they instead create isolationist frameworks of checking climate change which protect their narrow interests but cannot succeed in resolving the basic problem. These can be self-defeating and even harmful, yet often succeed in creating a sense of false hope based on self-congratulatory talks and meetings. At the same time there are several steps backward rather than forward in terms of most real tasks needed.

To make a long story short, let us confine the discussion on real tasks here to just three aspects. Firstly, to protect sustainable livelihoods and provide healthy food to the world, we need a strong base of small farmers engaged in ecologically protective farming. Such worldwide efforts can in addition make an enormous contribution to climate change mitigation as well as adaptation. However, what big business interests frequently supported by various governments, are in fact doing is just the opposite of this by extending their ecologically destructive farming, trading and control patterns all over the world.

Secondly, it is increasingly realized that a range of very dangerous products and technologies are being promoted by big business interests, often with government support, which actually need to be significantly reduced. These products range from alcohol and various other intoxicants to a range of dangerous and frequently untested (or very inadequately tested) chemicals. While a two-third or so reduction in these products and gadgets (and the frequency of their use) will contribute greatly to protecting and improving physical and mental health, this will also contribute greatly to checking GHG emissions and climate change.

Thirdly, arms race and weapons have now reached a stage where these threaten the survival of all forms of life and where weapons production (and sale) is not just the means but even the cause of wars. So it is essential to have a future of no wars, of no weapons of mass destruction and of a huge, over two-thirds reduction of all weapons to ensure our safety and the safety of our children. Crucial as this is for our safety, this by itself will achieve a huge reduction in GHG emissions as well as war, war preparations and weapons together constitute the biggest emitter.

So while the list can be a much longer one, what has been shown above very briefly is that merely pursuing the most welfare-oriented agenda in just three areas can achieve reduction of GHG emissions in a huge way, while at the same time contributing also to creating a much safer and healthier world with much reduced hunger and deprivation. In this framework, checking climate agenda is not regarded as a huge burden but instead a host of most rational and welfare oriented changes are introduced in various sectors which simultaneously advance human welfare and check climate change. Replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy continues to get importance, but more of this in ways that integrate a host of welfare oriented rational changes in various sectors.

Briefly, we end by re-emphasizing that we need an all-inclusive agenda of integrating checking of climate change with broader objectives of peace, equality, justice, genuine democracy, environment and bio-diversity protection, while giving up the present isolationist, reductionist approach which has failed and is also deeply flawed conceptually.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders and A Day in 2071.

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