Natural disasters, caused by climate change affected about 2 crore people during the first half of 2019. By the end of the year it will render 2.2 crore human beings helpless. Disasters will be on the increase. That was the strain of the speech by Pettery Taalas Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) at the 25th World Climate Summit that began in the Spanish capital Madrid. Inaugurating the summit, UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres also echoed the tone of caution that the world is moving to a point of no return, and we have to wake up and work before that happens. The facts and figures revealed at the summit are enough to cause concern in any one.
It has been the experience over the last few years that such days are rare on which some incidents do not take place in some corner of the world with climate-borne and unfamiliar disasters. Our state of Kerala faced huge floods last two years in succession. And we have also had first-hand experience of unusual rains after flood, repeated depressions and the consequent climate changes. The fact is that such unusual phenomena keep happening not only in Kerala, but in almost all corners of the world. The heat wave felt in Europe, Australia and Japan, the cyclone that shattered southeast Asian and African countries, forest fires in Australia, California and Amazon are all abnormal phenomena. The percentage of carbon in the atmosphere has risen much above normal, the temperature in the sea reaches its peak, and the presence of acid in the sea has risen over 25 per cent. All these figure in the reports put before the summit. Guterres warns that unless checks are brought in on the use of fossil fuels, the extent of the problems will increase beyond any predictions.
Climate summits are a major initiative by UN to systematise the efforts to overcome the predicted effects of climate change in advance. It began in 1995 in Berlin, and the vision is that by 2020 the ideas and concepts evolved through the summit should start being implemented. Although the UN is systematically making endeavours and forming ideas with that end, the fact is that it is not being able to translate many of them to action. The current US president Donald Trump is one averse to even hearing about climte change. The action plan jointly decided by world's nations under the supervision of the United Nations, to implement the ideas evolved through the summit, is known as the Paris Agreement. The key item of the agreement is to hold in check the increase in global warming below 2 degree Celsius. Signatory nations are bound to take structural and administrative measures to that end. Although the Agreement was declared in 2016, Donald Tump declared the withdrawal of the US from it in 2017 itself. His argument is that the Paris Agreement is taking US economy backward. With the world's biggest power thus declaring its withdrawal, the accord suffered a major set back. Many countries are showing laxity in implementing its recommendations. We hve already seen the indifferent attitude shown by Brazilian government, despite worldwide expression of concern, when wild fires spread far in the Amazon.
The fact is that even after so many summits, we have not been able to take a consensus-based actions on issues such as global warming and climate hange. As Chilean environment minister Carolina Schimit, who presided over the Madrid summit said, it is the weakest nations and weakest people of world population who are made to bear the brunt of the burden of climate change. Therfore, she holds, the fight against climate change takes on a sociological dimension too. At the same time, there are developing and underdeveloped countries who raise the criticism that the provisions of Paris Agreement and similar other protocols hamper the forward march of developing countries. In their view, such accords are a mechanism of making the already weak still weaker. In short, even as we have the figures and experience related to climate change before us, there is yet to emerge a clarity of vision at a global level about their root causes and how they can be overcome. The seriousness – or the lack of it - accorded to the Madrid summit itself would be clear from the level of representation of several countries at the summit. Therefore, the first need to address the crises caused by climate change, is nothing but achieving clarity of vision about it.