Man Vs Mother Earth: Who has betrayed whom? - Part 3

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"If you ask me to name the three scariest threats facing the human race, I would give the same answer that most people would: nuclear war, global warming and Windows." - Dave Barry.

This is third in the series of articles about climate crisis. This article speaks about the impact of scientific discoveries on political decisions and policy making with respect to climate crisis. The first article should set the historical context for you to get interested in knowing about climate crisis and the second article talks about earth's energy balance, causes and consequences of climate crisis.

"Already in the 1930s, many people noticed that their weather was getting warmer. Few connected this with human activity, and still fewer feared any harm. Gradually scientists, aided by science journalists, informed the minority of educated people that modern civilization might cause global warming, sometime far in the future. In the early 1970s, the question began to concern a wider public. By then most people had come to fear planet-wide harm from technology in general. Now an onslaught of droughts suggested we were already damaging the climate. The issue was confused, however, when experts debated whether pollution would bring global warming or, instead, an appalling new ice age. By the end of the 1970s, scientific opinion had settled on warming as most likely, probably becoming evident around the year 2000 — that is, in a remote and uncertain future [The Discovery of Global Warming]."

Read more about The Discovery of Global Warming, Impacts of Global Warming, and everything you want to know about 'road to climate crisis': click here. You can also download the entire site, click here to download.

In the 1980s, international conferences and new types of scientific groups began to shape the agendas of governments to a degree that had little precedent in other areas of world politics. Increased pressure from scientific community and environmentalists generated some thoughts on 'climate crisis and policy making.' Leaders across the world started realizing that, the problem of global warming is 'global' and requires cooperative action by all the governments. Refer first article to find more about institutions/organizations set up by international community to curb global warming.

1. Climate Crisis and Policy Making

Policy response to address the risk of climate change will involve virtually every area of economy & society and needs to be looked at as part of development strategy. Keeping this broader picture of 'development strategy' in mind, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change had realized way back in 1992 that, "the responsibility for addressing the problem is common but differentiated." The term 'differentiated' here means, not all countries have the same responsibility when it comes to mitigate the future consequences. UNFCCC accepts this because of the historical emission patters. "To give some idea of numbers, in terms of the principal pollutant, carbon, USA's per capita emissions (you can think of it as average amount of carbon contributed by every citizen of that country) amount to nearly 20 tonnes, Europe is at around 8 tonnes, Japan and South Korea at around 10 tonnes, Russia at around 12 tonnes, China around 4 tonnes and India at 1 tonne as of 2004." So, the "polluter pays" principle has been accepted by most of the international community (except United states which remains the single biggest obstacle to global progress on climate change).

The policy response to the risk of climate change has three dimensions [Yojana, June 2008],
  1. Intensified research and observation of the climate system and its impact on development.
  2. Actions to mitigate the risks by reducing the human contribution to the causative factors and
  3. Actions to adapt to the changes that are unavoidable despite the mitigation actions.

2. Who should take the responsibility?
Its interesting to note that, In December 2007 Bali Conference, United states was humiliated by Kevin Conrad from a tiny independent state Papua New Guinea. Kevin Conard asked US, "We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.", What happened next? "The conference exploded with applause, the U.S. delegation backed down, and the way was cleared for adoption of the “Bali road map” after a dramatic half-hour that set the stage for a grinding two years of climate talks to come [source]." Doesn't this remind us a quote from John Kerry? "America has not led but fled on the issue of global warming."

"Given the historical emission patterns, fairness dictates that industrialized (or developed) countries reduce their emission enormously, by 80-90 percent at minimum, in order to leave ecological space for developing countries. On the other hand the science and current projections dictate that developing countries too need to urgently shift to less carbon intensive growth trajectories.[EPW, December 29, 2007]." That is why United states argue that, rest of the world (especially the developing countries, specifically pointing towards India and China) should also share the burden of climate crisis while being completely aware of the fact that it (US) is responsible (to a greater extent) for today's much 'warmer' habitat of mankind. We can say that, US is finding its hiding place behind India and China when it comes to taking measures on climate crisis. US continues to be largest contributer of green house gases (recently there were reports that China has overtaken US in terms of carbon emission).

World's Top Ten Emitters (2005)
CountryCO2 emissions in billion tonnes (Gt)
United States5.96
South Korea0.5

"Most OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries, and economies in transition (developing countries) signed Kyoto Protocol in 1997, to reduce anthropogenic green house gas emission by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008-12 with a shift to cleaner energies such as wind and solar powers. Unfortunately the big boss, the United States, has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Developing countries' exemption from compliance of the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol has probably annoyed the US. The Protocol nevertheless covers 174 countries globally including India, and over 55% of global green house gas emission[Yojana, June 2008].

3. Shift in Position and Sharing the responsibility
Even though developing countries like India, China and Brazil do not have any legal obligation under the Kyoto Protocol beyond monitoring and reporting emissions, these countries have moral responsibility to mitigate the crisis and their proactive initiatives should be supported by developed countries with both finance and technology.
  • Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): CDM projects under the Kyoto protocol mooted to encourage investment in developing countries by promoting the "transfer of environment-friendly technologies." Developed countries have the (morel if not legal) responsibility of assisting other countries in terms of finance and technologies. Mitigation efforts by developing countries can only be adapted if the full additional costs involved are made available by developed countries.
  • Sustainable Development Policies and measures (SD-PAMS): This articulation in Bali conference emphasizes the responsibility of developing countries come up with economic policies which can lead to sustainable growth as against the present haphazard growth in many countries.
  • The final text of the Bali Conference clearly stated the consideration of, "Nationally appropriate mitigation actions by developing country Parties in the context of sustainable development, supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity-building, in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner." This clearly asks developing countries to take the 'climate friendly growth' seriously.

At G-8 summit held in Heiligendamm, our PM Dr. Manmohan Singh made it clear that, "India was prepared to commit that its per capita emission would not exceed the average per capita emissions of developed industrial countries [...]." Such proactive initiatives are healthy and other countries should follow the suit. Its high time that, every country should ask not what every other country has done for the cause of climate crisis, but should ask itself what it has done (or what it has to do) for avoiding terrible consequences of climate crisis.

To be continued...

In the subsequent articles i will be discussing about how the scientific results where successful in making 'climate crisis' a buzzword and also about importance of scientific results and advancements for 'cleaner' future, role of world leaders and scientific community in sharing whatever little is left and the road ahead.


santosh said...

Michael's detailed explanation of why he criticizes global warming scenarios. Using published UN data, he reviews why claims for catastrophic warming arouse doubt; why reducing CO2 is vastly more difficult than we are being told; and why we are morally unjustified to spend vast sums on this speculative issue when around the world people are dying of starvation and disease.

I like this excerpt
"Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science, consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus."


"......Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right......"

I haven't gone through Michael's work completely, but i feel he should be pragmatic and think about doing whatever we can and leave the rest to nature...
I would ask Michael to be 'that' investigator who he think can make 'that' path breaking discovery to overcome global warming and then start criticizing whatever little is being done to overcome global warming. Time to open your eyes, Mr Michael Chrichton.

santosh said...

"Time to open your eyes, Mr Michael Crichton." -very funny...I am not sure whether u know or not who Michael Crichton is but you should realize that the point he is trying to make is we should open our eyes.

The general consensus is global warming happens because of our pollution and what Crichton points out is that there isn't enough evidence to claim it is true. Global warming happened many times before without our intervention.

If you have read the article this argument would have been totally unnecessary.


@santosh (AKA Santa as we all call :),
Yes, I have read quite a lot about other set of people who argue that "there isn't enough evidence to claim that global warming happens because of our pollution."
I have found out (from my reading so far) that "they" do not have enough evidence to say that there are other factors which are actually causing the global warming. Even in the article you have linked (, he did not mention much about what is actually causing all the mess happening with the environment.

May be you should look at other side of the argument and verify yourself. At least, my common sense doesn't allow me to think in the way Mr Michael is thinking. May be my knowledge is little compared to Mr. Michael. But, after reading both sides of the argument., i prefer following my common sense and reasoning...
Please do post your links to justify other side of the debate, will be curious to read...

santosh said...

I guess you are ignoring the proof that is right before you.

global warming phenomenon has happened before many times without human intervention. Just because global warming is happening now doesn't mean that you link it with pollution which is a recent phenomenon.

why global warming happens is a debatable topic. No amount of our discussions can prove anything.

I definitely agree that pollution has some adverse effect on our environment and we should take measures to ensure that toxic chemicals are not leaked into the environment. But this should not be linked with global warming.

You should understand that global warming is natural phenomenon which happens for very long periods of time like decades to centuries. our narrow minded view and inconclusive data is not enough to understand this phenomenon.


" warming is natural phenomenon....", I agree with you. It usually happens in geographical time scale. I understand from your comments that, 'role of human intervention in global warming' is very much a debatable topic. I guess i/we need a better understanding of this....

Let us not forget the fact that, human intervention in many natural phenomena is not only affecting the mankind, but also millions of other species on earth. whether global warming is happening becuase of human intervention or not is debatable, but global warming is happening. It should atleast trigger an awareness about mother nature, something which is unequivocal.

mysooruhuDga said...

I guess Santosh might want to check these:

Was given by a friend who reads sci-fi extensively and is an authority in sci-fi genre.

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.