Tackling climate change needs strong political will

Tackling climate change needs strong political will

  • 18 Jul 2019
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Tackling climate change needs strong political will

Taken from HT
Author: Mark Tully
First Published: Jul 13, 2019 19:00 IST

The two reports I read suggest practical measures which can be taken to provide protection from the impact of climate change and clean the air we breath. They both require governments to broaden their vision beyond the bickering and concentrate on long-term measures

Two reports in the British daily, The Guardian, over the last week or so have strengthened my conviction that climate change deniers like US?President Trump should be ignored. Anyhow, I have never understood how, in the face of so much evidence to the contrary, climate change deniers are prepared to take the risk that they are wrong, and thereby be willing to expose the world to the possibility of a cataclysmic disaster. Surely that is a risk not worth taking. The reports have also confirmed my conviction that we need to broaden our concern about climate change beyond policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions levels. It’s not that they are unimportant. A recent survey conducted by King’s College London, suggests that eight year-old children living in the English city of Birmingham could have their lives shortened by seven months on average because of breathing toxic air. As usual it is the poor — those living, in the most deprived areas of the city — who are at the greatest risk.

The first report I read comes from the United Nations where the Secretary General’s special representative on disaster risk reduction spoke to The Guardian. Mami Mizutori, has warned that climate change is very much with us already. According to her, climate related disasters occur weekly. We notice the major disasters, among which she lists the current drought here in India, but she says “lower impact events that are causing death, displacement and suffering are occurring much faster than predicted”. According to Mizutori, the emphasis so far has been on cutting green house gases. Now we need to concentrate also on mitigating their impact. This means building infrastructure such as housing, factories, roads and railways, electricity and water supply systems which are resilient to the effects of floods, droughts, storms, and extreme heat. Slum dwellers in Indian cities are particularly at risk from the hazards caused by climate change.

Mizutori said, “nature based solutions such as mangrove swamps, forests and wetlands that could form, natural barriers to flooding should be a priority.” I also read a report on a study published in the journal Science. It stresses the urgent need to go beyond curbing emissions of greenhouse gases and take out the emissions which have already been pumped into the atmosphere. This study also suggests a natural solution, making use of a tree’s capability to absorb and store the gases causing global warming. The study is the work of a team led by Tom Crowther, a professor in environmental studies at Zurich university in Switzerland. The team has mapped the world to measure how many more trees could be planted without encroaching on land which carries crops or urban on areas. The area, the team reckons, is equivalent to the whole of Russia and China. Describing the results of his team’s mapping Crowther has said, “This new quantitative evaluation shows that forest restoration is not just one of our climate change solutions, it is overwhelmingly the top one”

Who is to plant the trees and who is to pay for them? In the BBC radio programme, Science in Action, Crowther said, “All it requires is us humans on the ground getting involved ourselves either by restoring ecosystems ourselves or by giving money to people who are restoring ecosystems.”

The two reports I read suggest practical measures which can be taken to provide protection from the impact of climate change and clean the air we breath. They both require governments to broaden their vision beyond the bickering over the amount of climate change producing gases they will allow each country to produce and concentrate on these and other long-term measures. To bring about that change will require popular pressure on politicians. As Crowther has said, “we the people need to get directly involved too.” In India we need to revive the Chipko Andolan movement on a country wide scale, and this time by planting new trees as well as defending existing ones.

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