Although the highly trumpeted Copenhagen conference came to an end without any legally binding conclusions, we can’t deny the fact that the earth is boiling.
Global warming is a global warning. And, if we continue to ignore its effects, we surely will fail to save our own existence.
In the late 1980’s, scientists began to talk about the fact that the earth’s energy flux was no longer in balance; its surface was getting warmer affecting the climatic system.
By 1995, it became evident that the main culprit was CO2 emissions produced by burning fuel, coal, gases and oil in factories, power stations and motors.
It’s estimated that a typical coal fired plant generates 3,700,000 tones CO2 annually, causing damage equal to cutting down 161 million trees. The same plant also emits 10,000 tones of S02, 10200 tones of 03 forming NO, 77.1 kg Hg and 102.1 kg As.
The rich of the planet are responsible for most of the CO2 emissions produced. They owe their present luxurious lifestyle and prosperity to years of historical emissions that have accumulated in the atmosphere since the start of industrial revolution.
Ironically, the most affected are the poor on the planet.
Poor developing countries, particularly small island nations and we, residing at the base of the Himalayas, will be the worst hit. The melting of ice caps leads to a rise in sea level that can turn many people into refugees.
Moreover, poor countries like Nepal are least prepared to face the wrath of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) and many other problems causing enormous loss of life and property.
Climate change has become one of the prime issues threatening the sustainability of world’s environment. It has impact on livability, health and the global economy. A rise in global temperature causes sea levels to rise as polar ice caps and glaciers begin to melt along with thermal expansion of water. Yet another consequence is uncertain weather pattern, which brings loss of property and life, uncertainty in precipitation pattern, and stress on bio-diversity.
Any limit on carbon emission by developed countries amounts to a limit on economic growth, turning climate change mitigation into an intensely political issue. International negotiation under UNFCCC aimed at limiting GHG emissions turned into a tug of war with rich countries unwilling to compromise their lifestyles and poor countries unwilling to accept a premature cap on their right to basic development.
Asking developing countries to reduce carbon emission level now amounts to asking them to freeze their standards of living, which would further lead to global inequality.
Can one tone of GHG produced by rich countries be taken equal to one tone of gas produced by a peasant in Guatemala or Nepal?
The answer is NO.
The first tone is the result of “luxury” whereas the second is of basic “survival”.
What’s the fault of the Himalayas, which uses the least fossil fuel yet is the most vulnerable to the consequences of fossil fuel combustion? Is this a blame game where “beggars can’t be choosers” and the rich are not sacrificing a little bit?
Why are we forgetting that preventing this global problem is not just an economic or ecological issue?
Each country asks itself “How do I do the least and get the other countries to do the most?” when they should be asking “How do we co-operate to achieve our shared goals at minimum cost and maximum benefit?”
Obviously, the highest emitters have to carry the bigger share of the burden but the poorer countries also have to be effective partners on the global stage and put forward a stronger voice.
Effective accord must help vulnerable countries, especially the poorest of the poor and highly vulnerable areas and island nations to adapt to climate change.
The most interesting fact to emerge is that fully 70% of the reductions needed by 2020 can be achieved by investing in three areas:
- Increasing energy efficiency
- Reducing deforestation
- Use of low carbon energy source and technologies such as carbon capture and storage through global collaboration
The thing we want is an initiation to overcome this global problem collectively. A radical new approach within manageable timeframe must be forwarded. As we are the creator of the problem, we need to share the responsibility of solving it — rather than blaming each other.
Every tiny change multiplied by millions of people living on our planet has the potential to make a difference.
Saving the environment isn’t about rich or poor, dark or fair. It’s just about going green.
Hence, we need to rush for the sake of our earth, for the sake of our future generations and for the sake of other creatures who share this planet with us.
What we still lack is the wisdom, courage and compassion to convert our knowledge into reality.
But now we really need to worry because: If not earth, where? If not now, when? If not us, who?
“It’s possible to imagine building higher seawalls around New Orleans, but Bangladesh? California may figure out a way to deal with the loss of snow pack in its mountains, but Nepal? That’s why LDC bloc has increasingly focused on “survival” as a goal in climate talks” — Bill McKibben, Author, Educator, Environmentalist.
Anisha Pokharel is a first year student at the Institute Of Forestry, Pokhara, Nepal and a contributor to Youth Climate Report.