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Kyoto to Paris – Climate Deals: Is the Future of the World Safe?

Sankit is a 11 year old boy in the 6th standard. While he was at school, his teacher asked him to switch off the lights and fans while he left the class and students went to the playground to play. While the students were happy to get the free period, Sankit was curious to know why everybody at home or at school tells him to switch of the lights and fans while not in the room. He decided to ask the teacher.

“Sankit : Ma’am,why do we have to switch off the lights and fans when not in class?
Teacher : It’s because running them uses coal as fuel. Coal usage can lead to earth’s atmosphere rising by a degree, popularly known as global warming. Have you heard this term?
Sankit : In the news, but never understood what it meant. Can you tell the story behind it?
Of course Sankit, will Love to!”

“In the beginning of the 18th century, Industrial revolution started. Machines were run on coal and used in mass production. The way of living changed, and people started getting money and goods at cheaper prices as a result. Everyone was happy. As people started earning, more of them could now have better medical facilities and by 1800, the world population went up to 1 billion. But after some time, a physicist Thomas Fourier came up with this term called Greenhouse Gas. He said that the temperature of the earth can be augmented as the use of coal increased.This had resulted in the heat in the form of light to penetrate the earth’s atmosphere,as the carbon dioxide hence released due to coal usage was doing something called trapped radiation. Getting late ahead, invention of automobile took place, but it was found that the fuel used was further augmenting this temperature increase of the earth. The population had now grew to 2 billion and the usage of fossil fuels for various purposes increased”.

“Then ma’am, wasn’t any step taken to stop this? I mean you told us in the last class that these fossil fuels were limited, right?”

“Yes my child. Now after the leaders realised that Co2 was indeed resulting in global warming, the first UN environment conference, in Stockholm took place. Climate change hardly registered on the agenda, and it centred mostly on issues such as chemical pollution, atomic bomb testing and whaling. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was formed as a result. But later, world leaders came together with KYOTO PROTOCOL. The Kyoto Protocol implemented the objective of the UNFCCC to fight global warming by reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It was based on the Common But differentiated responsibilities(CBDR). Remember the time I said you about Industrial Revolution? The aim of this CBDR was to allow a greater carbon space to the emerging economies who also had to fight poverty by boosting their manufacturing sector, as the developed nations had already used a larger carbon space during Industrial Revolution. This Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 and entered into force in 2005.”

“While this came into force, IPCC Report 2001 found “new and stronger evidence” that humanity’s emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause of the warming seen in the second half of the 20th Century, which later was confirmed to be 90% responsible for the increased emissions. Now do you get it why I told you to switch on those lights and fans?”

Till now we saw how since the 18th century, evidences around the world have been confirming that the world’s temperature is changing. The question arises, why do we even care if the temperature rises? How is it going to affect us? There is a scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and that human activities are the primary driver.We have heard about the global warming song and dance: rising temperatures, melting ice caps and rising sea levels in the near future. But Earth’s changing climate is already wreaking havoc in some very weird ways. While it’s melting glaciers and creating more intense hurricanes, global warming also seems to be heating up forest fires, which leaves a vulnerable rural and tribal population, who are mostly dependent on forest for their food, fuel, medicine and what not. Rising seas and more extreme weather have the potential to damage irreplaceable sites. Floods attributed to global warming have already damaged a 600-year-old site, Sukhothai, which was once the capital of a Thai kingdom.

cyclone

A primary cause of a warmer planet’s carbon dioxide emissions is having effects that reach into space with a bizarre twist. Air in the atmosphere’s outermost layer is very thin, but air molecules still create drag that slows down satellites, requiring engineers to periodically boost them back into their proper orbits. Researchers have also found that many of the animals have moved to greater elevations, possibly due to changes in their habitat caused by global warming. Not only this, the rise in global temperature and hence the water bodies has seen a decrease in the number of phytoplankton, which has lead to the increase of unwanted populations under these bodies.

Some of the most uncommon and never thought of affects is the untimely sneezes and increased rates of asthma patient. Yes, you got it right, the global warming is to be blamed for this to some extent. As global warming brings an earlier start to spring, the early bird might not just get the worm. It might also get its genes passed on to the next generation. Because plants bloom earlier in the year, animals that wait until their usual time to migrate might miss out on all the food. We certainly don’t want more animals and birds getting extinct do we?

birds.

 

So, what’s actually happening? What are the steps being taken? Recently we saw the conclusion COP21 in Paris, a UNFCCC convention. The countries have come up with this long term goal of to make sure the temperature of the earth stays well below 2 degree centigrades.To achieve that goal, governments all around have pledged to stop the rise in heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, and also target to limit the carbon emissions so that the period after 2050 may see man made emissions reduced enough to a level that is affordable and absorbable for both the oceans and forests.

Until recently, each country came up with this Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) keeping in mind the common but differentiated responsibility. But the fact that there is no penalty on the countries who miss the target draws suspicion. A legally binding agreement with penalties to the overshoots should be the need of the hour if we truly are determined about the climate change issue.

Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the developed nations to make sure subsequent technology transfer takes place to the developing nations so that they have it with them to make sure the INDC’s are achieved. The agreement also agreed upon the wealthier nations contributing a major amount of the funds and leading the way instead of abiding to the concept of “moving forward along“, as someone needs to lead the way in this struggle against climate change.

However, the question that still remains intact, are these deals really worth it? NGOs all over the world don’t seem happy.They welcome its aim to limit temperature rise to 1.5C if possible, a tightening of the previous 2C threshold for dangerous global warming. It sends a clear message that fossil fuels are on the way out, they say – although more action is needed to make the goal a reality. Environmental migrant are forced to migrate from or flee their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment, due to problems such as increased desertification, droughts and floods. Talks about them are yet to be incorporated.

 

drought

In a way, the way countries have been moving forward since the Kyoto Protocol to the recent COP21, our future generation seems to be a benefitter. But isn’t it our responsibility as a citizen of the WORLD and not only as a citizen of our respective countries to contribute our bit?

polar bear

The bell has rang, Sankit had now a new thing to flaunt about, he knew what global warming is now. This seed that has been sown now may make him a leader of the world in the coming years, where he and his country would be leading the way towards the fight against this climate change. When he gets home, he asked his mother who was planning to buy an Air Conditioner to check if it had 5 star rating, a mark of a environmentally safe appliance. He vowed to switch off his fans and light when not in use, to use blower when at the traffic light and also not to accelerate while he learns to ride a bike. The question remains, isn’t it supposed to be OUR responsibility as a whole to contribute? Can we vow to plant at least one tree a year? Can we use LED’s instead of bulbs? Can we be another Sankit?

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