People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 47

November 25, 2007

CITU Organises Seminar On Global Warming


P K Ganguly


A SEMINAR on Global Warming was held on October 27 , 2007 at B T R Bhawan, New Delhi. The seminar was attended by eminent scientists, technologists, environmentalists, social workers, trade unionists like Dr Raghunandan of Delhi Science Forum, Gopal Krishna of Green Peace, Dr Vandana Shiva from Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, Dr Debashis Banerjee from Baba Amte Centre for Peoples Empowerment, Dr P Vijay Shankar from Samay Pragoti Shayog and N K Shukla from All India Kisan Sabha. Dr M K Pandhe presided over the seminar. P K Ganguly placed the following approach paper in the seminar


Approach Paper


A preliminary meeting on global warming on May 15 this year decided to hold a broader seminar on the subject to discuss the emerging danger and take some measures to fight it.


Since then global warming has taken a worsening trend to give a global warning to humanity of the growing threat to it. The unpredictable global climate change caused by global warming and serious ecological danger which is being done in the course of rapid resource - intensive globalisation make it imperative for all of us to deal with these issues seriously now. It is time that we must understand the mutually constitutive relationship between society and nature. The idea that the man–made environmental problems might be so severe as to potentially threaten the continuation of human life itself has been taken only as fiction by the common people and not as a matter of scientific fact needing urgent steps to fight them. Ironically it is the common people who are most affected.


It is true that scientists differ over the rate at which carbon dioxide emissions are leading to global warming. Some opine that a tipping point has already been reached which would now speed up climate change beyond any measures that can ameliorate the speeding carbon emissions. Others however think that the rate of change will be slower, although faster than any measurers like the Kyoto protocol can significantly affect. But despite a most optimistic view, we can see the devastating consequence for hundreds of millions of people around the world due to rising sea levels, heavy cyclones, Katrina, Tsunami, melting of Arctic ice, loss of melting water from high mountain ranges, droughts and floods affecting food production, cold wave, heat wave, prairie fires and so on.


But it does not end there. The environmental effects have to be extended to the regional disasters due to overuse of water, trees and soil, deforestation, epidemics caused by fast mutating viruses and antibiotic resistant bacteria, concentration of toxins in the food chain etc. The list is endless and increasing.


We have to see the connection between the speed of development of global market economy, dependence of its main actors on fossil fuels for growth on world scale on the one hand, and the acceleration of climate change leading to ecological degradation on the other. The market craze and technological offensives are leading to commodification of more and more areas of nature and social life – everything from water to our own DNA and even the process of policy making itself. These are generating new levels of conflict over access to fuel, water and other resources including wars resulting in appalling human consequences.


So we can see that the crises ridden market economy catastrophism is resulting in ecological catastrophism. It is however important and necessary to avoid and eliminate the ecological catstrophism, not merely in one’s individual way, but collectively challenging its main actors and the creators. We are caught and trapped in corporate control and greed paradigm and are witness to the serious ecological damage as the consequence of the irresponsible and greedy behavior of the big corporations


Fragile Nature of Kyoto Protocol


In this background we have to understand the political economy of the Kyoto Protocol, and why it has remained fragile since its inception in 1998. The global warming and the climate change problem and the causes of the green house effect were made public initially by the natural scientists and environmental associations. In the early 1980s discussions started at the United Nations level on the issues concerning justice between the rich North and the poor South, about equal worldwide distribution of per capita emission, about connections between poverty, wealth and the destruction of the environment, about the historical responsibility of climate change and the case for a substantial transfer of funds from the industrialised countries of the developing countries.


In fact the entire gamut of climate policies was the subject matter of discussions with societal relationship with nature. The series of discussions led to UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997, which agreed to convene the Kyoto Protocol in 1998. But as the Kyoto Protocol decided for reduction of emission targets for the industrialised countries, the USA strongly objected to the Protocol, in order to protect the MNCs who are the worst polluters in the world.


USA the Worst Offender


The US President, George Bush, not long after his election, questioned whether green house effect actually existed. Even after a committee of experts from the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that the “green house effect was in full swing and was caused by humans”, George Bush retorted arrogantly, “I oppose the Kyoto Protocol.” Till now, the US administration and the fossil fuel industry behind it have been trying to undermine the agreements so laboriously reached in the Conference of the Parties. At the same time Bush tried to rope in some other countries like Australia, Japan, South Korea and even India and China in an Asia–Pacific Partnership for “clean development and climate (AP6) to take voluntary climate measures outside Kyoto Protocol in close cooperation with private industry”. It is important to note that these countries together are responsible for about 50 percent of the emission of the green house gases. Out of these countries USA and Australia stand at number 1 and number 2 in emission ranking. USA alone emits more than 26 percent of the total Carbon Dioxide emission in the world, while India emits 2.5 percent and China 9.5 percent. Yet, USA and Australia have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, unless India and China undertake emission cut.


No wonder that following in the footsteps of the USA, other industrialised countries have also shown scant respect for the Kyoto Protocol agreement. The agreement calls upon the industrialised countries to reduce their emissions by 5.2 percent on average by 2012 as compared to 1990. But instead of any progress, they are going the other way. Carbon Dioxide emissions from the OECD countries increased by 8-9 percent over the 1990s. In Canada it rose by 24.2 percent, in Spain by 41.7 percent, in Portugal and Finland by 21.5 percent, in Austria by 16.5 percent and in Japan, the seat of Kyoto Protocol, by 12.8 percent. Only France and Germany reduced their emissions by 1.9 percent and 18.2 percent. In Germany the Carbon Dioxide emissions per capita, per annum are around 10 tonnes, In USA it is 20 tonnes. In contrast, in China it is 2.7 tonnes and in India it is 1.2 tonnes.


Nature’s Assimilation Capacity Exceeded


Nature’s assimilation capacity, that of the world’s oceans, plants and forests for the human made climate damaging emissions has been exceeded and reflected in the rise in the world’s average temperature. The Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assumes that in the course of the 21st century it will increase between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees centigrade (Third Assessment report). During the 20th century, it increased by 0.74 degrees centigrade. The fourth assessment report for the first time has clearly brought out several dimensions of the present and future climate change, which could affect stability and peace in several locations.


The rise in temperature is accompanied by change in precipitations. In the higher latitudes, precipitations including rainfall and snow have increased, whereas in the lower latitudes and the Mediterranean it has decreased. There has also been an increase in extreme precipitations events, possibly such as the major cloud burst that occurred in Mumbai and in Bengal during the monsoon recently.


IPCC has pointed out that some of the worst sufferers from the impacts of climate change are the poorest societies, mostly in Africa and Asia. In Africa the reduced length of the growing season is causing detrimental effects on agriculture. In some African countries the yields could be reduced up to 50 percent by 2020. Similarly in Central and South Asia yields could decrease up to 50 percent by 2050.


One of the most significant impacts of climate change would be in the availability of water. IPCC estimates that in South Asia alone 500 million people would be affected by reduced river flows. Water scarcity has already become a source of tension between several states in India and between India and Bangladesh. Another major impact of climate change resulting from sea level rise would be the threat of coastal flooding. Thus any disruption of sustainable development of the earth will naturally lead to disruption of the peace and stability of society.


Tasks in India


In India it is necessary that we act positively, keeping the facts in mind, as India is among the worst victims of global warming, and is at the receiving end.


Some action plan is necessary to carry forward the campaign all over the country to raise the awareness of the people and educate them on the prognosis of the global warming. All sections of the working people, the trade unions and organisations of the peasantry, agricultural workers, middle class employees, students, youth, women, scientific organisations, and other organisations, institutions and professionals working on the issue have to join hands together to launch a broad based campaign on it.


Pamphlets may be published for the purpose with consensus of opinions and with a direction to the movement. This is an issue which cannot be kept within academic bounds only. It has to be given the shape of mass actions. The protection of society and maintaining its peace and stability can be secured only by taking action against MNCs and corporate houses who do not observe necessary safety and environmental measures to protect the living conditions of the workers and the people.


We have to launch a series of movements collectively and sectorally. Global warming requires a collective environmental mass movement to avoid destruction of the ecosystem which sustains precious life and the people on this planet earth.