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Indian monsoon, German floods, Canadian heat – Lip service to climate change won’t do anymore

Campus Voice is an initiative by ThePrint where young Indians get an opportunity to express their opinions on a prevalent issue.

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Monsoon brings me immense joy. It gives relief from the scorching heat and makes our surroundings lush green. Drenching in light cold showers makes me feel like I have transcended to another world. Many communities, not only in India but also in the subcontinent, celebrate the arrival of the monsoon with a lot of enthusiasm.

However, the Indian monsoon has become more erratic lately. Before the onset of the monsoon this year, we witnessed two severe cyclonic storms back-to-back – Taukte on the western coast, and Yaas on the eastern coast. Not long ago, we also saw major floods in Chennai, Kerala, and Bihar. These have become a recurring phenomenon, and it requires no rocket science to know that climate change is the culprit behind it.

India isn’t the only country to suffer due to climate extremes. Developed nations like Germany are experiencing severe floods where over 100 people have died. Canada has been hit by a deadly heatwave, which is said to have killed many, and the country recorded its highest-ever temperature. Last year, forest fires devastated northern Australia and made headlines across the world.

There are some drastic changes we cannot feel directly, like warming of oceans and breaking off of glaciers in Antarctica. But these are not discrete events. Climate change knows no boundaries.

Who is responsible?

To answer this question, we need to go back in history to the Industrial Revolution. European nations and the US ruthlessly burnt coal to power their industries and railway engines. I remember reading about British cities covered in black soot in my school textbook. These Western nations have historically contributed to greenhouse gas emission, which is the main reason behind today’s global warming and climate change.

However, the end of World War II marked the era of decolonisation, and emergence of new nation-states. The new nations started developing by relying on industrialisation. This resulted in increasing their share of greenhouse gas emissions. By the end of the 20th century, China and India were among the top five carbon-emitting nations.

So, today there is a rift between developed and developing nations regarding who should cut their emissions and by how much. India affirms the ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) to ensure climate justice.

Also read: We can take the heat, usually. But more heat waves are dangerous

What are we doing to stop this menace?

In the 1992 Earth Summit, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate change (UNFCCC) came into existence. Under this, almost all members of the UN started negotiating on setting binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions. In 1997, the Kyoto protocol set binding limits based on the principle of CBDR.

India ratified it in 2002. But the US never ratified it and Canada withdrew in 2011. So, the success of the Kyoto protocol is debatable.

Later, in 2015, the Paris Agreement, the most important climate deal, laid out a target to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius. Many countries, including India and China, declared Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to limit their greenhouse gas emissions. However, the Emission Gap Report finds that these targets are not enough to achieve the stated objective.

What lies ahead

The current attitude of nations, especially the developed ones, is expected to change after the events that we saw earlier. Issue of climate change needs to be politicised, so that governments across the world are compelled to take concrete steps. Mere lip service is not going to solve the issue.

Meanwhile, we as individuals can reduce our carbon footprint by making good choices such as preferring electric vehicles and avoiding conspicuous consumption. Even the squirrels’ contribution in building the Ram Setu was vital. We should act in a spirit that says, “We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers, we have borrowed it from our children”.

Hemant Wankheded is a student of SGGSIET, Nanded. Views are personal.

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