Environmental changes, a reality ignored


Rashid A Mughal

COUNTRIES like Pakistan sometimes wonder; what is there in moots like one in Rio’ and Paris, for them. Such conferences and summit meetings often are being looked upon as merely photo sessions and social gatherings. But the bitter fact is that global environmental changes are a reality which we are ignoring and not deliberating seriously how to cope with rising temperatures, increasing drought in some countries resulting in millions of deaths in Africa and massive torrential and devastating rains where they are not needed. Pakistan, particularly is hard hit because being an agriculture country, it has to rely on nature for its produce. Timely rains yield bumper crops but untimely rains not only destroy the standing crop but the government is forced to import wheat and other food products which are destroy but cause massive floods which result in another misery for it’s citizens. The weather pattern is changing since decades but most of the countries either remained oblivious or impervious to this on-going phenomenon. The most damage has been done by advanced and industrialized world as up to 85 per cent of all the pollution that is damaging the world’s ecology is being caused by score of rich and industrialized countries. They know how to reduce such damage, if not eliminate it, yet they don’t do it. Why? Because their industrial producers will suffer money costs. What a selfish design!
On the larger question of preventing toxic wastes from being dumped into rivers, oceans or in dumps in the Third World, many thinkers in the underdeveloped world see a selfish design in the Western pleas to the underdeveloped countries to be careful about industrialization because it tends to damage the ecology. They find this concern with earth’s and environment’s safety in the rich OECD and also donor countries. Strange, these industrial nations are seldom willing to assume responsibility for reducing pollution themselves while sermonizing the poor against efforts to develop. Actually it is not a desire to stop development in the Third World altogether. All that is intended is that as much as possible of the cost of reducing further pollution be passed on to the new Third World industries and if they fail to compete with the older (Western) industries, so much the better. This realization makes many in the Third World say that the issue of environmental damage actually concerns the rich industrialized West their own share being miniscule and yet it is for them to bear the major costs of doing some thing about it.
What was displayed in Rio de Janerio three decades back, provides a lot of food for thought for us in Pakistan. Let us look at the phenomenon of the US being haughty and unyielding –much more than required by the undoubted recessionary considerations, on the one hand, and elections coming up in five months time on the other while Japan and EC countries show an altogether different face to the Third World. There is more to it than meets the eye at first it is anyhow not the question of the Japanese or European governments being more humanitarian sentimental or soft headed. It is hard politics. The role USA has played, after Trump became President, to meet this challenge has raised many questions and has surprised many world leaders. Rather than acknowledging the insurmountable problems climate change is posing to global community, he preferred to walk out of agreement, signed in Obama period regarding climate change. The present team in the White House seems to be having a lukewarm attitude to a massive issue of changing weather pattern which is affecting agriculture, ozone layer, animal life and other living species.
Kyoto Protocol, 1997, which limited the carbon emissions, was signed by USA but it never intended to ratify it. The US is one of just four UN member states that have not enforced the agreement, with Andorra, Canada, and South Sudan. The Paris deal to mitigate climate change by reducing emissions was signed by 195 member states in 2015, and became effective the following year. President Trump withdrew from the agreement on 1 June 2017. However, the US is still bound to follow the Paris deal’s requirements until 2020. Several more international treaties are pending ratification from the US Senate, for a total of 45 between 1949 and 2017. The US is also notably absent from signing prominent international treaties including the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention Against Torture and on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. As a sole global power, USA is expected to play a more positive and active role in taking lead to control industrial waste and emission of carbon gases. The time is now to act before any further damage is caused due to ecological changes and survival of mankind becomes difficult.
Evidence of rising temperatures is pervasive and striking: Thermometer records kept over the past century and a half show Earth’s average temperature has risen more than 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius), and about twice that in parts of the Arctic. That doesn’t mean temperatures haven’t fluctuated among regions of the globe or between seasons and times of day. But by analyzing average temperatures all over the world, scientists have demonstrated an unmistakable upward trend. This trend is part of climate change, which many people consider synonymous with global warming. Scientists prefer using “climate change” when describing the complex shifts now affecting our planet’s weather and climate systems. Climate change encompasses not only rising average temperatures but also extreme weather events, shifting wildlife populations and habitats, rising seas, and a range of other impacts. All of these changes are emerging as humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. The answer to the question, “Is global warming real?” is yes: Nothing other than the rapid rise of greenhouse gas emissions from human activity can fully explain the dramatic and relatively recent rise in global average temperatures.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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