THE GIST of Editorial for UPSC Exams : 16 MAY 2019 (Facing the climate emergency (The Hindu))

Facing the climate emergency (The Hindu)

Mains Paper 3: Environment
Prelims level: Climate emergency
Mains level: Climate emergency and its solution


  • Already wealthy countries have become wealthier and developing countries have been made poorer in relative terms during this time.
  • India’s GDP growth penalty between 1961 and 2010 is in the order of 31% for the period, whereas Norway gained about 34% on a per capita basis.
  • More recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has reported that, worldwide, the abundance of species has reduced by at least one-fifth, about a million species are under threat of extinction in the next few decades and 85% of wetlands have been lost.

Instances of collusion

  • Moreover, are numerous instances of elite networks that are taking advantage of the situation to consolidate their control.
  • These networks often involve governments actively or quiescently colluding with fossil fuel companies, agro-industrial elites, financial elites and other big businesses that are ignoring climate change and making a fast buck often even from the growing disasters.
  • The International Monetary Fund estimates in a recent working paper that fossil fuel subsidies were $4.7 trillion in 2015 and estimated to be $5.2 trillion in 2017.
  • It goes on to say that efficient fossil fuel pricing would have reduced global carbon emissions by 28%.
  • The Arctic is melting rapidly and the tenor of the recent discussions among Arctic countries suggests that even as increasing glacier melt is responsible for opening up shipping in the area, superpowers are angling to access wealth from the oil, gas, uranium and precious metals in the region.

What needs to be done?

  • While this kind of corruption may not be new, various versions of this are played out in other countries. Governments’ corporate cronies and plundering elites, of course, need not be foreign.
  • Environmental laws can be broken by old boys’ networks with impunity as penalties are cancelled by a party in control.
  • It is the poorest and those without access to power who become victims of the fallout from these situations.
  • Another recent example is the draft Indian Forest Act of 2019, which enhances the political and police power of the forest department and curtails the rights of millions of forest dwellers.

Ear to the ground

  • Policies and commitments make it clear that most governments and businesses are not interested in dealing with the climate and ecological crises.
  • They will certainly not give these the central attention they deserve in these times of an emergency; they barely even acknowledge them.
  • Luckily, what we are witnessing is a large-scale movement for “planet emergency”, climate and ecology. Greta Thunberg has been leading this among school-going children, an Extinction Rebellion has been organising “die-ins” in many parts of Europe and now in Asia.
  • Their non-violent civil disobedience is just what is needed and it is indeed inspiring to see children and grandparents protest together. People’s movements, whether made up of students or adults, cannot be ignored for long and governments will have to pay attention.
  • The atmosphere now has concentrations of over 415 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, compared to 280 ppm in pre-industrial times.
  • But then, fossil fuel companies and politicians have known about climate change for at least 30 years.
  • They have funded misinformation regarding climate directly, taking lessons from tobacco companies that propagated lies for decades about cigarettes being safe.
  • The documentary film Merchants of Doubt describes how a handful of scientists have obscured the truth on global warming so that business profits can continue to flow.
  • The fossil fuel industry has also funded politicians, so their words and laws are already bought.

Way forward

  • The only solutions that governments and business are looking for are those that enable them to carry on as before.
  • But the planet is well past that point where small fixes can help take us on a long path to zero carbon earth.
  • We are now at a stage where we need major overhaul of our lifestyles and patterns of consumption.
  • The U.K. Parliament became the first recently to declare a climate emergency. It remains to be seen if appropriate actions will follow this declaration.
  • When a 16-year-old speaks with far greater clarity and conviction than the thousands of dithering policy wonks who have been debating for over three decades, we know the politics of the climate crisis must undergo a radical transformation.

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Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the recently held One Planet Summit, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. It focuses on climate investments in line with the Paris Agreement.
2. It is an initiative by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature.
3. The 2019 summit was held in New Delhi.

Select the correct answer using the code given below.
(a) 1 only
(b) 1 and 2 only
(c) 1 and 3 only
(d) 2 only

Ans: A
Mains Questions:
Q.1) The politics of the climate crisis needs a radical transformation people’s movements are a spark of hope. Critically examine the statement.