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Tribune Special

Posted at: Dec 30, 2018, 1:53 AM; last updated: Dec 30, 2018, 1:53 AM (IST)ENVIRONMENT

No one to rein in climate change

It was more talk and less work as governments failed to meet targets

Kerala floods: Centre-State standoff

  • Unprecedented rains in coastal Kerala led to a blame game between the state and the Centre. Kerala Chief Minister Pinayari Vijayan told the state Assembly that the rainfall between August 9 and 15 was over three times higher than central forecasting agency IMD's forecast. Refuting any lapses, the Centre said the IMD had issued all necessary severe weather warnings through its office in Thiruvananthapuram.

Stubble solutions

  • As plains of North, particularly the Capital, bore the brunt of recurring problem of stubble burning, a good news came in the form of reports of an environment-friendly, low-cost waste decomposer costing only around Rs 20. It can turn environment and health incapacitating stubble into something that can actually breathe fresh lease of life into the soil. Within 20-25 days of its spray, the stubble automatically decomposes in the field.

Vibha Sharma

Environment-wise, 2018 was pretty much a repeat. There was this whole lot of talk, and more talk, in fact a series of high-level international meetings on how to reduce greenhouse gasses, control temperatures, curb fossil fuels, create carbon sinks, etc. in order to combat climate change unfolding right now.    

 It was a year that again saw major parts of the world, including India, China, Japan, Europe and the US, battle worsening proofs of global warming — floods, heatwaves, super storms, cyclones, dust storms and devastating fires. And, despite this massive international buzz about the urgency to do something to prevent climate change from spiraling out of control, official negotiations landed nowhere close to what needs to be done to limit the damage to a median level, let alone eliminate it completely.

 So, it was again about your development versus my development. In a competitive world, who could afford to cede economic positions, especially amid signs of a slowdown?

So the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP24, that marked the culmination of three years of negotiations since Paris COP 21 in 2015, ended with a Paris Agreement rule-book and mixed responses.

 For some, the Katowice package was “weak on ambition” especially when countries even failed to agree on measures to avert climate change, for others it was “fairly substantive”, a foundation-building trust in multilateralism, largely on expected lines and positions.

The fact is that governments are not doing enough to meet climate targets, whatever they may say. 

Floods in Kerala and Tibet, rain shadow areas, and forest fires in California are all a proof that intense weather events are no longer once-in-a-century but once-every-10-year event now. Assam and Mizoram, Indian scientists say, need to be watched carefully for the vulnerability factor of the Himalayas.

The man-made causes — deforestation, badly-executed urbanisation, destruction of catchment areas, complete disregard for air, water, rivers, plains, hills and mountains — are piling up.   

Unprecedented violent dust storms and thunderstorms lashed plains of the North in the pre-monsoon period, which many read as forewarning of an impending ecological disaster — the making of a “dust bowl”. This was quite similar to the “dust bowl” situation of the 1930s’ America when severe dust storms lasting nearly a decade damaged ecology and agriculture, leading to mass-scale migration.

Then in monsoon, coastal Kerala received “exceptional and unprecedented” heavy rainfall in the catchment areas and so did Himachal and Uttarakhand, all perils of the greed of humanity.

The question is: Can it be business as usual with everyone telling others to correct course?  There are some disbelievers who pooh-pooh the idea of climate change and all the noise, for instance, about air pollution in Delhi. “Delhi always had bad weather days during October/November. Now that the government has come out with this air quality index, companies are using it to create a scare for commercial interests,” an official said. 

The business of air pollution

Smog in the Capital has made way for new business opportunities. The air purifiers’ industry is picking pace while those selling ‘oxygen-generating’ plants are doing brisk business. From ‘FDA-approved’ cans of oxygen to pollution masks, the nascent air industry seems to be on a roll. 

GM controversy

An article on GM crops co-authored by Prof MS Swaminathan and geneticist PC Kesavan created a major controversy. Swaminathan distanced himself from the piece that raised concerns about their environmental harm. It said some GM crops also exhibit geno-toxic effects or chemicals that can damage genetic information. 

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