There are four certainties about the issue of climate change which should not be disputed any more. Firstly, it is a very serious problem, a leading problem among those problems which threaten the life-nurturing conditions of our planet. Secondly, a big reduction of fossil fuels in the near future is a necessary condition for resolving this problem while at the same several other steps are needed. Thirdly, since becoming aware of the seriousness of this issue, humanity has lagged far behind in responding to this challenge of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Last but not the least, several powerful interests have already emerged to distort the climate change issue and response to it in such ways as to use this for selfish ends, thereby making the right choices much more difficult.

Now the question is—where do we go from here?

At the risk of some simplification, I would suggest there are two paths ahead, and we must make the right choice before more damage is caused by walking on the wrong one.

On the first path, all sorts of powerful and selfish interests, including fossil fuel companies, are allowed to distort the climate change response to reduce its effectiveness while at the same time keeping it within the existing and worsening framework of injustice and inequality, wars and weaponry, inherently destructive towards environment. On this path the richest countries are likely to try to use a highly distorted agenda of climate change to inflict even more injustice on poorer countries and to increase their grip on them. On this path authoritarian forces are also likely to misuse a distorted agenda of climate change to advance their own interests. Big corporate interests are likely to use this agenda to grab more land, to increase their profits and control. These corporate interests are likely to very badly mess up even work such as planting more trees and spreading climate resilient farming (such work is really needed but not in ways that corporate interests adopt in order to align such work to their own selfish objectives). On this path highly suspect geo-engineering projects, with the possibility of very serious harm, are likely to be taken up and highly dubious, even dangerous solutions which suit big business interests are likely to be suggested.

The second path is the path of justice, equality, peace, protection of environment and all forms of life (JEPP) in which overdue changes needed for creating a better and safer world get the top priority in a holistic sense and a comprehensive agenda of climate change mitigation and adaptation is well integrated with this larger agenda of JEPP. This path will seek to integrate the reduction of GHG emissions with meeting the basic needs of all people, an effort which also involves the reduction of inequalities to a very significant extent. Hence this path seeks to obtain the close and enthusiastic involvement of a very large number of people, particularly from from the bottom half of the population, for resolving climate change mitigation and adaptation. This path seeks to integrate their sustainable, creative and satisfactory livelihoods with climate change mitigation and adaptation, particularly in farming, production-processing-distribution of food, in protection of forests and increasing forest cover in ways in which newly created forests resemble naturally growing forests as much as possible, in crafts and artisanal work which combines beauty and utility. On this path justice-based rural and community life lived in conformity with protection of environment and all forms of life gets public support and encouragement in significant ways. Peaceful, simpler ways of living, based on real needs and not greed, are integrated with peace at the world level, with disarmament and a no-wars future.

Surely it is the second path we need to follow.  However presently our troubled world is on the first path and so needs to move to the second path. A lot of effort and struggle are involved in this as we are on the wrong path precisely because very powerful interests pushed us here and want us to remain here. This effort must be made because we cannot reach our destination (success in climate change mitigation and adaptation) by walking on the wrong path.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, Protecting Earth for Children and A Day in 2071.

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