Since World War II, a global acceleration in economic and industrial growth has created several rifts in the delicate equilibrium with nature. About 11,500 years ago the earth – our only planetary home – entered a long period of stable climate, the Holocene. The climatic conditions were perfect for humanity to thrive around the world as they weren’t too hot and not too cold – which allowed humanity to develop agriculture, domesticate animals, cut forests slowly and steadily and the To drain swamps to build houses, first built as huts with plant material, then with concrete and metal, now in a world full of skyscrapers.
Human well-being has increased, but so has inequality. The effects of uncontrolled material progress are ubiquitous – pollution of the air, water and soil, the widespread destruction of ecological habitats and the destruction of human health. But on a global level, which is less visible to us, other critical processes are getting out of hand. Global warming of the planet due to the uncontrolled emission of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere has resulted in the melting of ice caps and glaciers and condensation of weeks and months of precipitation into days and hours, followed by longer periods led by drought.
India and its neighboring countries will be severely affected by climate change. Countries like the Maldives will be completely submerged in a few decades, as will large parts of countries like Bangladesh. The Indian coast – with affluent, thriving megacities like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai – has been hit hard by flooding. Bengaluru is not spared either. As the oceans warm, the change in temperature destabilizes air and water currents, derailing expected weather patterns. Not just typhoons, hurricanes and tornadoes, the monsoons themselves become irregular, landing and retreating at unexpected times. This will of course lead to losses in agriculture, rising food prices and an exacerbation of already widespread hunger. Climate scientists agree that the effects we’re already seeing are just the tip of the iceberg – we have much worse ahead of us unless we can act very quickly to stop climate change.
In 1994, several countries joined the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC) to combat climate change. 27 years later, instead of stabilizing or decreasing, greenhouse gas emissions have increased dramatically. Every year, the countries that have joined the UNFCC review progress at an annual Conference of the Parties (CoP) and agree on new goals and timetables. The CoP meetings planned for November 2020 could not take place due to the pandemic and were postponed to 2021. The 26th CoP meetings will take place in Glasgow starting today and will last until November 12th.
The world has put much hope in the deliberations at this meeting. But past experiences do not give us much hope. Fossil fuel companies remain a strong force advocating that governments continue to burn CO2, and despite growing public opinion, many of the powerful Western countries that have played a leading role in contributing to climate change are not on board come or at least not enough to make a difference.
What can the rest of the world do while the responsible countries like Nero keep fiddling around as we accelerate to the cliff? Cities like Bengaluru, responsible for a large and growing proportion of greenhouse gas emissions, must take the lead to drive change. There is much work to be done to make Bengaluru more climate-friendly, from better solid waste management to a greater focus on tree plantations and restoration of wetlands to an increased push towards the use of renewable energy. But the time is now. And the future of the world is at stake.