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Global Warming and resultant Climate Change

GLOBAL WARMING IN THE INDIAN CONTEXT

An Introductory Overview

This booklet is based on conversations with many people from different states, chats with fellow-activists, public meetings and talks, activist reports, state action plans on climate change, India’s INDC and other government publications, EDGAR data, IPCC reports, books, and scientific papers. I have largely avoided giving references so it does not become academic. A list of published material and online sources are provided at the end.

The booklet is mainly aimed at college and university students and teachers in towns and cities, other young people, activists, and anyone interested in a basic overview. Its broad purpose is to urge greater engagement, whether individual or collective, with the issue of global warming. A few suggestions about what one could do are offered.

– Nagraj Adve, 17 July 2019

 

What they told us in Gujarat

A few years ago, a group of us went to northern and eastern Gujarat to find out how climate change was affecting small farmers there. In villages in eastern Gujarat, they told us that the wheat and maize crops had been getting hit for some years during winter. Wheat and maize are important sources of nutrition for poor households in these and nearby regions. But because winters have been getting warmer, the dew (os) had lessened, or stopped entirely for the last few years. For those without wells—most of them poor households—dew is the only source of moisture for their crop. With less or no dew falling, either their crop dried up, or they were being forced to leave their lands fallow.

When we asked them why the winters had been getting milder, the people’s response there was interesting: “Prakruti ki baat hai (it has to do with Nature).” They did not consider it imaginable that human beings had the power to alter Nature on this scale. We do.

 

The Earth’s razai is getting thicker

Whenever we burn coal, gas, and oil—the fossil fuels that are the engine of all modern societies, now and for the last 250 years—the carbon in those fuels combines with oxygen in the atmosphere to form carbon dioxide (CO2). Like oxygen, it is invisible; nor can it be smelt. Unlike oxygen, carbon dioxide has the capacity to absorb and trap some of the invisible heat radiation emitted by the Earth. There are other gases that do this, such as methane (from natural gas) and nitrous oxide (from fertilizers), but carbon dioxide is the most important because it lasts for tens of thousands of years in the atmosphere. For that reason, and for simplicity, I will largely focus on carbon dioxide in this booklet.

Carbon dioxide though is not the villain; in fact, it is essential to life on Earth. Without carbon dioxide being naturally present in the atmosphere, the Earth would have been 30 degrees Celsius colder, and not habitable for humans. It is this presence of carbon dioxide that maintained temperatures which helped the growth of agriculture and the spread of human civilizations.

But we have been adding to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We dig coal, oil, and gas out from under the Earth, and burn these fossil fuels to run factories, make cement, drive cars, generate electricity and light up our homes, make steel, run ACs, fly planes, transport goods, fight wars. Some of this is essential activity, some socially wasteful, and some extremely damaging. In such activity, the world as a whole sent up 37 billion tonnes (1 tonne = 1,000 kilos) of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and cement production in 2017, the latest year for which worldwide data is available [EDGAR data]. Another four billion tonnes of carbon dioxide got added by cutting forests and forest fires; when wood burns or rots, it emits CO2.

The contribution of the other greenhouse gases is calculated as an equivalent of carbon dioxide in their capacity to cause warming. Methane’s share is nine billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent, and nitrous oxide and other gases, four billion tonnes. Hence a single year’s emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide totalled 53 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent. And more, year after year.

Our rate of carbon emissions is far more than the Earth’s natural capacity to absorb it. Since 1750, little over a quarter of all the carbon dioxide we emitted has been absorbed by the oceans; it has made their waters much more acidic. About the same amount has been taken up by trees, soil, and grass, etc on land. The rest—little under half—has remained in the atmosphere. In 2018, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere averaged 406 parts per million (ppm). It was 278 ppm at the start of the Industrial Revolution, and 315 ppm when daily records first began to be maintained in 1958. It has not crossed 400 ppm for the last four million years.

Up there in the atmosphere, it acts like an invisible razai, or blanket. As we know, a blanket does not create its own warmth, it traps heat. Similarly, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other greenhouse gases trap some of the invisible heat radiation emitted by the Earth, and hence cause global warming. Adding over fifty billion tonnes of carbon dioxide and other gases to the atmosphere each year is like adding layer after layer to the blankets we have already covered ourselves with. A thicker blanket traps even more heat.

The excess heat being trapped by these gases is so massive, it’s equal to the energy of four Hiroshima nuclear bombs every second, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Over ninety per cent of it goes into the oceans, because water has a high heat absorption capacity. What’s left melts the glaciers and ice, warms the soils, etc. Making the oceans warmer is disrupting the hydrological/rainfall cycle, makes cyclones more intense, and causes sea level rise.

Global warming is measured by taking the air temperature just above the land and ocean surface and seeing how it has changed over time. This is done at thousands of locations all over the globe, since 1880. How much warmer has India become? Average temperatures here have increased by about 0.8⁰ C since 1901. But the rate of warming has speeded up since 1981, and our average temperature is rising by 0.17⁰C per decade. And this temperature rise is only an average; the Himalaya is warming twice as fast. And heat spikes and heat stress have become more common in a warmer India.

What about the world as a whole? Scientists compare current average temperatures with the baseline average of 1880–1920, a reliable substitute for temperatures at the start of the Industrial Revolution. The Earth is currently (in mid-2019), after accounting for short-term variability and natural fluctuations, 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than the pre-industrial average. Again, some regions and ecosystems, such as the Arctic, North Africa, and southern Europe are warming a lot faster. These increases may not seem large, but planetary systems and many life forms are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature.

One crucial point here: all the warming does not happen as soon as carbon is sent into the atmosphere. There is a gap of many years between heat going into the oceans and the full surface warming it causes. Hence, some of the heat taken up by the oceans, a consequence of the billions of tonnes of greenhouse gases we have emitted over the last few decades, are yet to be felt. This unavoidable, further warming will be at least another 0.6 degrees Celsius, likely higher, over and above the current 1.1 degree C rise.

 

Who is responsible for global warming?

There are different ways of approaching this question. World over, by sector, the energy sector is responsible for 35% of greenhouse gas emissions, agriculture, deforestation, and forest fires 24%, industry 21%, transport 14%, and buildings 6%. If one includes the heat and electricity used by each sector (indirect emissions), the share of industry rises to 31%, and buildings to 19% (IPCC, Synthesis Report 2014, p 46). This sectoral data implies that we need to broaden our thinking and interventions to all transformations in all sectors, not just on coal/electricity/energy. Different systems need to change.

Another approach is: which areas are emissions coming from? Only 30 per cent comes from rural areas. As much as 70 per cent comes from urban areas, which tend to have a lot of wasteful consumption by the better-off, air-conditioning, malls, etc. For instance, over 35 per cent of electricity used in Mumbai is consumed running ACs, personal and commercial. Cities also have a lot of structures, which though used by most people, take a lot of resources and energy to build, such as bridges, Metros, flyovers, etc.

A third way—a very common approach—is to see which nation is responsible for how much emissions. China, at about 10.9 billion tonnes out of the total of 37 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2017 [EDGAR data], has leapt way past the United States (5.1 billion tonnes). India at 2.5 billion tonnes is a distant third, followed by Russia (1.8 billion tonnes), and Japan (1.3 billion). The EU totals 3.5 Gt CO2. Include methane and other gases, and India’s total jumps to nearly 3 billion tonnes of CO2-equivalent.

The US’ and Europe’s emissions per person though are a lot higher than China’s or India’s. It is even higher if one considers per capita emissions based on consumption. Taking imports into account, each North American currently emits each year on average 22 tonnes of greenhouse gases, a European 13 tonnes, an average Chinese 6 tonnes, and a person from South Asia 2.2 tonnes, compared to a world average of 6.2 tonnes (Chancel and Piketty). It is also higher if one were to consider the historical emissions of industrialized countries, what each country has emitted since the start of their industrialization.

Each of these frameworks has its merits, and would strengthen some of our demands, such as, say, that more public transport is necessary, or that rich, industrialized countries pay for the ecological damage they have caused. But they do not address issues at the heart of global warming. At the core of the problem are forces driving the modern capitalist economy, primarily the relentless quest for profits and growth. Also crucial are the growing differences in incomes, consumption, and wealth, in India and worldwide.

These factors have also caused a range of other ecological crises, both local (air and water pollution), and global, such as biodiversity loss, overfishing, deforestation, loss of species, resource depletion, plastic in the oceans, etc. A landmark report released worldwide on 6 May 2019 said that one million animal and plant species already face extinction, many within decades. Land degradation has occurred on 23% of the global land surface. Urban areas have doubled since 1992. Plastic pollution has increased ten-fold since 1990. Wetlands have shrunk by 83% since 1700. Though our main concern in this booklet is global warming, these extraordinarily grave crises have common roots.

 

The roots of the problem

The development of industrial capitalism powered by fossil fuels around the late 18th century marks a radical shift for what we are discussing.

One, in the use of energy sources. Although coal was used in London and a few other cities for some centuries earlier, the scale of its use, with the spread of the industrial factory system in England in the late 18th century and the development of railways, was qualitatively different and massive. Emissions from oil began in 1870, and from gas in 1885; all these three fossil fuels—coal, oil, and gas—are very energy- and carbon-intensive.

Two, profits—from anything—became a primary driver. Corporations profit by using the cheapest sources of labour and raw materials. By making workers work for longer hours, and making them work faster. Companies also profit from exploiting Nature. They do so by gaining access and control over the commons resources used by and meant for everybody, such as forests, coastlines, the seas, and rivers, and by land grabs. It is not a coincidence that China became the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide in recent years. By the first decade of this century, manufacturing, urbanization, and other infrastructure had expanded massively in China, which has lots of coal and relatively cheap labour. By 2015, it was making a quarter of all the world’s goods! Though this generated millions of stressful jobs, it came at a huge ecological cost, for Chinese people and for the world. But then corporations seek to maximize profit at any cost, the people and environment be damned.

Some of the surplus they extract is reinvested in the company to expand the business—buying new buildings, machines, computers. This accumulation, with the objective of making further profits, is a compulsion for all businesses. Because of competition, companies that do not do this would over time stagnate and close down, or be bought up by others. And because it is a compulsion, they can’t stop trying to reinvest and expand. Maximizing profit, accumulation, and perpetually seeking growth are part of capitalism’s DNA.

As a consequence, the world economy, which grew at barely 0.1 per cent a year for well over a thousand years before 1700, has grown much faster since. Economic growth—calculated for a state, country, or the world as a whole—is a rise or fall in output, value of service, or income over a period, usually a year. Inching along for centuries before that, the world economy grew at 1.6% a year between 1700 and 2012, and in the last seventy years at over 3.5% a year (Thomas Piketty’s data). In 1820, global output was 694 billion dollars, in 1917, it was 2.7 trillion (a thousand billion) dollars. By 1973, it had grown to 16 trillion dollars; by 2003, 41 trillion. In 2018, the world’s annual GDP was over 84 trillion dollars (IMF data). It keeps ballooning, and in larger volumes. Keeping in step, half of all carbon dioxide emissions since the mid-18th century has occurred just since 1986.

World economic growth is currently 3% a year, and is expected to continue at approximately that rate for some years. Carbon emissions don’t rise at the same rate as GDP; that depends on our energy mix of renewables and fossil fuels, and how efficiently our products and activity use energy. Over the past twenty-five years, CO2 emissions for the world as a whole have risen 0.5 per cent for every one per cent rise in world GDP, that is, at half the rate of GDP growth. That improved in recent years as coal consumption slowed down in China, the US and other major economies use more gas, and the prices of renewables, particular solar power, fell sharply. Carbon dioxide emissions were flat for three years, raising illusions of a decarbonization of the world economy. But they rose again in 2017, and greenhouse gas emissions as a whole continued to rise throughout that period. The science demands that emissions should fall sharply, by 6% each year, to reach safer levels in the atmosphere. However, worldwide economic growth, at 3% or thereabouts, would mean that overall greenhouse gas emissions will continue to rise, in spurts, particularly from the expanded use of oil and gas.

To sum up, the roots of global warming lie in the inherent drivers of the world economy — maximizing profits and growth. Those who see and discuss the issue only in nation-state terms or in other frameworks miss this underlying logic. Most public meetings I attend are silent about it. We can’t hope to solve a problem if we have not defined it correctly in the first place.

 

Emissions, Unequal Consumption, and Wealth

How many gadgets does one use regularly at home? Does the house have a fridge, one AC, more than one AC? Do we take a bus, the metro, or drive a car? Our carbon emissions depend on all of these things. When going out of town, do we take the train, or fly? Say, if you took a train from Bombay to Delhi—1,384 kilometres—you would emit roughly 31 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide. In a plane, each passenger would emit over 150 kgs. And they would cause 13 times as much warming as someone taking the train, because planes emit condensation trails that trap even more heat.

All of this obviously depends on one’s income and consumption, which are strongly connected. The huge differences of incomes and wealth in India have deepened over the last twenty-five years. There has been some improvement in the lives of sections of the poor either due to government policy (for example, the expansion or upgradation of the village road network by nearly 5,00,000 kilometres since 2001), or the spread of mobile phones, or the rise in agricultural wages until 2013, but this improvement has been partial and unequal. Incomes and consumption of the better-off have risen sharply, and there’s been an explosion in the wealth of the very rich: 1% of Indians own 58% of the country’s wealth, says a recent report. At the same time, the real wages of factory workers (after taking inflation into account) was 5% lower in 2014 than they were in 1996.

This deepening inequality is reflected in energy access and use. Though the number of households with access to electricity has risen in recent years, yet over 250 million people, including about 25 million in urban areas, don’t have access to any electricity in their homes even now, and another 300 million get it for a scant few hours daily. This is despite the fact that India’s electricity generation capacity has trebled over the past decade, to well over 3 lakh megawatts (3,49,288 MW as of 20 Feb 2019).

A colleague conducted workshops in colleges in Delhi on measuring how much carbon dioxide a household emits. With his help in working through the numbers, we found that most of Delhi’s middle class emits 4–5 tonnes of CO2 per person a year; the rich households in India emit much higher, European levels. Factory workers and security guards earn Rs 8,000–9,000 a month. Domestic workers take home Rs 5,000–6,000. Agricultural workers’ earnings are seasonal. How much carbon dioxide can they possibly emit?

Inequalities in emissions from current incomes and consumption are deepened by inequalities in emissions embodied in the products and property one owns. To take just two examples: in a car—which just 5% of India’s population owns—3,500 kg of carbon dioxide are emitted just in making the aluminium that goes into the car, because the process is so energy-intensive. Or take a house. The larger or more pucca one’s home, the higher the embodied emissions in it, because cement manufacture—like aluminium—is a huge source of carbon dioxide. And it has become common for the upper middle class or the rich in India to have at least two houses, one where they live and one more “in the hills”.

A nation-state framework of analysing global warming chooses to ignore these huge internal differences of income and wealth. The stand of successive Indian governments has been that “India’s per capita emissions are low”. It is hiding behind the poor. There is no one ‘India’. In international negotiations, the government rightly argues for equity between nations. But the principle of equity should also apply within a nation, not only between nations. Greater equity implies that the rich in India should be made to consume less than they do, through higher income and wealth taxes, and a progressive carbon tax. That is one way there can be ecological space for the poor to improve their lives further. How we ensure that and yet generate decent work and employment for the millions of young people seeking jobs each year is a key question.

 

IMPACTS OF GLOBAL WARMING

Before we consider impacts in India and elsewhere, a few things are useful to keep in mind:

– Unlike most other forms of pollution, the source of carbon dioxide and where its effects are felt can be very far apart. Carbon dioxide generated in the United States affects the Maldives.

– A significant portion of carbon dioxide emitted today will remain in the atmosphere for centuries, influencing future climates.

– Higher temperatures and climate change is largely irreversible for a thousand years even after carbon emissions stop entirely. Hence, climate change is the new ‘normal’.

– Impacts will worsen. Some of it is unavoidable. Our urgent intervention is needed to make sure they do not get much worse, and that the situation does not spiral out of our control.

 

Major Impacts of Global Warming in India

Climate change adds on to all the other issues facing small and marginal farmers, the urban poor and other communities—higher costs of seeds, fertilizers and other inputs; falling groundwater levels; insufficient income from small agriculture; landlessness among Dalits; takeover of commons resources by industry; land alienation among adivasis; land and other property not being in the woman’s name; rising costs of health care in urban areas, etc. Climate change impacts are both affected by and worsen the many inequalities in Indian society. Millions of better-off people also live in cities and towns on India’s coasts and all over, and will face the effects of storm surges, sea level rise, flooding, and droughts. But it is one of the worst violations of justice that those least responsible for global warming bear its burdens the most.

 

  1. Less rain, yet more intense rain, and more variability: The most widely felt impact across India in recent years has been to rainfall patterns, with increased variability. Over 1901–2012, the southwest/summer monsoon (June–September, from which India gets 75% of its total annual rainfall) has reduced in northern, central, eastern, and northeast India, and the southern Western Ghats. In central-east India, the reduction is as much as 10–20%.

The distribution of rain within this monsoon season has also gone haywire. Moderate rainfall (50–100 mm of rain a day) has decreased over much of the country. At the same time, extreme rainfall events (more than 150 mm of rain a day) have been getting both more frequent, and three times as frequent over very wide areas, right from Gujarat to the Orissa coast, as compared to the early 1950s. No wonder farmers say that nowadays it does not rain for many days and then a lot of rain falls in a few hours or a couple of days! They first noticed these changes in rainfall 15–20 years ago, but it has worsened over the last 7–8 years.

A key cause of these changes is warming waters of the Indian Ocean, the western Indian Ocean in particular. For complex reasons, the Indian Ocean is warming more than other equatorial oceans, and, oddly, more than India’s landmass. This reduces summer monsoon rainfall in regions because of a reduced land‒sea temperature difference. Ironically, it also causes extreme rainfall because there is more moisture transported following rapid rises in sea surface temperature. Other man-made factors also contribute to an increased variability in rainfall, such as deforestation, urbanization, and increased pollutant particles in the atmosphere.

All of this causes widespread damage to Indian agriculture and water supply. Nowadays, it often rains when it should not and does not rain when it should. Farmers sow crops expecting rains that don’t arrive or come late. Or there is intense rain at the time of harvesting or threshing, which affects the standing crops and fodder. More intense rain also damages the topsoil. It causes flooding, and adversely affects people’s access to water. Millions of farmers suffered crop damage and losses due to unseasonal rains and hail in successive spring seasons of 2013, 2014, 2015, and most recently in February 2018 across a thousand villages in Maharashtra. In 2015, it devastated crops over 18 million hectares across 15 states, a huge 30% of all rabi acreage, causing losses worth Rs 20,000 crores. It triggered a spate of farmers’ suicides.

Droughts have also become more widespread. There’s a worrying relentlessness with which agriculture is being hit. Every season in the past 3–4 years has been affected: kharif, rabi, kharif, rabi. If it is drought in one season, it is unseasonal rains in another, intense rains in a third. Farmers are being constantly forced to react. Essential crops in India are still extremely rain-dependent: half the land under rice and wheat is dependent entirely on rainfall. Small and marginal farmers, those in dryland, rain-fed areas and without access to groundwater, poorer households mostly, bear the brunt of this. Often, they tend to be from Dalit or underprivileged caste households, or adivasi communities. And when agriculture gets hit on a huge scale, agricultural workers too suffer loss of earnings. At such times, scant attention is paid to them with no concept of their being compensated.

 

  1. Greater heat stress: Over the last fifty years, heat waves in India have become more intense, frequent, and last for longer, caused partly by a warmer tropical Indian Ocean and drier soils. This makes the soils even drier, has affected the yields of key crops such as wheat and fruits, stresses cows, buffaloes, and other livestock, and damages forests. It has also worsened water problems in many places. Night-time temperatures are also less cool than they used to be, hence offering little relief. Coping with too much heat adds to the stress that urban people face.

The elderly, the very young, and working people are particularly vulnerable to greater heat stress. Workers having to labour in stifling conditions, 12–14 hours a day in industrial areas, is common across India. Those in other occupations are also vulnerable: urban construction workers (often women), agricultural labourers, road-building labourers, miners, and those who sell goods in pushcarts, or work outdoors in cities. In the summer of 2015, over 2,500 excess people died in India in a deadly heat wave worsened by global warming. This deadly impact is going to become more frequent, widespread, and lethal because of extreme heat and humidity in the future.

 

  1. Sea level rise and other effects on coastal people: Any water that is warmed tends to expand and rise. Coastal communities across India have been facing sea level rise due to warmer oceans for many years. Relative sea level rise in the West Bengal Sunderbans, which includes other factors, is a staggering 8 mm/year. It has meant a slow erosion of their lands, villages, homes, and salination of wells and fields. People repeatedly have had to shift inland, and tens of thousands of people have migrated in a search for livelihood.

No occurrence brought home to me the reality of sea level rise more than the fate of a primary school on Sagar island in the Sunderbans. When a group of us visited four years ago, classes were on in full swing. A few hundred metres from the school stretched a mud embankment, broken in parts. And beyond that, the Bay of Bengal. In December 2017, a senior teacher sent photographs of the school building taken the previous month. It had been completely destroyed by the advancing waters. There is a lesson this school teaches us, for what is unfolding in the Sunderbans today will occur at that rate along thousands of kilometres along our coasts tomorrow. Sea level rise will definitely speed up, due to accelerated melting of the great ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica.

Global warming has other coastal effects. Fisherpeople in Karnataka say that their going out to sea has become more uncertain because there is no clear pattern any more of rainfall and storms. Sea surface currents are changing in unexpected ways. Wind direction has become unpredictable. The space to do post-catch work, often done by fisherwomen, shrinks as the sea encroaches.

As it is, numerous ports, ultra mega power coal plants, and other projects on the coast in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and elsewhere are damaging traditional occupations, and polluting agriculture, water bodies and local ecosystems. Now climate change adds to this. Rising sea surface temperatures is causing stronger storm surges. The salt water that comes in with storms, and that which seeps into the groundwater harms coastal agriculture and drinking water sources. Tens of millions of people practice agriculture, fishing, and other livelihoods in fertile, biodiverse stretches along over 7,500 kilometres of India’s coasts. They are all vulnerable as global warming’s effects intensify.

 

  1. Extreme rainfall events and flooding: On 27 July 2005, 974 mm of rain fell in a single day in Mumbai. Lakhs of people had to wade several kilometres through chest-high water. Well over a thousand people died in the floods, mostly poor residents of North Bombay, as their houses and shanties on slopes collapsed. Some people drowned in their cars as waters rose above them. This is now happening periodically, with several hundred millimetres of rain falling in a single day, bringing the great city to a halt. In late June 2019, more than the entire month’s rain fell in two days. People in Bombay get anxious every time it rains heavily because it reminds them of what happened in 2005.

In June 2013, a very wide region of Uttarakhand was hit by intense rains, that too for three days. The devastating floods that followed may well prove to be India’s worst climate change disaster. The extreme rain burst the wall (moraine) of a mountain lake (Chorabari Taal) just above Kedarnath. Its surging waters rushed downhill, destroying that town and villages below, submerging thousands of tourists, villagers, and workers. The National Disaster Management Authority said 11,000 people may have died. But the death toll could be even higher – the precise number of those who died will never be known – partly because there were so many Nepali and Indian migrant workers from elsewhere on duty then, at the height of the tourist season.

Hundreds of villages were devastated in Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli and Pithoragarh districts, and beyond. Homes were swept away, the standing crop destroyed, fields submerged in river water or mud and debris, animals on which locals depend for manure and milk, drowned. Tourism—on which lakhs of locals and migrant workers depend for jobs and earnings—was hit. Children’s schools were damaged. Women in particular were badly affected as they nurture households, cook food, get fodder.

Rainstorms, which occur over very wide areas and contribute to flooding, have increased in frequency and duration (by 15 days) since the early 1950s. Studies suggest these are caused by warmer seas, and more moisture due to a warmer landmass. Extreme rainfall events certainly seem to be happening regularly nowadays—Uttarakhand in 2013, Srinagar in September 2014, Chennai in December 2015. Kerala in August 2018 is the latest, which received over 40% more than normal rainfall from June to mid-August; 350 people died, with landslides in Idukki and Wayanad districts and numerous towns flooded and homes extensively damaged.

In every case, the societal impacts of intense rains are made worse by chaotic ‘development’ fuelled by the drive for profit—the builder lobby in Mumbai, run-of-the-river projects in Uttarakhand, and buildings shrinking the Pallikaranai wetlands in Chennai. In city and town in India, wetlands and water bodies are being shrunk and built upon. “Who is this ‘development’ benefiting?” is a reasonable question to ask.

 

  1. Droughts in many places: Studies show that there have been significant increases in the area and intensity of droughts in India since the mid-1950s. There are also more droughts of longer periods. Two key reasons are warmer temperatures due to global warming, and excessive warming of the Indian Ocean; it has reduced the temperature difference between India’s landmass and the sea, which is weakening our monsoon. Warming also causes already dry regions to get even less rainfall. But droughts are now happening in regions of India known for good rains—parts of the North East, Jharkhand since 2000, Kerala until the recent floods.

Global warming contributes to intensified droughts in interior regions. Some parts of Bundelkhand in central India (straddling Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh) have been experiencing droughts for most of the last twenty years. When a team of us visited Bundelkhand in 2009, we saw a complete collapse of agriculture. Large lakes had dried up for the first time, lakhs of agricultural workers, small farmers, poor women were migrating with their entire families. Livestock were being abandoned to a dusty death because of lack of water and fodder. Survey teams that visited Bundelkhand in 2015 found the same grim conditions prevailing.

Women face the brunt of this. We found old women unable to use the few functioning handpumps because the water levels had plummeted. Patriarchy induces them to eat less when food supply gets hit. Because poor women do all kinds of work inside and outside the house—procuring water, as marginal farmers, getting fodder and wood, as agricultural workers—they are the single largest social group and the worst to be hit by climate change in India.

 

  1. Across the Himalayas: The Hindu Kush Himalayan region – which includes Tibet and Nepal – has warmed by 1.24 degrees C over 1951‒2014, about twice as much as India’s average rise over the same period. The temperature rise is higher in the Himalaya because as snow melts, the now darker surface absorbs more heat. The rise is even sharper in winters; warmer, shorter winters are being felt all over India but in particular at higher altitudes.

Milder winters and greater warming are causing a change in snowfall patterns, in Kashmir, Ladakh, and Himachal Pradesh, and reduced snow at mid- to high altitudes. Precipitation is happening less as snow and more as rain. Or it snows at the wrong time in the season. Small glaciers are disappearing, and large glaciers melting, both high up and below at their snout. Less snow gravely impacts people’s access to water for drinking during the summer months, and irrigation. Rainfall in the northeastern Himalayan states has reduced sharply in the last 15 years. Springs, on which locals depend for drinking, other domestic uses, and irrigation, are drying out. Forest fires are increasing, and there are greater pests in some hill regions.

Other species are affected too. Oak trees, apple trees, vegetables, reptiles, butterflies, birds and other fauna all try to adapt by climbing higher up mountain slopes, looking for temperatures to which they are accustomed. Meadows are shrinking, and alpine species face a risk of extinction. Many alpine plants and other species are already near mountain tops; how much further can they go?

 

  1. Impacts on Health: Many factors affect health; to isolate climate change is neither easy nor necessary.

But climate change could have a range of direct and indirect effects. The poor face reduced access to food and nutrition, either directly in rural areas when their crops get adversely impacted, or indirectly in urban areas because of the temporary spikes in food prices. This reduced food intake has resulted in increased rates of death and serious illness among the poor in parts of central India in recent years. It is also hitting the urban poor in numerous places.

Diseases such as malaria, dengue, and chikangunya have spread wider, in new areas, higher altitudes, or for a longer duration in the year, as winters get milder in the plains, or mountain places get less chilly. Viruses and bacteria generally flourish in less cold weather.

The increase in the number, area, and duration of heat waves, mentioned above, is causing acute heat stress, disease, and deaths, particularly of the poor and aged, the homeless, and those who work outdoors for long hours. One of the most deadly global warming impacts in future will be large areas across India, indeed across South Asia, becoming uninhabitable. It will become so hot and humid, this combination will interfere with our bodies’ capacity to lose heat.

 

  1. Other impacts in urban areas: People in towns and cities are impacted by many of the effects narrated above: warmer daytime temperatures, milder winters, rising food prices. One serious issue for urban people is having to cope with longer and more frequent heat waves, which kills hundreds of people each year. Studies have shown that excess heat affects the urban poor excessively, because of their cramped homes, congested localities, and materials used.

Also, water problems at both ends: by flooding during extreme rainfall (above) as occurred most recently in Kerala, and by droughts. The huge drought in parts of Maharashtra in 2016 resulted in the people of Latur town being supplied water by trains! Even as innumerable other small towns in Marathwada were panting for water. These droughts are accentuating the already unequal distribution of, and access to water in any Indian city.

Cyclone Fani, fuelled by a warmer Indian Ocean, hit Orissa in early May 2019. Innumerable lives were saved due to prior warning and timely intervention by the state government. Yet, the severity with which water and electricity networks in Bhubaneswar and other towns were damaged reveals another way how vulnerable urban residents in India, particularly the urban poor, are to the impacts of global warming. Basti residents in poorer parts of Bhubaneswar have got no water for several days after the cyclone hit, and they came out on the streets and blocked roads demanding water.

 

It is to me deeply worrying that the impacts described above have happened with barely 1 degree Celsius of average warming. We need to realise that these climate impacts are going to intensify and will happen simultaneously. Sea level rise in one place, drought in another, flooding close by, intense rains … . It will hit food security, access to water, livelihoods, lands, health, etc of people everywhere. Are we displaying the urgency the situation warrants?

 

Impacts elsewhere in the world

  • Sea levels are rising by an average of 3.2 mm a year over the last twenty years
  • Rise in ‘extreme events’ all over the world: floods in Pakistan and the heat wave in Russia in 2010; heat waves in Argentina in 2013; fires in California, the drought that affected parts of Jordan, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, and the blizzard that killed 43 people including 21 trekkers in Nepal, all in 2014; extreme rains in Wuhan, China in 2016; and the drought in Cape Town in 2018.
  • In September 2012, Arctic sea ice melted to its lowest area and mass ever; the Arctic is nowadays frequently several degrees above normal, affecting climates in Europe and North America
  • Oceans have warmed to a depth of 2,000 metres, and even lower
  • Of the 800 Himalayan glaciers being monitored in China, India and other countries, 95% are melting. Melting is happening at over 20,000 feet altitude
  • The Syrian drought of 2007–2010 that may have contributed to the ongoing conflict
  • Food production is beginning to get hit in some of the poorest countries

 

Impacts on Other Species

In India, as ocean waters have become warmer, mackerel, oil sardines, and other fish species have moved north along both coasts. Earlier found up to Malabar in Kerala, mackerel have moved 650 kilometres north and can now be found off Gujarat. In the Bay of Bengal, earlier only up to Andhra, they are now found in Orissa’s waters. A similar shift of location northwards is happening with river fish in the Ganga.

– Migration of species to higher altitudes in the North Indian mountains, such as oak and apple trees, animal species, vegetables.

– Early or erratic flowering of many plants and trees, such as of mango in Orissa and Karnataka, rhododendrons across the Himalayas, saffron in Kashmir

– change in the timing of spawning of certain fish due to higher sea surface temperature

– Coral bleaching happens soon as sea water temperatures cross 31 degrees Celsius. Bleaching due to higher sea surface temperatures has occurred every summer off the Tamil Nadu coast since 2005

– Slow death on a large scale of cows and other livestock in times of drought; they also face greater heat stress and consequent illnesses

 

Worldwide, a survey of over 800 published papers covering hundreds of species showed similar effects:

– Species are moving northward, or away from the Equator, towards the poles, towards more suitable temperatures

– The annual migration of birds is happening earlier

– As it gets warmer, mountain species are moving upwards, but some mountain frog species have gone extinct having nowhere higher to climb

– Some birds are laying their first eggs earlier

– Disruption in timing between lifecycles of predators and prey, and of insect pollinators with flowering plants

– Scientists now believe that up to 40–70% of all species could become extinct because of heat waves, droughts, more acidic oceans, having nowhere further to climb at the top of mountain slopes, and other effects of global warming.

 

The sceptical view

There are still those who say that yes the Earth is warming, but it is not significant; or, that humans are not primarily responsible, it’s part of the Earth’s natural cycles; or, that it has happened before, so what’s the big deal?

Official data given earlier shows how much warmer India has become over the last three decades. Forget the data, one only needs to open one’s eyes to responses in Nature to warming that is happening all over India.

To say it has happened before naturally is true but what matters is the pace at which current changes are happening, and why. Human civilization itself evolved over the last 10,000 years and we are pushing changes that have not happened for millions of years, outside human experience. Ecosystems are able to adapt only when things change slowly. Changes are now happening much faster than ecosystems and species can cope with.

Some people were questioning the basic science because Earth surface warming slowed down for some years after 1998. This happened because most of the excess heat being trapped by greenhouse gases was going into the deeper oceans. This lull in rising surface temperatures ended dramatically, with 2014, 2015, and 2016 successively breaking records as the hottest years ever, since instruments began comprehensively recording temperatures in 1880. If we send more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere every year, they will trap more heat. This basic physics of global warming has been well established for well over a hundred years.

 

The urgency of action

The urgency of global warming is because the window to intervene is fast closing. Global warming triggers feedback responses in some ecosystems that in turn cause further warming. For instance, Arctic sea ice has been melting away. Arctic ice acts as a giant mirror, reflecting sunlight. Ice covering a smaller area means that more heat is getting absorbed.

Also, in the Arctic lands, beneath the frozen layer on top, are billions of tonnes of methane. Melting ice will release this methane, causing further warming. This feedback has already been happening for the last ten years. There are other, known climate feedbacks already recorded: more water vapour (traps more heat), warmer soils (release carbon dioxide instead of absorbing it), etc. A current debate is whether the amount of carbon dioxide being absorbed each year by some oceans has stopped increasing. If so, more carbon dioxide will remain in the atmosphere, causing further warming. That would be catastrophic.

Some of these feedbacks have already gone out of hand. For instance, we will soon have Arctic summers with little ice, it can’t be stopped. The urgency to tackle global warming comes from the fact that these feedbacks will happen together on a scale that makes it impossible for humans to prevent extreme warming, of a kind civilization has never experienced. The urgency is also that some changes in ecosystems cannot be reversed. It has never been greater.

 

What are the governments doing?

The Indian government: Given the urgency and complexity of these problems, not enough and not quickly enough. About cutting emissions (mitigation) the government’s position, as stated in India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), is: India will “reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33%–35% by 2030 from 2005 levels”. That is, not less in absolute terms, but reduced emissions per unit of GDP, less than what might have been. Such a target is extremely modest, one that is easily achievable in a modernizing economy. Is that an adequate response to an ecological crisis on a world scale, one which is already hitting India’s own people so massively?

Regarding helping people cope with climate impacts or preparing for them (adaptation), the 2011 government scheme National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) identified 151 climate-vulnerable villages for a range of interventions, depending on the climate stresses. These include moisture conservation techniques such as mulching, construction of farm ponds, introducing short-duration crop varieties, drought-tolerant varieties, etc. However, a recent analysis finds it is hampered by low participation in selected villages, understaffing, poor integration with other existing programmes, and has worked poorly in most villages.

Thousands of wells and ponds have been dug under the MGNREGA, which boosts adaptation, whether or not that was the intention. However, this important government scheme remains underfunded when it could help crucially in times of drought, flooding, and heat stress. Studies about heat-coping hybrids, saline-resistant crops, and other relevant research are being carried out in agricultural research institutes; it needs to reach farmers everywhere quicker and wider. But Krishi Vikas Kendras are understaffed, agricultural extension services are being withdrawn, just when they are needed the most, as neo-liberalism dictates that welfare and state support be squeezed. Economic and social equity is central for people to adapt and cope with climate change in a more resilient manner. However, most government policies for the last few decades have been pushing society in a more unequal direction, such as the reduction in income taxes on the privileged, and the meagre social sector expenditure.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) has eight missions—solar, energy efficiency, water, agriculture, knowledge mission, etc. But in many sectors—water, agriculture, energy—the government’s policy measures have in effect given greater scope for profit by private industry. State Action Plans on Climate Change (SAPCCs) have been drafted in 22 states, but with little consultation with local people, unions or other organizations. The Madhya Pradesh SAPCC was one welcome exception, in the numerous consultations the government organized before drafting it. The Uttarakhand disaster of 2013 showed how poorly prepared the governments are, with rare exceptions, despite having a state action plan in place. When disaster struck, like in the Chennai and Kashmir floods, it is the people who came together and helped each other.

Among the welcome measures listed in India’s NDC document are an expansion of rooftop solar photovoltaic connected to the electricity grid, and an expansion of mass transit public transport. Solar power capacity is slated to grow to 100,000 megawatts (MW) by 2022. The progress so far has been impressive. Our solar capacity is currently 25,000 MW (as on 20 Feb 2019). But unless it is on rooftops (currently just 5% of total capacity), even solar power can be problematic: roughly four acres of land are needed for generating every one megawatt of solar power. The NDC document mentions 25 solar parks, which will take over lots of agricultural land.

This is one key problem with India’s NDC and energy policy in general: an indiscriminate grabbing of energy from all possible areas and forms: a massive expansion of nuclear power (which it calls “environmentally benign”) to 63 gigawatts (GW) by 2032, from 7 GW currently; large hydropower to nearly 100 GW; and even more coal and gas. This indiscriminate expansion is largely aimed at meeting the energy demands and pleasures of the privileged in an increasingly unequal society. As it is, our cities are among the most polluted in the world, causing early or higher death rates of the elderly and of those with respiratory problems.

Meanwhile, private industry continues to profit from the climate crisis: as of January 2016, there were 1,593 Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in India, 90–95% by the private sector. These companies have been issued 191 million Certified Emission Reduction units (CERs), which they can sell in the carbon credits market as one sells shares, when the price is right.

In general, the economic policies of the last twenty-eight years—cheap flights, easy finance for cars, malls in cities, easy access to ACs, fridges, TVs and other consumer durables, reduced wealth tax on the rich—cause and reflect the deepening inequalities of incomes and wealth. There is a view that the issue of climate change ought not to interfere with India’s right to develop. However, we also need to reflect more on how unequal that development has been.

Successive governments continue to hide behind the poor by saying “India’s emissions are low,” while grabbing energy from everywhere, and causing displacement of the poor on a huge scale. The current government has been an ecological, social disaster—it has diverted over 40,000 hectares of forest land for commercial projects, cleared 2,000 projects that needed forest and environmental clearances, legalised the destruction of wetlands, made mining approvals easier, etc.

 

Other governments: For 24 years, governments have been meeting annually at a Conference of the Parties (COP) to discuss chiefly four key areas: emission cuts, adaptation measures, financial help, and technology transfers to developing countries to help them reduce emissions or adapt. The most significant recently was the 21st COP, at Paris in December 2015.

In 1997, at the Kyoto COP, most developed countries agreed to cut emissions by a small amount by 2012 over their 1990 levels. Different countries had slightly different pledges; the overall average cut pledged was only 5.2 per cent over 1990–2012, less than what the science demanded. But since developing countries, including China and India, were not required to sign on, and the US Congress did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, some of the world’s largest emitters were not covered by it. And not just were the target cuts so feeble, the Kyoto Protocol opened the way for corporations to profit from the crisis, via the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and REDD. They are now trying to expand this profit-making via REDD+, by putting a price on the ecological benefits that Nature bestows. This is hardly surprising; capital will try to profit from anything. Like we discussed, it’s part of its DNA.

We are currently in the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol’s commitment period (2013–2020), which is in limbo. The third phase, covered by the Paris Agreement, only starts after 2020. As part of that, each country was to submit its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the United Nations. China has pledged to cut its emissions intensity by 60–65% by 2030. The United States had pledged to reduce its emissions—absolute, not relative—by 26–28% by 2025, over its 2005 levels, which is just a 3% reduction over the Kyoto Protocol’s 1990 baseline. US President Donald Trump’s environment policy measures, such as opening up coal mining areas, and formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement (as of January 2019, the only country in the world to do so), constitute a bad setback to mitigation efforts, within the US and internationally. But it is the systemic drivers mentioned earlier—the constant efforts to maximize profits and growth—that are the more serious, underlying problem than Trump.

The Paris Agreement mentions limiting warming to “well below 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels, and pursing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees C”. This may be a victory of sorts for all those who have for years pushed for thresholds below 2 degrees C. However, the Paris Agreement has adopted a fragmented approach that disregards what the science is telling us about total reductions needed. Crucially, the present pledges of emission cuts by all countries, even if they are met, will lead to an average warming of 3 degrees Celsius, way above what is considered safe. It will be disastrous on a colossal scale; human civilization has no experience of those temperatures.

There are rare exceptions among governments. Some of the small island nations, facing the threat of sea level rise, have been pressurizing big governments to act. Pressured by indigenous peoples who form over half its population, the Bolivian government passed the Law of the Rights of Mother Earth in 2010. It recognised that all living things have rights, including the right to biodiversity without genetic manipulation, the right to water to sustain life, and the right to restoration of ecosystems damaged by human activity. Ecuador put in its Constitution that Nature too has rights just as humans do. In February 2019, Cuba included the fight against climate change in its Constitution, “which threatens the survival of the human species”.

However, most governments represent national elites. They are unable to question the systemic issues of capitalism or class. To expect that government elites would show us the way out, in the absence of people’s pressure from below, would be to put our faith in the wrong hands.

 

What Can We Do?

Work together, on different things, at all levels, and with urgency. Global warming touches on so many areas of life that it enables us to engage through whatever we find meaningful or interests us.

There is a view, ideological in its essence, that technology will solve the problem. To expect that a solution will come from technology alone is not just unrealistic, but also foolhardy, because it encourages us to sit back and do nothing. Technology has its place. For example, we do need to expand rooftop solar power, and improved energy efficiencies of various kinds. But the way forward is social, political change, combined with appropriate technologies, not technology in isolation.

What follows are some suggestions of ways forward. They are obviously by no means exhaustive. However, the urgency of global warming does not allow us the luxury of time.

 

Individual efforts

The market is taking over the minds of many people. Not just in the obvious symptom of unnecessary consumption—gadgets become a way we present ourselves—but also in influencing our interactions with other people and with the natural world. Resisting this mental loss of freedom is both an essential first step and a constant battle.

Regarding specific individual measures, try to identify your largest carbon-emitting activity and minimize it. This suggestion applies only to the well-off. It’s usually flying. If this applies to you, minimise flying to essential situations and emergencies. Besides, reduce the use of energy-guzzling gadgets like ACs; use buses and other public transport, buy local produce, etc. These individual lifestyle choices are linked to favourable public policies that enable them, such as cycle paths, bus transport that is safer for women, etc.

At the household level, for those who can afford it, measures that help include installing rooftop solar panels and rainwater harvesting. Rooftop solar connected to the electricity grid has just begun in Delhi. Growing vegetables in your verandah if you have one, or on the terrace of your house or housing complex is not just healthier, it also reduces your food’s carbon footprint. Urban agriculture is practised in Delhi, Bangalore and a few other cities in India but is largely restricted to the well-off. Incidentally, Cuban towns have done this for twenty-five years.

 

Collective ways forward

Individual actions, though relevant, are not sufficient. The usefulness of individual action is exaggerated by elites and the media. They ask us to turn off our lights on Earth Day for one hour, or change our light bulbs; we think we have done enough. We then tend to avoid questioning the systemic issues at the root of global warming and a range of other ecological problems. Social and political change usually happens collectively, when many people realise that something is wrong and needs to be changed or improved, and come together to do something about it.

 

  1. Work needed in your community or town: What would you like your town or city to be like? Any city in which we live has a number of issues that connect with global warming. In Delhi, for example, there was a campaign to expand rooftop solar power. Some organizations have been demanding that public transport policy be expanded beyond the Aam Aadmi Party’s odd-even plan. That more BRT bus corridors—which reserve one-third the road space for public buses and emergency vehicles—be built. They have also asked for a transport system that stops focusing on car users alone, and serves all, including cyclists, pedestrians, and bus users. Many towns, even a state capital like Dehradun, do not have a public transport system to speak of, and run on ‘Vikrams’. Metros are expanding in some cities but are priced too high, which denies access to working people, whereas access to metros ought to be made universal through cheap monthly passes, like in Mumbai’s trains.

In Mumbai itself, there is an ongoing citizens’ campaign (called ‘Aamchi Mumbai, Aamchi BEST) for the past couple of years against the privatization of its famous BEST bus service, and supporting bus workers’ rights. This group published A People’s Plan for BEST [in August 2018], which says that “frequent, affordable, speedy, decent, and safe public transport is a basic right of all citizens”. They demand that fares need to be low for buses to be accessible to all, and that there be more buses with a wider reach in different parts of the city.

Water is a key area of intervention in a climate-changed context. Work around water is possible at four levels. Reviving traditional or older water bodies in your locality—bavadis/stepwells, ponds, lakes, older canals, streams. But as a first step, we need to know where they are. Identifying such water bodies is something students can do in urban areas, and farmers’ and other organizations elsewhere. Or you can do along with others in your locality or community. Two, pressurizing local authorities to create the infrastructure for rainwater harvesting along roads and public places, which helps falling groundwater levels. Along with this, arguing for an equitable distribution of water, so that every single person or household can access a minimum daily volume for a decent living. Regenerating traditional water bodies, building new water harvesting structures, planting trees, cleaning existing water bodies, re-laying the water distribution network more equitably have multiple benefits: improving the groundwater situation, reducing waste, using less energy, and ensuring water for all. It has the added benefit of creating jobs on a large scale so unions and workers would be interested. Finally, the deluge in Chennai in December 2015 and Mumbai in June 2005 tell us how encroachments on wetlands, floodplains of rivers, and water bodies prove disastrous in the long run, and should be opposed in every town as India urbanizes. Such as the ongoing campaign to preserve the Ennore Creek and wetlands in Chennai. All of this suggests we need to pressurize both the municipal authorities, and elected politicians who are supposed to represent our interests.

 

  1. To understand and strengthen a people’s perspective on climate change, one needs to chat with people, both in urban and rural areas, about how climate change is affecting their lives. What impacts do they face, what they think about it, what they are doing (or not doing) about it.

Local farmers and other communities are trying to adapt in different ways: changing the mix of crops, the timing of their crop cycle, reverting to traditional seeds, adopting the system of rice intensification (SRI), digging small ponds, trying to improve soil health, trying to revive older water bodies, etc. To know what responses work is particularly important since adaptation that has been successful in one place can be replicated elsewhere in similar conditions.

This work can be done particularly by groups of students, young people, farmers’ collectives, and other organizations. Climate impacts on urban dwellers include flooding, water shortages, heat stress, adverse health impacts, and higher food prices. Understanding the issue from a class perspective also helps us see through unsatisfactory frameworks that are constantly thrown at us. A gendered perspective on climate change is particularly important and has hardly been developed in India, for which students can get in touch with collectives that organize or work with women. All of this takes the issue away from abstract science, to where it should be located: in people’s lives and livelihoods.

 

  1. In colleges: In case you don’t already have a student group or union in your college, form one. It could be an environmental group, Nature group, or a student collective. Begin by talking to friends and anyone else interested, call for a first meeting to discuss the idea, set up a WhatsApp group if enough students have a smartphone, put up posters about it in college. Perhaps you could start off by having a discussion or film screenings. Supportive teachers can help.

Small but specific actions are a good way to get going. For instance, college students could measure the space available on the roofs of their college buildings, and calculate how many solar panels can be installed there. Then approach the relevant department office or the MNRE website for installing solar panels. The same goes for having water harvesting facilities in college. You would need to pressurize the college administration and perhaps the local government authorities to implement these measures. Push for better and safer bus and other public transport for students near your college or university. For all of this, students getting together collectively is essential. After your group gets going, contact friends in other colleges and help start the process there. Once a group forms, sustaining it becomes important.

 

  1. Demanding renewable, less harmful, decentralized energy choices: Nuclear power has obvious dangers (though being wrongly promoted by the government and some individuals abroad as a solution to climate change). Coal is the dirtiest fuel and the source of life-threatening pollutants and toxins. There is widespread opposition to large dams in many regions. So we are against a lot; what are we for?

We need a faster transition to cleaner energy sources. Some unions and other collectives in India—and elsewhere—have begun to engage with the question of a transition away from fossil fuels. Solar power, whose unit price is dropping, and wind power, which is expanding, are the most promising. Solar power has the potential to be used in cooking, heating water, and other basic uses. For electricity, it is ideal as a decentralized application (rooftop photovoltaic). These are badly needed in urban areas, from where much of the carbon emissions come.

In recent years, investment in electricity worldwide from renewable energy sources has been double investment in power from fossil fuels. Power from renewable energy sources contributed 24% of electricity generated in 2016, but much of it is hydropower (17%), wind is small (4%), and solar tiny (1%). Encouraging as the recent expansion of solar and wind energy may seem, or even be, the share of all renewables in total energy consumption is still small—just 3% worldwide in 2015, about 8% if one includes hydropower.

Coal consumption worldwide rose in 2017 and 2018, after three years of slight decline. Gas and oil consumption continue to grow each year. For carbon emissions to fall, as the science demands, it is not enough that renewable energy expands; coal, oil, and gas use should reduce overall.

A faster transition won’t happen without pressurizing governments to move away from subsidising and promoting coal and other fossil fuels, and strongly support solar and wind. The German example is instructive: over the last decade, solar power capacity expanded there from a few hundred to over 30,000 megawatts. This was helped by favourable policy, but that was enacted because there is a huge environmental Green movement of workers, students, and other ordinary citizens who demanded a halt to nuclear power and greater support for renewables. Half of Germany’s new renewable energy has been organized by citizen groups, farmers, and newly-formed energy cooperatives.

Even renewables have social costs. Large solar parks take up a lot of agricultural land, over 4 acres for every megawatt capacity. The only way we can have a socially less harmful energy transition is by also restricting energy demands to first meeting people’s basic needs. We need to have a steep carbon tax. A progressive carbon tax has recently been proposed for India, the revenues from which are then distributed to the poor through universal access to energy and public transport. Ensure the reduction of wasteful use (which happens only by the well-off). Otherwise we end up recklessly trying to grab all kinds of energy from everywhere, which is what current policy seems to be, which is harmful to other people and species.

 

  1. All over India, struggles have intensified against displacement and for local community control over commons resources like forests, agricultural land, wetlands, rivers, and the sea. These are being waged against mining projects, coal power plants, aluminium projects, nuclear plants, and most recently against land being taken for 18 vast industrial belts, such as the Delhi–Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

Local residents who resist have been agitated by the loss of livelihoods, control over resources and agricultural lands, and sometimes by health concerns. Their immediate motive is not climate change, but connects with it in different ways. These include struggles about energy choices: resistance to coal mining and coal power plants have exploded in a number of places such as Mahan, Chandrapur, Sompeta, and Kakrapalli, where huge ultra mega power projects are being built or planned. Other struggles have been waged in Kudankulam (nuclear), Jaitapur (nuclear), the Narmada valley (large hydro), and Polavaram (hydro). There are movements against dams in the Himalayan states, from Himachal Pradesh in the northwest to Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast.

By preserving wetlands or forests—such as against POSCO or in Niyamgiri—these people’s struggles not just preserve important local ecologies, but also help combat global warming by retaining carbon sinks. At the heart of these struggles are questions of justice and what an appropriate development trajectory might be, questions at the core of global warming.

Over the years, students and other youth have related in many ways: joined these movements directly; some have joined progressive organizations or parties; others formed support organizations for specific struggles, yet others have visited those places and published reports or campaigned in different ways.

A brief mention of campaigns outside India, to give a sense of the global nature of both the problem and the response: struggles to resist the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, particularly coal and oil, have intensified worldwide over the past three years. These include vibrant resistance to the Rampal coal power plant on the edge of the Bangaldesh Sunderbans, the Keystone and Dakota Access pipelines in North America, and Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Australia. Protests are being carried out in many countries simultaneously at sites where coal is being mined and oil extracted, or in front of offices of their financial backers, in a Break Free from Fossil Fuel campaign. Google it, or check out the website of 350.org.

Over the last few years, youth have led campaigns to pressurize institutions to withdraw their investments from fossil fuels. Over five hundred entities—including pension funds, government organizations, universities and colleges, and wealthy foundations—with assets totalling 3,400,000,000,000 dollars have committed to withdraw their money from fossil fuels investment worldwide. The list has about thirty educational institutions thus far, including the London School of Economics, SOAS, and Oxford University.

The issue of, and movement against global warming has received fresh impetus in recent months. In the UK, thousands of people have come out on the streets in a mass civil disobedience campaign organized under the banner Extinction Rebellion. Among their key demands are that the UK’s government should declare a climate emergency, communicate its urgency, and reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025. Their protests have catalysed the formation of Extinction Rebellion India here as well, with groups of people staging protests across a number of towns such as Delhi, Bhopal, Bangalore, and Gurgaon in March 2019.

Also remarkable are the protests of school students. It began when a young girl sat outside the Swedish Parliament for three weeks last year, to protest the lack of action around the climate crisis. Catalyzed by her sit-in, students and other young people have been striking from school in innumerable towns worldwide since. In March 2019, more than a million students took part in protests around the world organized by Fridays for Future.

 

  1. Challenging Capitalism: By targeting fossil fuel corporations, the climate justice movement has put a face to the enemy. But the crux, and the difficulty, lies in challenging capital’s logic itself, which is one of maximizing profit and endless accumulation for more profit. That accumulation is brutal—in its history of colonialism, violent cornering of resources, profiting from Nature, resource wars, overexploitation of workers, sexual assault on women, the murder of key organizers, repressive laws. Working against global warming means challenging the system, in whatever work we do. The problem is that whereas political alternatives to capitalism exist, the difficulty lies in evolving economic alternatives on the scale necessary.

Global warming and other ecological crises have lent renewed urgency to a number of questions that some had already been asking for years: do we really need high economic growth? The media and politicians are obsessed with growth. But where does this growth come from? Does it result in quality work, large-scale employment, and a living wage? Who does ‘development’ actually benefit? High economic growth has mostly resulted in contractual, insecure, stressful, and poorly paid jobs in the last twenty years in India. Rather than blindly accept ‘growth’ as a mantra, I would argue for a more equitable development trajectory that focuses on providing basic goods and services that most people need to improve the quality of their daily lives. As people’s lives improve, they will consume a bit more, and low but more sustainable growth will happen automatically.

Ecological concerns have to be a part of our politics or worldview. Much criticism has rightly been levelled against 20th century Left practice—its lack of democracy; the primacy it gave to technology; its industrial scale, and ecological destruction that ensued. In this, they mirrored capitalist relations with Nature. Progressive politics cannot henceforth remain blind to these issues.

Ecological concerns, or local peoples’ collective relationship with what Nature provides, have been integral to a number of movements in recent times—Niyamgiri, Gandhamardhan, Jaitapur—both in India and elsewhere. Global warming makes that an issue for us all. Whichever of these elements of Nature we may relate to—the seas, rivers, forests, the hills, birds, cows, fish, other species large and small—they are all being affected. This urges us to think more deeply about our relationship with the natural world, and renders greater urgency in tackling global warming.

 

Equity is at the core of ways forward. In the context of global warming, there are at least four aspects to equity: one, equity between people, which is linked to our development trajectory, and would include making small agriculture viable, land distribution, female control over land, and expanding workers’ rights. Two, improving the capacity of people to cope with the impacts of climate change. Coping is not merely reacting after the event, but also preparing for and cushioning impacts, reducing risk before an adverse climate impact hits.

Three, equity between generations. Future generations also have a right to common resources, to forests, to groundwater, to minerals, to rivers, to marine resources, etc, as much as we do. But how far ahead are we willing to think? What does ‘sustainable development’ mean in an economy that is constantly growing? How can we live sustainably for the future if we so deeply valorize growth and consumption?

Finally, equity between species. We need to discard an anthropocentric worldview that focuses on human beings, and conflicts between humans alone. Other species have as much a right to the commons, to energy, to rivers, to the forests, as we do. Human beings are only one among 1.7 million known species on this planet. Ecosystems are intertwined, life is a web, and we need to preserve that web and its interconnections better.

Finally, global warming is urging, but also enabling us to think about a number of issues in an interconnected manner—energy, water, consumption, transport, agriculture, what we would like our town to be like. The picture may seem bleak, and, without doubt, we need to think and act with urgency. But history teaches us that positive social change happens when people come and work together, and therein lies hope for the future.

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Bibliography and Resources

  • India Climate Justice, Mausam, 1–6, available at http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resources/results.
  • M Rajeevan and Shailesh Nayak (editors), Observed Climate Variability and Change Over the Indian Region, Springer, 2017.
  • IPCC, Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policy Makers, https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/.
  • Nagraj Adve, ‘Moving Home: Global Warming and the Shifts in Species’ Ranges in India,’ Economic and Political Weekly, Vol 49, No 39, 27 September 2014.
  • Soumya Dutta, et al, Climate Change and India, RLS/ Daanish Books, Delhi, 2013.
  • People’s Science Institute, Documenting Climate Change in Uttarakhand, Dehradun, 2010.
  • MoEFCC, India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, October 2015, http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/India/1/INDIA%20INDC%20TO%20UNFCCC.pdf (for the official government view).
  • State Action Plans on Climate Change (all published SAPCCs can be found here: http://www.moef.gov.in/ccd-sapcc).
  • CSE, Down to Earth, http://www.downtoearth.org.in/ (for current reports and analysis of climate change impacts in India).
  • Indian Network on Ethics and Climate Change/INECC, http://inecc.net/ (for reports and newsletters published since 1996 on climate change impacts in India and politics).
  • Naomi Klein, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Penguin Books, 2014.
  • For a sense of climate movements and politics in other countries, see https://350.org/.
  • For regular reportage on developments, politics, climate science and campaigns, see the Guardian newspaper, at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-change.

 

Author Bio: The author is a member of India Climate Justice. The views here are personal. Earlier part of organizations that focused on democratic rights and on workers’ issues, he currently works, writes, and gives talks in colleges on global warming in India.

 

Note: To discuss or respond to anything contained in this booklet, or if you have any queries about global warming, feel free to email me at nagraj.adve@gmail.com, or call at 09910476553.

This booklet has been published in English by Ecologise Hyderabad/Manchi Pustakam in 2019; printed copies are available for Rs 20 (info@manchipustakam.in). Any organization is free to reproduce or print this booklet in its own name, in English, or translated into other languages. Acknowledgement (of authorship) would be nice but is not essential. Only please do not alter the text.

 

 

Translations:

  • This booklet has been translated into Hindi and published by Khedut Majdoor Chetana Sangath (Madhya Pradesh). Printed copies are available from me (Rs 25).
  • An earlier version has been translated into Kannada by Chetana, Bengaluru.
  • It was translated into Tamil and published by Vidiyal Publishers, Coimbatore. For Tamil copies, call 0422-2576772, and 09443468758, or email vidiyal@vidiyalpathippagam.org.
    I can email a soft copy of the English, Hindi, or Kannada versions to anyone interested.

 

– Nagraj Adve

Delhi, 17 July 2019

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Rising demand for air conditioning could make climate change even worse

Between 1992 and 2016, more than 22,000 people in India died as a result of heat exposure. In 2015 alone, the death toll reached 2,300. Authoritative projections indicate that under a high-emissions scenario, 75 percent of the country’s population will face dangerous levels of heat and humidity by 2100.

Climate change experts urge May to tackle Trump over environmental policies

Hundreds of climate change experts have urged Theresa May to confront Donald Trump over his approach to the emergency during his state visit. As the US president arrived in the UK, the letter signed by 250 scientists and other academics states his “refusal” to tackle global warming is “increasing risks for lives and livelihoods” worldwide.

As country reels under severe spells of heat wave, Venkaiah Naidu says imperative that scientists address extreme weather, warming, drought – Firstpost

Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu Monday said it was imperative of scientists and researchers to address issues of global warming, consequent extreme weather and drought cycles that could affect the lives of the people, plants and animals.

Where 2020 Democrats stand on climate change

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Climate change could end human civilization by 2050: report

A harrowing new climate change report warns we may be on the way to extinction, claiming there is a “high likelihood” human civilization will come to an end by 2050 unless action is taken on greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers find slowdown in Earth’s temps stabilized nature’s calendar

Sometimes referred to as nature’s calendar, phenology looks at the seasonal life cycle of plants and animals and is one of the leading indicators of climate change. It’s the observance of natural occurrences like the first formation of buds and flowers in the spring and the changing colors of leaves in the fall.

Why this climate change data is on flip-flops, leggings, and cars

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CLIMATE CHANGE AND MENTAL HEALTH: LESSONS FOR NIGERIA

In 2018, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) reported that over 1.9 million Nigerians were affected by severe flooding that ravaged 103 Local Government Areas across 10 states in the country.

Politics & Global Warming, April 2019

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Uttrakhand Cloudburst Incidents 2018

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TIB calls for Tk1,000 crore to combat climate change impact

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Anthropocene now: influential panel votes to recognize Earth’s new epoch

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Assam and Mizoram are least prepared for climate change among Himalayan states, finds study

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London bids to host 2020 UN climate talks to show UK remains ‘open’

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Climate change’s lost ground

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The Wettest Part of Alaska Is Experiencing Extreme Drought. Is Climate Change to Blame?

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The cost of climate change

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World must do all “humanly possible” on climate change, Merkel tells Harvard grads

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Sorry to burst your bubble, but you’ve got a blind spot as big as the planet

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Madrid could become first European city to scrap low-emissions zone

Madrid may be about to become the first European city to scrap a major urban low-emissions zone after regional polls left a rightwing politician who views 3am traffic jams as part of the city’s cultural identity on the cusp of power.


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The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12 Months on Record

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Scotland faces climate ‘apocalypse’ without action to cut emissions

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The US Is Responsible For 26% Of Global Warming Emissions & Is Morally Responsible To Help Solve It

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Geoengineer the Planet? More Scientists Now Say It Must Be an Option

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Climate change was behind 15 weather disasters in 2017

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Buried, altered, silenced: 4 ways government climate information has changed since Trump took office

After Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of volunteers around the U.S. came together to “rescue” federal data on climate change, thought to be at risk under the new administration. ” Guerilla archivists,” including ourselves, gathered to archive federal websites and preserve scientific data. But what has happened since?

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After Donald Trump won the presidential election, hundreds of volunteers around the U.S. came together to “rescue” federal data on climate change, thought to be at risk under the new administration. ” Guerilla archivists,” including ourselves, gathered to archive federal websites and preserve scientific data. But what has happened since?

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United Nations Says 80 Countries May Ramp Up Climate Pledges

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Analysis | Climate change threatens the West’s far right

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Indonesia’s green sukuk | UNDP

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Matt Canavan shrugs off Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions increase

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Global warming: Human activity is the cause | Climate News Network

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The Politics Of Climate Crisis | Environment

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Assam, Mizoram Least Prepared For Climate Change Among Himalayan States |

Mumbai: Of India’s 12 Himalayan states, Assam, Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are the most vulnerable to climate change, a new study has concluded. High vulnerability leaves a region with low capacity to anticipate, resist, cope with or recover from the impact of a climate hazard.

Opinion: The Bank of Canada declared climate change a financial risk. Now what?

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‘Sudden Spring,’ a collection of stories about climate change in the South, highlights Tybee, Cumberland Island, Savannah

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Analysis: Why children must emit eight times less CO2 than their grandparents

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A Colonialist Land Grab Is Happening Right Now in Congo

In the name of “conservation,” thousands of families, tribes and communities in Africa and Asia have had their land stolen and been forced into destitution and despair.. It was cold when I arrived in Brussels, yet in the sumptuous atrium of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, it didn’t feel cold at all.

Climate Roulette: The human side of climate risk | Ecofiscal

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Trump Administration Hardens Its Attack on Climate Science

WASHINGTON – President Trump has rolled back environmental regulations, pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, brushed aside dire predictions about the effects of climate change, and turned the term “global warming” into a punch line rather than a prognosis.

Why we can’t leave climate change to philanthropists

In the spring of 2013, the Rockefeller Foundation-the 100-year-old charitable organization started by Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller-launched an ambitious program to help cities around the world adapt to the physical, social, and economic challenges of the 21st century.

National Climate Emergency

WATCH the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZUiFwTjrJw?showEmbed=true UPDATE: June 25, 2019 The current water crisis in Tamil Nadu is a wake-up call. Nearly two lakh cattle in the state have been reported dead for want of water. Acute water shortage is a reality in many Indian towns, and the crisis is now reaching mega cities.

Building resilience

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Community Based Adaptation for better climate law

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Climate change in Bangladesh: Hospital boats keep healthcare afloat

Chars in Bangladesh are constantly changing shape as they erode and reform, a process that is quickening as a result of more extreme rainfall associated with climate change. Living on a secluded island in northern Bangladesh, several hours from the nearest hospital, Abdul Jalil believed he was destined to die blind.

Here’s How Scarily Accurate NASA’s Long-Term Climate Predictions Have Been So Far

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Greens surge as parties make strongest ever showing across Europe

Green parties have swept to their strongest ever showing in European elections, boosting their tally of MEPs to a projected 71 compared with 52 last time. The result gives them every chance of becoming kingmakers in a newly fragmented parliament.

What do the plastics and climate crises have in common? The same someone profiting from the status quo

Individual countries can take meaningful action – by investing in recycling infrastructure, offering incentives to companies working on advanced recycling technologies and alternative materials, and banning certain single-use items – without the time and effort it takes to build a global consensus.

It’s a “Hail” of a Storm Season | The Weather Channel

The 2019 pre-monsoon season (March to May) has been marked by weather extremes. On one hand, many states are reporting deficient pre-monsoon showers, while on the other there have been instances of intense thunderstorm and hailstorm. In a warm country like ours, cubes of ice falling from the sky can be a rare and wonderful thing.

Canada’s Changing Climate Report: A call to action to reduce climate change risks ” Yale Climate Connections

With Canada warming twice as fast as the rest of the world – and some of its northern areas warming at even faster rates – the country’s newly released ” Canada’s Changing Climate Report ” lays a strong foundation for two subsequent government reports to be released over the next two years.

Scientists vote to recognise Anthropocene as Earth’s new epoch

The move signals the end of the Holocene epoch, which began 12,000 to 11,600 years ago Rising global temperatures, sea levels, depleting ozone layer and acidifying oceans are the result of human activity that has “distinctively” altered our planet. Now, a team of scientists have voted to declare “Anthropocene” as a new chapter in the Earth’s geological history.

Scientists vote to recognise Anthropocene as Earth’s new epoch

The move signals the end of the Holocene epoch, which began 12,000 to 11,600 years ago Rising global temperatures, sea levels, depleting ozone layer and acidifying oceans are the result of human activity that has “distinctively” altered our planet. Now, a team of scientists have voted to declare “Anthropocene” as a new chapter in the Earth’s geological history.

Guest post: Why natural cycles only play small role in rate of global warming | Carbon Brief

The role of variability due to natural ocean cycles in global warming is a long-standing debate in climate science. The scientific community overwhelmingly agrees that human activities are responsible for the observed increase in temperatures for the last half-century.

Opinion | Trump puts the same spin on all his problems

Someday he will get carried away.

2020 is team oil vs. team climate change. There’s no middle.

As Americans gas up for the start of the summer driving season, they’ll pay the highest Memorial Day prices at the pump since 2014. And they’ll have trouble finding any sort of middle lane in the oil wars of American politics.

Climate change: ‘We’ve created a civilisation hell bent on destroying itself – I’m terrified’, writes Earth scientist

The coffee tasted bad. Acrid and with a sweet, sickly smell. The sort of coffee that results from overfilling the filter machine and then leaving the brew to stew on the hot plate for several hours. The sort of coffee I would drink continually during the day to keep whatever gears left in my head turning.

Record methane levels pose new threat to Paris climate accord

Scientists have sounded the alarm after levels of methane in the atmosphere reached a record high, a development that could cause an unexpected acceleration in global warming and put the world further off course from the goals of the Paris climate deal.

With Threats to Nature Mounting, Need for Government Action Grows

People depend on nature. It sustains the quality of the air we breathe, the fresh water we drink, regulates our climate, the quality of the soils in which our food grows, and is the source of many of our medicines. But nature is in trouble.

With $32 Trillion In Assets, Investors Demand Immediate Action On Climate Change

A global group of 415 investors managing $32 trillion in assets just released a combined statement urging governments to accelerate their actions to mitigate climate change. The 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change reiterated their support of the ongoing Paris Agreement discussions taking place during COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

How climate change can fuel wars

O N THE OUTSKIRTS of Baga Sola, a small town in Chad not far from the border with Nigeria, is a refugee camp called Dar es Salaam. The name means “haven of peace”, but the surrounding area is an inferno of war, spilling across the borders of four countries: Chad, Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon.

Architect of Paris Agreement says we need to ‘go exponential’ to beat climate crisis

Governments that fail to provide responses to the global climate crisis are doing so “at their own peril,” former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said during a visit to Toronto. Figueres, a central figure behind the 2015 Paris Agreement, made the comments as she called for governments and tech companies to “go exponential” in their efforts to tackle the global climate emergency.

Recycling steel could give lifeline to the industry, report says

Recycling steel could provide a much-needed lifeline for the UK’s troubled steel industry, a new study has found, and have the added benefit of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Two-thirds of the steel currently used is made from primary production, and most of the remainder comes from off-cuts of the steel-making process, rather than recycled goods.

Climate change is making allergy season worse

Allergy season is upon us once again. And if it seems as though your allergies are getting worse year after year, it’s not just your imagination. Pollen is a fine powder produced as part of the sexual reproductive cycle of many varieties of plants.

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The Inescapable Politics of Climate Change

At this point, we all know that climate change is happening (or at least most of us do). But do we really know what it will mean to live on a planet transformed by it?

A $26 trillion opportunity

In the southern Italian region of Basilicata, home to the Val d’Agri Oil Centre known as COVA, hydrocarbon processing has undergone a radical digital transformation. COVA boasts one of the world’s first fully digitized hydrocarbon plants, but why? Two primary reasons: infrastructure and information. Val d’Agri has the largest onshore hydrocarbon deposit in mainland Europe.

A New Generation, Betrayed by the Old, is Rising Up on Climate Change

The voice. At first, it was the voice that took hold of them. Slightly off, coming out of a little girl’s body. A metallic voice, sharp as a blade, trembling not because of stress or shyness, oh no-trembling with rage, a cold rage set to overtake them. And then the words themselves.

A Shakespearean guide to how firms tackle climate change

“A LL THE world’s a stage,” wrote William Shakespeare in his monologue, “The Seven Ages of Man”. Centuries later, that stage is on fire, to paraphrase Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate-change activist who delivered a raw message to titans of industry in Davos this year that their companies were helping stoke the blaze.

The Myth of Climate Wars? | by Alaa Murabit & Luca Bücken

Rather than resisting the securitization of climate, advocates and policymakers should be promoting the climatization of security. This means highlighting the shortcomings of current security frameworks and promoting gender inclusiveness and local leadership as holistic and long-term solutions for peace and sustainability.

Amazon Shareholders Rejected Proposals on Climate Change – Thurrott.com

At its annual shareholder meeting, Amazon shareholders rejected all 12 of the proposals presented. Climate change was one of them, and Amazon rejected the proposal despite having more than 7,500 employees supporting the change. Even though Amazon is doing a decent amount of work to help reduce its carbon footprint, employees believed the company’s effort wasn’t enough.

A Dose of Reality: How Climate Change Affects Our Kids, Straight from a Pediatrician

Climate change is not something that will occur in the future – it’s happening right now. Millions of children are already affected by climate change, around the world and in the US. By virtue of its effect on sea levels, more frequent and severe hurricanes, heatwaves and droughts, air pollution, forest fires, and increases in infectious diseases, climate change is already affecting the way children live.

Climate change will hit the poor hard, study says

A study published on Earth Day concluded with near certainty that global warming is fueling a global disparity in wealth. Over the past 50 years, global warming has contributed to an approximately 25 percent larger wealth gap between the poorest and wealthiest nations in the world than if global temperatures had remained stable.

Feeling helpless about climate change? This doco is the uplifting call to arms you need right now

We’ve had our hottest summer on record, the Great Barrier Reef is perishing before our eyes, climate emergencies have been declared, one million species are at risk of extinction, the planet could warm by two degrees by 2060, and on Saturday the major party with the weakest policy on climate change formed government in Australia.

How Much Oil is in an Electric Vehicle?

Despite the growing hype around electric vehicles, conventional gas-powered vehicles are expected to be on the road well into the future. As a result, exhaust systems will continue to be a critical tool in reducing harmful air pollution.

Researchers outline vision for profitable climate change solution

May 20, 2019 by Rob Jordan, Stanford University A relatively simple process could help turn the tide of climate change while also turning a healthy profit. That’s one of the hopeful visions outlined in a new Stanford-led paper that highlights a seemingly counterintuitive solution: converting one greenhouse gas into another.

Hot Arctic and a Chill in the Northeast: What’s Behind the Gloomy Spring Weather?

When temperatures hit the 80s Fahrenheit in May above latitude 40, sun-seekers hit the parks, lakes, and beaches, and thoughts turn to summer. By contrast, when temperatures lurk in the drizzly 40s and 50s well into flower season, northerners get impatient for summer. But when those 80-degree temperatures visit latitude 64 in Russia, as…

We’re probably not going to hit the world’s most important climate goal

2 degrees Celsius. It’s one of the most widely-publicized numbers in the world. In 2015, world leaders convened in Paris and agreed to limit the planet’s warming this century to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures – and possibly even cap Earth’s warming at an ambitious 1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Guest post: Credible tracking of land-use emissions under the Paris Agreement | Carbon Brief

The global modelling community and national governments apply different methods to measure and report land-based greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Both methods can be justified, but the differences make it difficult to track progress towards the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Model and manage the changing geopolitics of energy

Energy is at the root of many political ructions. President Donald Trump’s intention to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement in 2020, the European Union’s restrictive policies against importing Chinese photovoltaic cells and the political hostility towards the school strikes over climate-change inaction are all reactions to attempts to shift the world to a low-carbon economy.

Corporate America has made a dramatic shift in calling for climate change action

A new coalition launched last week, a similar advocacy campaign is unveiling new corporate money today, and in yet another separate but parallel effort, executives from more than 75 companies will be on Capitol Hill this week lobbying on the issue. The intrigue: This is happening against a tumultuous background that may not welcome such a shift.

Middle America’s Low-Hanging Carbon

A Pulitzer Prize-winning, non-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering climate change, energy and the environment.

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption – Summerland Review

Johannes Feddema, Professor and Chair of Climatology at UVic calls the situation “unprecedented” in human history. (Don Bodger/Peninsula News Review File) CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history ALSO READ: Top 10 Climate Change myths debunked Researchers have announced that the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is now at levels not seen for at least 2.5 million years.

Drought forces ryots to leave Kurnool villages

KURNOOL: Forty acres of land, had it rained, would have yielded gold, but it was not to be the case. As there was scarce rainfall during Kharif, SK Siddarama, a middle-aged farmer in Santhakudulu, who owns those 40 acres of land, left half of it fallow and cultivated cotton in the rest.

Why The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12-Month Stretch On Record

I am always careful when writing this type of piece because there is usually some contrarian hanging out on Twitter waiting to pounce on statements like “It’s the ______est year ever.” To avoid cliche trolling, it is important to use the word “on record.” With that out of the way, let’s discuss the U.S.

The simple yet elusive key to fighting the climate crisis: More trees

A new scientific report finds that human behaviors are driving the extinction of non-human species at a rate so severe that the subsequent disappearance of life will soon be a threat to human health and prosperity.

5G networks could throw weather forecasting into chaos

Call ’em before the storm This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration. If you had a choice between a better, faster cell phone signal and an accurate weather forecast, which would you pick?

12 Ways Big Tech Can Take Big Action on Climate Change

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have invested $1 billion in Breakthrough Energy to fund next-generation solutions to tackle climate. But there is a huge risk that any successful innovation will only reach the market as the world approaches 2030 at the earliest.

Bill Nye on climate change: ‘It’s not 50 to 75 years away – it’s 10 or 15’

Bill Nye, popularly known as the “Science Guy,” joined Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle to discuss the actual threat of climate change and the science behind the warming of our planet.

With $32 Trillion In Assets, Investors Demand Immediate Action On Climate Change

A global group of 415 investors managing $32 trillion in assets just released a combined statement urging governments to accelerate their actions to mitigate climate change. The 2018 Global Investor Statement to Governments on Climate Change reiterated their support of the ongoing Paris Agreement discussions taking place during COP24 in Katowice, Poland.

The heat is on over the climate crisis. Only radical measures will work

Drowned cities; stagnant seas; intolerable heatwaves; entire nations uninhabitable… and more than 11 billion humans. A four-degree-warmer world is the stuff of nightmares and yet that’s where we’re heading in just decades.

We’ve declared a climate emergency – here’s what universal basic income could do to help the planet

Governments around the world are declaring ” climate and environmental emergencies ” to highlight the unsustainable ways in which humans, over a few generations, have transformed the planet. We’ve made enough concrete to cover the entire surface of the Earth in a layer two millimetres thick.

Why climate change is going to clobber our economy

Bob Keefe of Environmental Entrepreneurs argues the new US Congress needs to wake up fast to the economic crunch that awaits as climate impacts escalate Never mind record temperatures, flooding, wildfires and rising seas. Recent reports about the state of climate change send another warning about its impacts: It’s going to clobber our economy.

This Lawyer Wants Political Parties To Actually Care About The Environment Before It’s Too Late

In an exclusive conversation with Indiatimes, environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta touches upon issues that are critical to the environment’s cause and what political parties can do so that there is no further damage to our natural resources. He spoke at length on these burning issues.

Climate change may make trees live fast and die young

Everyone from governments to oil companies is looking at tree-planting as a way to counter global warming, but this strategy could be less effective than we thought. In a warming world with growing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, researchers have hypothesised that trees will grow faster.

Atmospheric Rivers Are Back. That’s Not a Bad Thing.

California Today Good morning. (Want to get California Today delivered to your inbox? Here’s the sign-up .) Remember atmospheric rivers? Earlier this year, they hit California’s collective consciousness in a big way, as the state reeled from the catastrophic flooding, mudslides and pounding rain they brought with them.

Global Warming: How Hot, Exactly, Is it Going to Get?

Imagine spending your whole career working on a question to which you don’t want to know the answer. We know that greenhouse gas emissions can and do warm the planet, but we don’t know one very basic thing: how hot, exactly, is it going to get?

Planetary health and ’12 years’ to act ” Yale Climate Connections

Life makes us wake up to needed changes. A visit to the doctor’s office and accompanied tests indicate you have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic. Your doctor indicates two pathways to addressing the condition before things get worse. You can change your lifestyle, or you can take medication with possible side effects.

Bill Nye The Science Guy Explains Global Warming In Words Even A Member Of Congress Can Understand

Climate Change John Oliver devoted a large segment of his latest show to explaining the Green New Deal to his viewers. He went on at length about the hilariously stupid things reactionaries – most of them Faux News aficionados – have said about it, bringing experts into the discussion to explain that the GND is not about taking away hamburgers or airplanes and that cows don’t fart so much as burp.

The Water Balance

Budhera, a rocky and water-deficit village 60 kilometres from Hyderabad, on the Mumbai highway, would seem an unlikely area to showcase sustainable growth for the NYSE-listed pharmaceuticals major, Dr Reddy’s. Much has changed since the company shelved plans to set up an SEZ unit there three years ago.

Earth Optimism: Reasons to Feel Positive in 2019

If you’re a fan of nature documentaries, you’ve probably heard about the unsettling images in Netflix’s new series, Our Planet. In one episode, the lack of sea ice forces walruses to rest on a steep cliff face… where many fall to their deaths.

Carbon dioxide in atmosphere at highest level in human history

Buildup of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has topped 415 parts per million–the highest level in human history–according to new measurements taken by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii.

Climate change pushes farmers to ‘tipping point’ in Lake Chad crisis – Chad

Irregular rains and rising temperatures have spurred on conflict in the region by causing food shortages and frustration DAKAR, May 15 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Climate change must be addressed to tackle conflict around Lake Chad, researchers said on Wednesday, as increasingly extreme weather has pushed poor farmers and fishermen to take up arms. The region bordering Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon has been hit by a decade-long Islamist insurgency, uprooting 2.5 million people in one of the world’s most neglected crises.

When will rural men own up responsibility?

This question has been in my mind for some time. One can of course exempt politicians from being asked the question. The compulsions of populism requires them to keep treating rural poor people as recipients of goodies and doles, and not as responsible men and women capable of handling their own lives.

How Least Developed Countries can become leaders in tackling climate change

The group of Least Developed Countries (LDC) has been negotiating under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for many years and has continuously taken leadership roles at key points. For example, the push for and successful inclusion (against great odds) of the long-term global temperature goal of 1.5 degrees Centigrade in the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Nobel-prize winning panel issues ‘life or death’ warning on climate change

Preventing an extra single degree of heat could make a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for multitudes of people and ecosystems on this fast-warming planet, an international panel of scientists reported Sunday. But they provide little hope the world will rise to the challenge.

Has the politics of climate change finally reached a tipping point? | John Vidal

Last week a small campaign group in the staunchly conservative town of Shrewsbury called a public meeting about climate change. The organisers were delighted when 150 people turned up. Even they were surprised, though, when people unanimously said they were prepared to give up flying, change their boilers and cars, eat less meat and even overthrow capitalism to get a grip on climate change.

For some millennials, climate change clock ticks louder than biological one

SEATTLE – Erika Lundahl writes and performs her own songs. She works in Seattle for a company that publishes books on the environment. She thinks a lot about how best to occupy her place in the world. Yet, despite this full life, Lundahl, at 27, feels a clock ticking.

Neighbours discuss ‘global catastrophe’ – and some blame Australia

Updated May 16, 2019 09:29:40 It would have been an uncomfortable spot. Yesterday Australian officials sat quietly in their chairs as Pacific leader after Pacific leader delivered stern warnings about the lethal threat that climate change poses to their nations. Regional heavyweights had gathered at an historic climate change summit convened with the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.

Climate Change Election: where do parties stand and what can we expect after Saturday?

Six years ago, following the election of the Abbott Government, the renewable energy industry, and prospects for climate change were cast into a pretty dark period. Strong climate policies were unwound, and investment in new clean energy projects came to a standstill.

Carbon Dioxide Soars to Record-Breaking Levels Not Seen in at Least 800,000 Years

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than there has been for 800,000 years – since before our species evolved. On Saturday (May 11), the levels of the greenhouse gas reached 415 parts per million (ppm), as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

Documenting Climate Change by Air, Land and Sea

The New York Times photographer Josh Haner has spent the past four years capturing the effects of climate change around the world and under water. Over the last four years, The New York Times staff photographer Josh Haner has been documenting with stills and video the effects of climate change around the world.

Investors face $1.2T in costs from climate change inaction

Inaction on climate change could cost the world’s top companies $1.2 trillion over the next 15 years, according to a from the United Nations (UN) Environment Finance Initiative project reflecting the input of 20 institutional investors from 11 countries. The report calls on corporations and financial institutions to develop long-range assessments of climate change-associated risks and opportunities.

Could Adapting for Climate Change Make Inequality in Cities Worse?

In Mayor Marty Walsh’s new capital plan for large investments by the city of Boston, at least 10 percent of spending will go toward prepping parks and infrastructure for the effects of climate change. The city’s resilience initiatives are wrapped in the language of equity-in Walsh’s words, representing “Boston’s historic commitment to our collective well-being.”

Global warming shrank Indian economy by 31 per cent: Stanford study

BOSTON: Global warming has caused the Indian economy to be 31 per cent smaller than it would otherwise have been, according to a Stanford study which shows how Earth’s temperature changes have increased inequalities.

Climate change is here already, and we’re not ready – Firstpost

Climate change is probably the biggest challenge that the human civilisation faces today. Its impact is already visible and points to the role played by man-made emissions in altering the balance of our climate system. Human activities have pushed up the global temperature by 1°C from the pre-industrial level, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report has said.

More Warm Spring Days (1970-2018)

While most of the country is comfortably into spring, signs of hotter weather are looming. Phoenix had its first 100 degree day in late April, more than two weeks earlier than the historical average of May 12. And the National Hurricane Center has already looked at systems for potential tropical development.

12 Ways Big Tech Can Take Big Action on Climate Change

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have invested $1 billion in Breakthrough Energy to fund next-generation solutions to tackle climate. But there is a huge risk that any successful innovation will only reach the market as the world approaches 2030 at the earliest.

Study Will Examine Risks and Benefits of Climate Interventions – Eos

A National Academies committee is working to develop a research agenda for geoengineering strategies that reflect sunlight to cool Earth.

Why values matter in combating climate change

In its latest report, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the world has only a dozen or so years to ensure that global warming is kept to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Europe ‘takes too much of Earth resources’

People in Europe are snatching more than their fair share of the world’s resources, a report says today. It says Europeans emit too much carbon, eat too much food, use large amounts of timber and occupy too much built space. The report for the green group WWF and the Global Footprint Network says Europeans contribute disproportionately to depleting resources.

Stalling on Climate Change Action May Cost Investors Over $1 Trillion

The group has created a guide for investors to assess how their holdings would respond to different levels of global warming and policy making.

How global warming has made the rich richer

Temperatures may be rising globally, but not all of us feel the impact in the same way. Over the past half century, climate change has increased inequality between countries, dragging down growth in the poorest nations whilst likely boosting prosperity in some of the richest, a new study says.

UN chief says world ‘not on track’ with climate change

Wellington (AFP) UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres launched a brief South Pacific tour in New Zealand Sunday, warning the world was “not on track” to limiting global temperature rises. In a strong message for action on climate change, Guterres said international political resolve was fading and it was the small island nations that were “really in the front line” and would suffer most.

Why climate change is going to clobber our economy

Bob Keefe of Environmental Entrepreneurs argues the new US Congress needs to wake up fast to the economic crunch that awaits as climate impacts escalate Never mind record temperatures, flooding, wildfires and rising seas. Recent reports about the state of climate change send another warning about its impacts: It’s going to clobber our economy.


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-10/climate-action-delay-may-cost-investors-more-than-1-trillion

Could climate change submerge Joe Biden’s presidential bid?

Climate change is transforming life by redrawing coastlines, turning vast areas of forest into infernos, stirring enormous storms and spreading exotic diseases. An indirect casualty of this upheaval could be Joe Biden’s hopes of becoming US president. Biden, frontrunner in the polls to secure the Democratic nomination, has not laid out a plan to address the crisis.

Climate change is the world’s biggest worry

In a world of troubles, the battle against climate change must take priority. That is the clear message of the 28 leading global think tanks that together comiled a Report Card on International Cooperation.

Climate change: Where we are in seven charts

The UN has warned that the goal of limiting global warming to “well below 2C above pre-industrial levels” is in danger because major economies, including the US and the EU, are falling short of their pledges.

Australians overwhelmingly agree climate emergency is nation’s No 1 threat

New polling from a respected foreign policy thinktank underscores the point that 2019 is the climate change election, with a majority of Australians saying global warming is a critical threat. The poll undertaken for Lowy says 64% of adults rank climate change number one on a list of 12 threats to Australia’s national interests, up six points from last year’s survey and a jump of 18 points since 2014.

Global Warming Is Messing with the Jet Stream. That Means More Extreme Weather.

Greenhouse gases are increasingly disrupting the jet stream, a powerful river of winds that steers weather systems in the Northern Hemisphere. That’s causing more frequent summer droughts, floods and wildfires, a new study says.

Explainer: Six ideas to limit global warming with solar geoengineering | Carbon Brief

Scientists agree that cutting global greenhouse emissions as soon as possible will be key to tackling global warming. But some researchers are now calling for more research into measures that could be taken alongside emissions cuts, including – controversially – the use of “solar geoengineering” technologies.

Geo-engineering is not the solution to global warming, argues Greenpeace’s Doug Parr

It is a testament to the world’s catastrophic levels of inertia that when it comes to dealing with climate change, a relatively simple physical phenomenon, “geo-engineering solutions” are now being seriously looked at by scientists. The ideas on show today range from the distant but interesting to the outright dangerous.

Study: U.S. Fossil Fuel Subsidies Exceed Pentagon Spending

The world would be richer and healthier if the full costs of fossil fuels were paid, according to a new report from the International Monetary Fund

Climate change could wipe $571bn from property values by 2030

Climate change is already impacting the Australian economy and the effects are only going to get worse, according to new modelling released by the Climate Council on Thursday. The Climate Council has modelled the economic impacts of the current Federal Government’s current approach to climate change, finding that a lack of action on climate change “is a major threat to Australia’s financial stability, and poses substantial systemic economic risks”.