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Climate Change – is it the threat bigger than Covid – 19?


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Odds of just one in six do not sound great, even in a simple game of dice. But, if this were the probability that humanity itself could be wiped out soon, the civilization might say we are in a fix. Yet here we are, argues philosopher Toby Ord in ‘The Precipice’, a new book about the bleak survival chances, which the world now face as a species.

Those with a penchant for worrying about catastrophe already have plenty to be going on with, as the coronavirus Covid – 19, continues its grim global march, setting off an array of scary thoughts of uncertainty of survival, about what the coming months might bring.

Worship places in the US are now closed, malls are closed, so are the hotels and eateries, so are the business establishments, schools and even centers of great learning are closed, forest fires in LA are devastating, which has made the coast orange, offices in the Bay area are closed, but newspapers last weekend pictured long lines outside the gun shops, a sign that many are preparing in their own way for broader social disruption to come.

Climate change is no joke, and sea levels are rising at a fast pace as the ice caps melt, while fatal hurricanes and deadly storms also contribute to the destruction of low-lying coastal areas all across the world. Estimates vary, of course, but it’s predicted that mean sea levels (MSLs) could rise as much as eight feet by the year 2100, and while that might seem like nothing, it would make a huge difference even to the major cities of the US.

In a year of catastrophe, some world leaders at this week’s annual UNGA 2020 meeting / conclave of yearly jumlas, which is being held virtually, are taking the long view, warning: “If Covid – 19 doesn’t kill us, climate change will.” Bad news for anyone who lives on the coast, or has one of these fifteen cities on their bucket list … because thanks to rising MSLs, they will soon be underwater. However, if you’ve always dreamed of living on the coast, just give it time – the coast may come to you! Even cities like Seattle will see disruptions.

With Siberia seeing its warmest temperature on record this year and enormous chunks of ice caps in Greenland and Canada sliding into the sea, countries are acutely aware there’s no vaccine for global warming. Unfortunately. The world is already seeing a version of environmental Armageddon, Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said, citing wildfires in the western US and noting that the Greenland ice chunk was larger than a number of island nations put together.

This was meant to be the year we took back our planet, he said. Instead, the coronavirus has diverted resources and attention from what could have been the marquee issue at this UNGA gathering. Meanwhile, the UN Global Climate Summit has been postponed to late 2021. Sad adieu to a common global issue, which has been kept in the backburner.

That hasn’t stopped countries, from slowly sinking island nations to parched African ones, from speaking out loud and clear. In another 25 to 75 years, many member nations may no longer hold seats at the UN if the world continues on its present course of destruction, the Alliance of Small Island States and the Least Developed Countries Group said.

The main goal of the 2015 Paris climate accord is to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times, but scientists say the world is on track to soar past that. A new study found that if the world warms another 0.9 degrees Celsius (1.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the West Antarctic ice sheet will reach a point of irreversible melting. It has enough water to raise global MSLs by 5 meters (16 feet).

The Pacific island nation of Palau hasn’t had a single Covid – 19 infection, but President Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. warns it’s the rising seas that will bring the country down. The momentary drop in (carbon) emissions this year cannot be allowed to generate any complacency about global progress, he said, referring to the sparkling skies that followed lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus around the world is a misnomer.

Pollution has crept back up as restrictions ease. World powers cannot shirk their financial commitments to fighting climate change during the pandemic, Remengesau said, even as economies are battered and weakened, borders closed, citizens quarantined and tourism and tours shattered. Most jobs in the tourism sector are lost forever.

But few pledges have emerged at the UN gathering, aside from China’s announcement that it aims to have carbon dioxide emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by the year 2060.

The pandemic has muted the UN meeting, with world leaders speaking not from the podium in New York but via video links from home and few like foreign minister of Germany speaking from home quarantine. That has sapped the urgency of diplomacy and left nations wondering just how many people are listening.

Amid concerns that the world is distracted, it was perhaps no surprise that the student-led movement ‘Fridays for Future’ returned to the streets this week for the first major demonstrations for climate action in months. In UK a climate change NGO blocked the publication of leading UK newspaper. There grieve was lesser and lesser newspaper space to the issue of climate change!

Still, island nations have seized on the unusual circumstances to show off what’s at stake. The PM of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, which has sold its internet domain ‘tv’, delivered his UN speech with a vista of turquoise waters and swaying fronds behind him that instantly fired the imaginations of the house-bound viewers.

But the PM quickly shattered any dreams. While Tuvalu is free of the coronavirus, the pandemic struck as the island nation was recovering from a pair of tropical cyclone storms that scientists say are likely to become wetter as the planet warms. Tuvalu’s highest point is just a few meters (yards) above MSL. The pandemic’s effect on the movement of goods exposed food insecurity as local agriculture becomes more difficult with rising sea levels, Natano said. While Covid – 19 is our immediate crisis, climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the Pacific region and its people in the long run, the PM said.

Current global warming trends point to a very bleak and miserable future for low‑lying atolls like Tuvalu – a future that demands huge investments for mitigation and adaptation that are simply beyond their capabilities. “Climate change is a weapon of mass destruction. It is slaughtering fellow human beings worldwide,” he said. The UN must not allow the biggest greenhouse gas emitters to turn away from their moral duty to reduce their emissions and to save Small Island developing States like Tuvalu with adaptation support. 

Every single year without action on climate change will draw Tuvalu a year closer to its demise, he said, appealing to the Assembly not to let that happen. FM of Belize feels, will the island nations be able to attend the centenary celebrations of the UN in the year 2045!

Describing the upcoming Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as a critical milestone, he acknowledged efforts in the Security Council to add climate change to that body’s peace and security agenda. 

He reiterated Tuvalu’s call for the appointment of a Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for climate change and security, as well as a Special Rapporteur who would report on security threats caused by climate change. In addition, he repeated his country’s proposal for the UN to establish a legal process to protect the human rights of those displaced by the climate change.

Models predict that by 2050, 95 percent of North Jakarta could be submerged. And Jakarta is far from alone – cities the world over are drowning and sinking, and there’s very little Indonesia can do about it short of stopping climate change entirely. Accordingly, parts of Jakarta are sinking by as much as 10 inches a year.

From the Marshall Islands, also free of COVID-19, President David Kabua used the virus’s example to plead for more help now. Change relies on protecting the most vulnerable, because those on the frontline whether healthcare workers battling the pandemic or small island nations sounding the alarm on climate change are critical to the survival of us all, he said. Small island and atoll nations like mine do not have time for paper promises, Kabua added.

Urgent pleas also came from Africa, which contributes least to global warming but stands to suffer from it the most. In favouring solutions based on the respect for nature, we’re also preserving the health of our peoples, said President Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger, part of the Sahel region south of the Sahara desert where temperature increases are expected to be 1.5 times higher than the world average.

Our global home that was teeming with millions of species of God-given creatures, both great and small, is slowly dying, said Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who last year noted that his country was the only one in Africa to reach the goal of making renewable energy 75% of its energy mix. For Small Island developing States and least developed countries, achieving the SDGs depends on how the world tackles climate change, he said.

He went on to call on the UN to provide strong leadership to drive genuine partnerships to address ocean‑related issues, including acidification, coral bleaching, solids waste and plastic pollution, and both inshore and offshore fisheries. The interests of Small Island developing States must be reflected in ongoing discussions on marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. 

On Taiwan, he said the UN must enable it to participate in its meetings, activities and mechanisms. He added that the unilateral economic embargo on Cuba neglects that country’s human rights and spirit of cooperation. Likewise, the UN must engage with the people of West Papua to find a lasting solution to their struggle, he said.

Maldives appreciated the help of US$ 250 Million from India and climate change have made life difficult as connectivity with smaller atolls become difficult and expensive. Pollution of the seas have threatened the shores and atolls alike.

Bangladesh is recognized worldwide as one of the most vulnerable countries to the impact of global warming and climate change. This is due to its unique geographic location, dominance of the floodplains, low MSL, high population density, high levels of poverty, and overwhelming dependence on nature, its resources and services. The country has a history of extreme climatic events claiming millions of lives and destroying past development gains.

Variability in rainfall pattern, combined with increased snow melt from the Himalayas, and temperature extremes are resulting in crop damage and failure, preventing farmers and those dependent from meaningful earning opportunities. In a changing climate the pattern of impacts are eroding their physical assets, investment and future.

This stands for families, communities and the state. Global warming and climate change threatens settlements and the number of people displaced from their land due to riverbank erosion, permanent inundation and sea level rise which are increasing rapidly every year. Resources and efforts of government and people are quickly drained addressing the impact of one event when another hazard strikes.

Impacts of global warming and climate change have the potential to challenge the development efforts, human security and the future. Following the climate change, the river bank and coastal erosion are increasing at an alarming rate. According to IPCC findings a 45 cm sea-level rise will inundate almost 10.9% of Bangladesh territory and will displace 5.5 million population of the coastal regions.

Where they will migrate, Myanmar a positive No No. The Rohingya crisis is world known and this was highlighted at UNGA 2020. Most of the displaced citizens will migrate to safer plains of India, where ‘secular’ governments of the state of West Bengal, Delhi and may be Punjab will give them settlement and assurance of votes.

Salinity intrusion into the country side reached 100 km and degrades land resources. Land use for farming, shrimp and other uses in the declining context generates conflicts.

Our world is yearning for us to stop its ruin. Let us push the restart button.

Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Saxena
Rajiv Prakash Saxena is a graduate of UBC, Vancouver, Canada. He is an authority on eCommerce, eProcurement, eSign, DSCs and Internet Security. He has been a Technology Bureaucrat and Thought leader in the Government. He has 8 books and few UN assignments. He wrote IT Policies of Colombia and has implemented projects in Jordan, Rwanda, Nepal and Mauritius. Rajiv writes, speaks, mentors on technology issues in Express Computers, ET, National frontier and TV debates. He worked and guided the following divisions: Computer Aided Design (CAD), UP: MP: Maharashtra and Haryana State Coordinator to setup NICNET in their respective Districts of the State, TradeNIC, wherein a CD containing list of 1,00,000 exporters was cut with a search engine and distributed to all Indian Embassies and High Commissions way back in the year 1997 (It was an initiative between NIC and MEA Trade Division headed by Ms. Sujatha Singh, IFS, India’s Ex Foreign Secretary), Law Commission, Ministry of Law & Justice, Department of Legal Affairs, Department of Justice, Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation (MoHUPA), National Jail Project, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), National Commission for Minorities (NCM), National Data Centres (NDC), NIC National Infrastructure, Certifying Authority (CA) to issue Digital Signature Certificates (DSCs), eProcurement, Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs (MPA), Lok Sabha and its Secretariat (LSS) and Rajya Sabha and its Secretariat (RSS) along with their subordinate and attached offices like Directorate of Estate (DoE), Land & Development Office (L&DO), National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Capital Regional Planning Board (NCRPB), Housing & Urban Development Corporation (HUDO), National Building Organisation (NBO), Delhi Development Authority (DDA), BMPTC and many others.


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