Let’s use the standard Hindi movie formula of circa 1980 to script our earth’s climate story. Enter Superstar US. The virtuous, street smart, Robin Hood inspired protagonist of our story, replete with his coterie of jazz dancers. And then there’s the poor guy, India. Always trying to emulate the “hero” and competing with him for the “herione’s” attention in college settings. Let’s throw in some masala – subplots, love triangles and the very popular song and dance sequences – with the extras doing their own thing while they dance in the third row.
Now compare this with whatever we’ve been seeing in the Climate Change discussions. See the script accurately playing itself out? (Nobody seems to want to ask mother Earth for her point of view). Call it clairvoyance or just plain sensitivity, some of us have been seeing it coming since the mid nineties. Even we couldn’t have guessed the speed of deterioration, although fully knowing the bounty hunter tendencies of the US, we should have been able to. Easily. Shame on us!
Some simple facts from Prem Shankar Jha’s Tehelka article, An Earth On Edge.
1. Till as recently as five years ago, abrupt climate change was on the unthinkable fringe of possibilities predicted by climate scientists. In March 2009, 2,500 scientists from 80 countries assembled at the International Scientific Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen. The congress concluded that the findings of the IPCC were out of date. The evidence collected since its fourth report was compiled showed that global warming was ceasing to be human-induced and was becoming self-reinforcing.
2. The mean air temperature was also rising faster than had been predicted. Five years earlier, scientists had thought that the rise, currently at about one degree celsius from the beginning of the century, could be contained at around two degrees by the end of the present century. But fresh evidence showed that this is more wish than prediction. A three degree rise is now well on the cards.
3. They also found that the Greenland ice sheet, the Arctic ocean ice cap and the Antarctic shelf were melting faster than even the most determined pessimists had predicted. The rate of ice-melt in the Arctic in the summer of 2008 was what the IPCC had predicted for 2055!
I’m scared shitless!
Now for COP15. Copenhagen or “Hope-nhagen” planned in December 2009.
The wish for clarity is expressed by Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in an interview with Environment & Energy Publishing (E&E). According to Yvo de Boer, the four essentials calling for an international agreement in Copenhagen are:
1. How much are the industrialized countries willing to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases?
2. How much are major developing countries such as China and India willing to do to limit the growth of their emissions?
3. How is the help needed by developing countries to engage in reducing their emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change going to be financed?
4. How is that money going to be managed?
“If Copenhagen can deliver on those four points I’d be happy,” says Yvo de Boer.
Back to Prem Shankar Jha’s article for some answers:
… three key messages to the world. First, the worst case scenarios of the IPCC are being realised. For many key parameters, the climate is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability within which our society and economy have developed and thrived. Second, the evidence being provided by the research community increasingly supports the possibility that the earth will experience ‘dangerous climate change’. And finally, action has to be drastic, immediate and coordinated. “Rapid, sustained, and effective mitigation based on coordinated global and regional action”, they warned, “(is) required to avoid dangerous climate change, regardless of how it is defined”.
In Mr. Yvo de Boer’s own words the answer to the first question about the role of industrialised countries …
“My big lesson from the Kyoto era is that it’s really important that the government delegation that represents the United States is in close touch with the Senate, with the elected officials on what’s acceptable and what’s not,” says de Boer, and he adds:
“I think that a major shortcoming of Kyoto was that the official delegation came back with a treaty they knew was never going to make it through the Senate. And this time I have the feeling that the communication is much stronger, that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, through John Kerry, is really expressing strongly what they feel needs to be done in Copenhagen.”
Yvo de Boer thinks the Kyoto Protocol was rejected by the US for mainly two reasons. Firstly, because it did not involve action on the part of major developing countries. Secondly, because it was felt by the Bush administration that Kyoto would be harmful to the US economy.
… amplified by Mr. Jha,
The Kyoto Protocol had required the industrialised nations to reduce their CO2 emissions by 6.4 percent below 1990 by 2000. But the Waxman-Markey bill requires American industry to bring energy-related CO2 emissions down by 20 percent below the 2005 level by 2020.This not only means that the US wants to shift the base year to 2005, but that the actual target for 2020 is only 4.6 percent below the 1990 level and lower than the original target it had accepted for 2000.
On the topic of India and China, here goes.
The developing country exception proved to be a poison pill. The Bush administration made it a pretext for withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol in 2001. The European countries made a half-hearted attempt to honour their obligations. But with the US, Russia, China, India and other developing nations making no effort to curb emissions, the protocol did next to nothing to reduce CO2 emissions. For the world as a whole, energy-related CO2 emissions rose from 22 billion metric tonnes (BMT) in 1990 to 29.9BMT in 2007.
China was the main offender. Between 1990 and 2007, its CO2 emissions rose from 2.3BMT to a staggering 5.9BMT. This was only 0.2BMT less than the emissions of the US. But in the very next year, China surpassed the US when it commissioned 90,000MW of coal-fired power plants and added another half billion tonnes of CO2 to the atmosphere. India’s emissions have also grown rapidly, although from a much smaller base. These went up from 0.0006BMT in 1990 to 1.5BMT in 2007. Not surprisingly, neither country is pushing the developing country exception anymore.
And now for the most important part of our Bollywood script –
The aftermath of L’Aquila clearly shows that the rich nations have cast India in the role of the villain. The July 13 issue of The Economist carried an intemperate attack on Shyam Saran, Dr Manmohan Singh’s special envoy on global warming. Less than a week later the New York Times carried an editorial that must rank as the most virulent attack that it has launched on India since the liberation of Goa. The editorial linked its recalcitrance on global warming to a determination to misuse the Indo-US nuclear deal to make more nuclear weapons and missiles and the singlehanded sabotage of the Doha round of trade negotiations.
This concerted attack is not only totally unwarranted but casts doubts on the Western media’s much vaunted claim to freedom and objectivity. For although 37 countries, including China, have opposed the US and EU’s proposals, neither newspaper made even a token attempt to find out where the differences lie. And neither of them has gone after China.