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Intolerance to inaction on climate change: Modi can be the difference maker

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The attacks overshadowed the G20 summit as they will the Paris climate change talks two weeks from now. However, if the climate summit ends without any legally binding and ambitious treaty, the global community would certainly repeat President Obama’s statement, albeit replacing the word “terrorism” with “climate change”.

US President Barack Obama made his emblematic statement at the G20 summit in Turkey on November 15 that the Paris attacks were an “attack on the civilized world. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States”.

Minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the 60,000-strong audience at London’s Wembley stadium, terrorists struck in Paris, just across the English Channel with deadly bombs and gunfire.

Modi, in his speech, had said: “It is the responsibility of every human living in this world to fight global warming and terrorism…India will show the world the path to fight both.”

While the climate messiah, former US Vice President Al Gore, has described global warming as “inconvenient truth”, Modi has demonstrated, when he was chief minister of Gujarat, by implementing ambitious renewable energy projects there, that the mitigation of global warming is in fact, a “convenient action”.

The convenient action was, however, lacking in the informal meeting of the 62 ministers, hosted by the French government, in Paris November 8-10.

The objective was to avail the final opportunity before the Paris summit to bridge the nagging gaps in the negotiating debates.

When the meeting ended, the inconvenient truth seems to have emerged that there are very few items of agreement among the participants.

It started emerging that legally binding targets would not be decided in Paris but over the years that would follow.

The last high-level opportunity to converge on certain seminal issues seems to have been lost.

The political momentum, particularly in committing to ambitious targets, fairness in delivering climate justice, post-2020 financing for the developing countries and pre-2020 action by the developed countries, has been frittered away.

A day after the start of that meeting, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which monitors global warming, signaled the crying need of action on climate change.

“The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached yet another new record high in 2014…In spring 2015, the global average concentration of CO2 crossed the 400 parts per million (ppm) barrier,” it declared.

Thus, levels of 400 ppm will now be the new “normal” that the world has to live with. At such rising rate, the CO2 levels in the atmosphere will reach to the level of 1200 ppm by the end of this century. And, the global thermometer will show an average temperature rise of about 5 degrees Celsius – against the aimed figure of 2 degrees Celsius.

Sadly, the process of negotiating the treaty in Paris has now become “business-as-usual” diplomacy. Its success elements could include “agreement on continuing post-2015 negotiations” on all major issues of financing and the emission reduction targets.

Modi stands to make the difference at this crucial juncture. He had, in the past, conveyed to the world that two most formidable challenges today are terrorism and climate change.

India is now being hailed globally as a genuine player in addressing climate change, mainly due to its thoughtful INDCs and steps already taken in the area of energy efficiency, renewable energy and forestry. It has acquired a legitimate position by declaring that India is not part of the problem but would like to be part of the solution.

As the leader of the world’s largest democracy and a proponent of inclusive development, Modi knows well that addressing climate change means using clean energy that would reduce air pollution – thereby reducing 1.4 million premature deaths in India.

It means enhancing renewable energy generation that would reduce energy-poverty and provide electricity to the remaining 80,000 villages of India.

It means deploying sustainable agricultural practices for farmers to conserve water and quality of soil, increase their income and reduce their suicides.

It means increasing energy efficiency of the air conditioners by us of non-HFC refrigerants to reduce the peak loads during the summer and subsequent power blackouts. It means reducing poverty – the key sustainable development goal in the post-2015 era.

Modi has convinced the world on International Yoga Day. Can he convince the world to be intolerant towards inaction on climate change?

The G20 leaders observed a minute of silence to remember victims of the Paris attacks. Would Modi lead a minute of silence at the Paris climate summit if the world leaders do not agree on an ambitious and legally binding treaty in the December of 2015? Yoga teaches us to be tolerant, but not towards terrorism and inaction on climate change.

(Rajendra Shende, IANS)

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Students Worldwide Skip School to Protest Government’s Failure against Global Warming

They're angry at their elders, and they're not taking it sitting down

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global warming, climate change
Students from different institutions hold placards and banners as they participate in a climate protest in New Delhi, India, March 15, 2019. VOA

They’re angry at their elders, and they’re not taking it sitting down.

Students worldwide are skipping class Friday to take to the streets to protest their governments’ failure to take sufficient action against global warming.

The coordinated “school strikes,” being held from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle, were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who began holding solitary demonstrations outside the Swedish parliament last year.

Since then, the weekly protests have snowballed from a handful of cities to hundreds, driven by social media-savvy students and dramatic headlines about the impact of climate change.

climate change, global warming
Students attend a protest ralley of the “Friday For Future Movement” in Berlin, Germany, March 15, 2019. VOA

Thunberg, who was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, was cheered for her blunt message to leaders at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland this year, when she told them: “I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.”

Friday’s rallies are expected to be one of the biggest international actions yet. Protests were under way or planned in cities in more than 100 countries, including Hong Kong; New Delhi; Wellington, New Zealand; and Oulo, Finland.

In Berlin some 10,000 protesters, most of them young students, gathered in a downtown square, waving signs with slogans such as “There is no planet B” and “Climate Protection Report Card: F” before a march through the capital’s government quarter. The march was to end with a demonstration outside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s office.

Organizer Carla Reemtsma, a 20-year-old university student, said social media had been key in reaching people directly to coordinate the massive protests in so many different locations, noting that she was in 50 WhatsApp groups and fielding some 30,000 messages a day.

“It’s really important that people are getting together all over the world, because it’s affecting us all,” she said.

Critics, supporters

Some politicians have criticized the students, suggesting they should be spending their time in school, not on the streets.

“One can’t expect children and young people to see all of the global connections, what’s technically reasonable and economically possible,” said the head of Germany’s pro-business Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner. “That’s a matter for professionals.”

climate change, global warming
Students hold signs during a rally for global climate strike for future in Seoul, South Korea, March 15, 2019. VOA

But scientists have backed the protests, with thousands signing petitions in support of the students in Britain, Finland and Germany.

“We are the professionals and we’re saying the young generation is right,” said Volker Quaschning, a professor of engineering at Berlin’s University of Applied Sciences.

“We should be incredibly grateful and appreciative of their bravery,” said Quaschning, one of more than 23,000 German-speaking scientists to sign a letter of support this week. “Because in a sense, it’s incredibly brave not to go to school for once.”

Scientists have warned for decades that current levels of greenhouse gas emissions are unsustainable, so far with little effect. In 2015, world leaders agreed in Paris to a goal of keeping the Earth’s global temperature rise by the end of the century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).

Yet at present, the world is on track for an increase of 4 degrees Celsius, which experts say would have far-reaching consequences for life on the planet.

“As a doctor, I can say it makes a big difference whether you’ve got a fever of 41 degrees Celsius (105.8 Fahrenheit) or 43 C (109.4 F),” said Eckart von Hirschhausen, a German scientist who signed the call supporting striking students. “One of those is compatible with life, the other isn’t.”

Other action

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have publicly welcomed the student protests, even as their policies have been criticized as too limited by environmental activists.

In France, activist groups launched legal action this week for failing to do enough to fight climate change, citing a similar successful effort in the Netherlands.

climate change, global warming
Hundreds of schoolchildren take part in a climate protest in Hong Kong, March 15, 2019. VOA

In Germany, environmental groups and experts have attacked government plans to continue using coal and natural gas for decades to come. Activists say that countries like Germany should fully “decarbonize” by 2040, giving less-advanced nations a bit more time to wean themselves off fossil fuels while still meeting the Paris goal globally.

Other changes needed to curb greenhouse gas emissions include ramping up renewable energy production, reining in over-consumption culture now spreading beyond the industrialized West and changing diets, experts say.

“The fight against climate change is going to be uncomfortable, in parts, and we need to have a society-wide discussion about this,” said Quaschning.

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That conversation is likely to get louder, with several U.S. presidential hopefuls planning to campaign on climate change.

Luisa Neubauer, one of the Berlin group organizing Fridays for Future, said politicians should take note of the young.

“For the European elections in May, we’re urging everyone to think about whether they want to give their vote to a party that doesn’t have a plan for the future and the climate,” she said. (VOA)