Climate Change isn’t Sensational — Why Bother?

In what one could call an obsession with capitalist forces of development and industrialization, countries around the world have been striving to emulate what has become global standard on ideas of growth and human evolution. It was largely this imperial-colonial capitalist spirit that also led to the very destructive World Wars in the initial decades of the twentieth century. High-sounding concerns like national income, trade, profits, and technological breakthroughs have engulfed international deliberations increasingly since then.

Amidst all these rather sensational issues, the problem of climate change emerged to the fore roughly in the 1960s-70s.

It was in February 1979 that the first international conference on the issue took place in Geneva. The first World Climate Conference was organized by the World Meteorological Organization to discuss global climate issues, particularly global warming and climate research and forecasting. Following this, the second Climate Conference held in October-November, 1990 was a step in making the issue more political. The International panel for Climate Change’s first assessment report was prepared in time for this conference. A number of scientists and technical experts explained how the threat was very serious. After a lengthy session of hard bargaining on several areas, the conference issued a Ministerial Declaration, and the scientific experts involved were somewhat disappointed by the lack of collective conviction on the issue of climate change. Eventually, developments during the conference led to the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which directed important decisions like the Kyoto Protocol. The Global Climate Observing system was also put in place for continual observation of climate change. Frequent conferences and sophisticated diplomatic discussions on climate concerns have continued ever since.

Millennials’ Perspective

For the millennials born in 1990s, their individual perspectives on the climate problem developed majorly on the framework inherited by their generation. Climate change as a subject was fed to them through textbooks year after year in an extremely monotonous manner that barely attempted to encourage any practical study of their immediate natural surroundings. The curriculum was incapable of facilitating any greater understanding of the issue at hand. The repetitive and instructional nature of textbooks made the topic seem dry and boring. For some, it became a an ‘easy-scoring-subject’ if the names of chemical compounds and processes could be memorized the night before the exam. They could not care enough to remember what they had studied just two days after writing their exams. The entire point of sharing the millennials’ experience here is to convey how the education system made a topic as urgent and alarming as climate change just another mundane topic to be abused for better grades.

Even as the millennials grew up to become aware and informed teenagers, climate change continued to remain that done-to-death topic in extempore, debates, students’ discussions and conferences. It got scanty reflection in films, media coverage and other domains that were popularly believed to be ‘serious business’. This attitude has been pretty dominant for the most part of the 21st century.

Recent Incidents and Debates

However, the last couple of years have seen some progress – 2019 was a landmark year for the climate issue because (fortunately) the cause acquired some sensation in this year, primarily because (unfortunately) the problem has worsened, amping up to a catastrophic intensity. The year was witness to numerous environmental accidents that have clearly served as warnings to plan appropriate recourse.

The lungs of the planet, the Amazon rainforest, have been having a surge in wildfires year after year. From January to October 2019, the Amazon biome within Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru saw a devastating wildfire during the Amazonian tropical dry season. While earlier, the wildfires were more natural and less destructive, occurring due to the slash and burn method of agriculture practiced by the indigenous forest tribes, the problem has intensified due to the negative impacts of climate change and global warming. The media was flooded with news on the wildfire, taken up vehemently by broadcast channels as well as social media platforms. Protests against Mr. Jair Bolsonaro’s government policies on environment gained ground on the international platform. The country’s army was deployed to prevent any use of slash and burn for the time period which followed a reduction in the fires by a third.

Greta Made an Impact but Only the Governments Can Make a Difference

The media covered not just the worrying part of the scenario but also brought to light some rays of hope. The story of young Ms. Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden came across as a very inspiring tale. On 20th August, 2018, Greta decided to not attend school until the 2018 General Election in Sweden on September 9th. She started protesting by sitting outside the Swedish Parliament every day, with a signboard that translates to ‘school strike for the climate’. Among her demands was a call for greater action to reduce carbon emissions as per the Paris Climate Accord. She continued to strike every Friday until Sweden aligned with the Agreement. This encouraged several other school students in countries like Australia, Austria, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Japan, United Kingdom and the USA to do the same, leading to the movement ‘Fridays for Future’. She was then invited to deliver a speech at the UN Climate summit at New York in September. Her question, “How dare you?”, to the world leaders caused a stir of channelised angst around the world. She said, “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words…..You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal….The world is waking up and change is coming, whether you like it or not”.

Unfortunately, individual instances do not dictate how the world functions — The USA withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord in November, 2019. The Australian bushfires gained momentum in the following months. Closer home, in India, which boasts of 7 out of the 10 most polluted cities in the world in 2019, the climate situation is grim, and yet we continue to do little about it.

Picture Credits: Express Web Desk

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