How dare you?

By Mrinal Roy

The world leaders of the main polluting countries of the world have buried their heads in the sand for too long and been in denial of the extremely damaging fallouts of an increasing use of coal and fossil fuels

People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing….and all you talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?

This angry and impassioned remonstrance of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg to the leaders of the world taking part in the UN Climate Action summit held in New York this week on 23 September and all the polluters from all countries choking and smothering planet Earth with rising levels of carbon emissions epitomizes the anger of the young from across the world at the failure of world leaders and governments to act decisively to prevent an impending climate change catastrophe.

Her scathing indictment – ‘You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words’- mirrors the angst and revolt of billions of young in the world at the absence of more potent and decisive actions by world leaders and governments to reverse the disastrous fallouts of climate change and stub out the greed and irresponsibility of the main polluting countries. They continue to remain blind to the mounting scientific evidence and the devastating consequences of climate change substantiated by the rising frequency of havoc wreaked by extreme weather conditions, monster storms, record temperatures, extremely damaging floods, landslides, rising sea levels and destructive monsoons in countries across the world.

‘Listen and help us’ was the cri de coeur of millions of school children from over 200 countries who skipped school on 20 September to stage a global strike to demand the leaders and adults of the world to take urgent actions to reverse the dire consequences of climate change on the planet’s future.

The world leaders of the main polluting countries of the world have buried their heads in the sand for too long and been in denial of the extremely damaging fallouts of an increasing use of coal and fossil fuels belching increasing amounts of carbon emissions in the atmosphere on climate change. Coal and fossil fuels account for most of the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. They also pollute our air, water and soil.

The main polluters and their lobbies refuse to recognize that the present models of economic development, production and trade as well as the wanton depredation of rain forests, deforestation and major forest fires in the rainforests of the Amazon, Congo, Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia, etc., have disastrous repercussions on climate change. Some like the US President Donald Trump walked out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation in June 2017 whereas President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is worsening the situation through his decried deforestation policies and the scale of unchecked fires in the Amazon rainforest.

State of emergency

The upshot of is that our homeland, Planet Earth is in a state of emergency. In a report compiled by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and issued on 22 September ahead of the UN Climate Action summit, leading climate scientists reveal that the ‘rise in sea level, planetary warming, shrinking ice sheets and carbon pollution have accelerated during the 2015-2019 period which is set to be the warmest five-year period on record. Greenhouse gas concentrations during this period have seen a continued increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and other key greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to new records, with CO2 growth rates nearly 20% higher than the previous five years. CO2 remains in the atmosphere for centuries and in the ocean for even longer.’

People, the world biodiversity, higher temperatures, heatwaves, dying corals, rising sea levels, coastal erosion, submersion of low lying coastal areas and coastal cities, the massive displacement of people, air pollution, risks to food security would be some the disastrous consequences and collateral casualties of climate change.

Time for decisive actions

Planet Earth therefore faces an unprecedented crisis. It is no longer time for futile talk but for potent actions. Researchers have said that to limit global warming to the mandatory target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world needs to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030, a goal that is far beyond most countries’ current commitments. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres therefore hosted an emergency Climate Action summit of world leaders this week on 23 September in New York urging them to pledge more ambitious and potent actions to drastically cut down carbon emissions to prevent a climate change catastrophe and curb its dire consequences on the future of Planet Earth and the young.

This goal also requires countries to drastically review their economic model, their lifestyle, their mode of production and trade to reduce their carbon footprint and to eliminate the use of highly polluting coal and fossil fuels. Countries should, for example, not be importing goods which increase carbon emissions. This is not the time for half measures or half hearted actions. We need to act potently and decisively now.

Despite all the build up and the pledges to significantly increase their production of green and renewable energy and more potent actions to shift the global response to mitigate the adverse consequences of climate change into higher gear by some 70 countries, the outcome of the UN Climate Action summit was disappointing. China and the United States, the two countries with the highest CO2 emissions were not even present at the summit whereas the commitments from other countries responsible for the largest emissions of CO2 fell short of the level necessary to meet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030 to prevent a climate change catastrophe.

Drawing the line

In the wake of the summit, Greta Thunberg and 15 international young people adversely affected by climate change have filed a lawsuit against five of the biggest carbon polluters in the world—Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey—arguing that by failing to adequately reduce their carbon emissions these polluting countries are violating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which states children have the right to life, health and peace. This resolute stance is in line with her statement at the Climate Action summit: ‘You are failing us. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.’

It should be flagged that in the absence of more potent actions to drastically reduce carbon emissions in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2030, small island developing states like Mauritius are particularly vulnerable to the devastating consequences of climate change. Against such an alarming backdrop, how dare the coal lobbies and those who have assiduously jockeyed for their interests for years continue to insidiously canvass for the continued use of highly polluting coal in the country?

As a highly vulnerable country, we therefore need to lead by example in the global battle against climate change by urgently eliminating the use of highly polluting coal to produce electricity and open up the sector of energy production to new players and new proven technologies to significantly increase green and renewable energy production in the country. We therefore need to obtain firm undertakings from politicians ahead of the general elections that they would urgently do so.

Existential battle

The collective battle of mankind to save Planet Earth for the young and future generations from the adverse impact of climate change transcends all barriers as it is in many ways a battle for survival. This battle must be won. It must be relentlessly fought despite setbacks. The onus is therefore on the people and the young from across the world to continue to pressure their governments to urgently do what it takes to win this existential battle for all mankind.

Treat the earth well: It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’
— Ancient Iroquois Native American proverb

* Published in print edition on 27 September 2019

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