18 November 2016 10:57:01 IST

Climate is vitiated, yet again

Pic credit: Reuters

COP-22 brought no good news. The result was another fancily worded proclamation that rings hollow

In a way, it is good that our nation has been in the grip of the ‘₹1,000, ₹500 notes’ and ‘demonetisation’ fever, and that happenings at far off Marrakesh, in Morocco, haven’t yet impinged on people’s consciousness or made news in the mainstream media. Because the news is not good.

COP-22, as mentioned in the previous column , was supposed to follow-up on the now-famous COP-21, which gave birth to the so-called Paris Agreement — a fancy name for a loosely-worded joint statement that supposedly “binds” each country to do what it said it might try to do.

COP-22, therefore, was called ‘COP of Action’ — and the best action it has produced is another inane document, pompously called ‘Marrakech Action Proclamation for our Climate and Sustainable Development’, which is truly another mass of words signifying nothing.

Early cremation

Very early on during the conference, which was held between November 8 and 17, any faint hopes that countries might act collectively to limit climate change and save the world from early cremation, was whipsawed by a certain development across the Atlantic.

This development was the election of Donald Trump to the US presidency. And no matter how good Americans think he is for their country, he is as a shot of cyanide for the climate fighters.

Trump has unequivocally said he believes ‘climate change’ is a hoax that was started to usurp American jobs. Instead, he wants to “save the coal industry” and pep up petroleum businesses.

So, January 20, 2017 — when Trump will ascend to the world's most powerful political position — will mark the beginning of a time when the world’s second largest polluter (after China), which accounts for 13 per cent of global emissions, will set the world on a path to perdition.

Doing more? Ha!

As one can imagine, the shocking news of Trump’s election breaking out on the second day of COP-22, juddered the conference and left everyone thinking, “OMG! Now the rest of us will have to do more to offset the US’ negatives!”

Well, fat chance of that happening! Doing more is out of the question, because even doing less was doubtful, to begin with. Regular readers of this column would know why the Paris Agreement was more of ballyhoo — because all it said was the countries would do what they had promised in their Nationally Determined Contributions. These statements of intent were often conditional and had no penalty for breach, except public shame.

India too said it would bring down emission intensity (or carbon emission per unit of GDP) with international help, in terms of funds and technology. Which translates to no funds or technology, and means all bets are off.

Situation’s heating up

Even if all the pledges made by the countries are fully met, the globe will still get hotter by 2.8 degrees Celsius, according to Carbon Tracker. This is way off the 2 degree mark that the Paris Agreement had aimed for. If the world did nothing, globally, the average temperature will rise to 3.6 degrees Celsius over the average of the pre-industrialisation period.

So, let’s take stock of the situation. What we are doing today will cause a temperature rise of 3.6 degrees. If all countries do what they said they would, the temperature will rise by 2.8 degrees. Paris Agreement aims at 2 degrees, and the global ‘ambition’ is 1.5 degrees.

And in walks Donald Trump.

A repeat story

You might imagine that Donald Trump jockeying onto the global political arena would corral other countries to do better than the Paris agreement, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.

The 10-day talks at Marrakesh, by all accounts, saw developing countries such as India whinge over the inadequacy of action by the developed countries, and saw the rich guys dig in their heels — the same story all over again.

In the end, the result was the document called the Marrakesh Proclamation, filled with sentences such as this: “We call for all Parties to strengthen and support efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to take stringent action to deal with climate change challenges in agriculture.”