By Dr. Abdul Ruff
It is a known fact that USA, China and India are the top most polluters of the atmospheric climate endangering the very existence of the good number of nations and humanity at large in due course, unless the global trend of resultant climatic change is not arrested promptly. US-led western forces are keen only to terrorize the Muslim nations and kill innocent Muslims and they care too little about the menace of global warming phenomenon. They ask the developing world to stop heating. Many developing states are unhappy about the prospect of being asked to curb their emissions which on a per-capita basis remain far below those of the developed world.
Developing countries are looking for a post-Kyoto deal that will bring funds to help them prepare for climate-related impacts such as droughts, floods and changed conditions for growing crops. The Tokyo summit concluded that significant, “unprecedented” sums would be needed both to fund this adaptation work and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But governments would not pay directly, leaders agreed; instead, “The bulk… will have to come from the private sector and through market-based instruments”.
Water supply, already a serious concern in many parts of the country, will decline dramatically, affecting food production. Export industries such as fisheries will also be affected, while coastal areas risk being inundated, flooding the homes of millions of people living in low-lying areas. Pakistan is among the countries which will be hit hardest by effects of climate change even though it contributes only a fraction to global warming. Droughts in 1999 and 2000 are one example that caused sharp declines in water tables and dried up wetlands, severely degrading ecosystems.
Although Pakistan contributes least to global warming—one 35th of the world’s average of carbon dioxide emissions—temperatures in the country’s coastal areas have risen since the early 1900s from 0.6 to 1 degree centigrade. This and other worrying findings were revealed at the ‘Regional conference on climate change: challenges and opportunities for South Asia’ in Islamabad on 13 January when experts from the South Asia region shared knowledge and explored measures to combat the threat posed by the climate change.
“Climate change is an economic and developmental problem as well as environmental. The government will make concerted efforts to achieve desired outcome to mitigate climate change,” the prime minister said. Owing to the war emissions from US-led forces in the region, a perceptible heat environment is felt over there. Precipitation has decreased 10 to 15 per cent in the coastal belt and hyper arid plains over the last 40 years while there is an increase in summer and winter rains in northern Pakistan. The impact such changes were likely to have on a country like Pakistan and on the lives of its people could be even disastrous. Health of millions would also be affected with diarrhoeal diseases associated with floods and drought becoming more prevalent. Intensifying rural poverty is likely to increase internal migration as well as migration to other countries.
With the impending danger signals pointing mainly to the island nations owing to the rise in global temperatures from green gas emissions, the world bodies should be deeply worried about the ways and means to ward off the situation at the earliest. But the financial crunch, the fanatical and terror wars and new US presidency occupy the main concerns of the world now
Occasionally, however, some summits are arranged by the some interested agencies like the UN to debate upon the climate change issues and the remedial measures to bring down the temperatures. The follow-up actions do not suggest the climate change would be arrested to reassure the world community of a prolonged healthy life. The topmost evaders of resolutions are the top most violators of climate health also. The Kyoto Protocol signed by the members would expire in 2013 and it would replaced by another treaty, if not extended further for some more years.
Next summit on climate change is scheduled for in March 29-April 8 in Copenhagen in December is Bonn. Participants are expected from most national governments, international organizations, and a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), though there will be fewer NGOs than flocked to the recent jamboree in Poznan. The meeting will give governments (working both individually and within regional or economic groups) another chance to put proposals on the table for inclusion in the text to be negotiated — and, it is to be hoped, agreed — in Copenhagen. The outcome will in effect be the first draft of a Copenhagen agreement, which will be tabled in June. The meeting could provide the first formal indication of what the new Obama administration wants to see — or not see — in the Copenhagen deal.
A second, larger, more important meeting takes place in Bonn Jun. 1-12. About 2,000 participants are expected.. They will whittle down and rationalize the draft agreement, producing what one UN source describes as “the first draft of the real thing.” A European Union suggestion for ministerial participation, to give the meeting added weight, has received little support. Another two-week meeting — the date for which will be fixed in March — will be held in September or October. With the summit looming, this meeting will be more “technical,” focusing on reaching agreement on specific words and phrases and on narrowing options in the text. If progress is slow, another technical meeting might be called either in August or October.
Two other key events will feed into the process: the G8 summit of industrialized countries on the Italian island of La Maddalena in June (with Australia, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, and South Korea in attendance), and a one-day heads of state (or government) summit as a side-show at the UN General Assembly gathering in September.
Heads of state will also use the opportunity provided by the General Assembly speech-making to have “small bilaterals,” face-to-face, one-on-one discussions between themselves that could iron out differences and agree compromises on contentious issues. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will probably send emissaries to heads of state before the meeting, drawing attention to points that need sorting out. Ideally, an informal consensus among leaders at this informal summit in New York will provide guidelines and impetus for officials responsible for finalizing the text to which politicians will sign up in the final days of the Copenhagen summit.
Although the aim at Copenhagen will be to agree a single document, negotiations during the year will be on two tracks: firstly, between industrialized countries on mid-term cuts (that is, by 2020) in global warming emissions that they will agree to make under the Kyoto Protocol, and how the reductions can be achieved — use of renewable energy or nuclear power, for example; at the same time, the other Protocol signatories will be discussing how ambitious they are prepared to be in setting emission reduction targets; · secondly, the 192 countries taking part in the Copenhagen negotiations (including the United States, which has not signed up to Kyoto) are focusing on the “building blocks” on which an overall agreement will be based: adaptation to climate change, mitigation, transfer of technology (to help developing countries switch to climate-friendly development), and finance.
The two negotiating tracks will come together in an agreement specifying the targets of industrialized countries, the financial and technological support to developing countries to enable them to reduce their emissions without curbing their efforts to fight poverty, and the institutions that will deliver the support. Officials servicing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change say that not all the technical details need to be resolved at Copenhagen, but these three elements must be agreed for the conference to be termed a success. The agreed outcome will then need to be ratified so that it can enter into force in 2013, the year after the expiry of the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol.
There have many summits at international and regional levels to discus and find remedies to arrest the growing climate menace affecting the entire humanity. However, net results so far have been almost nil.
In April 2008, European and Japanese leaders at their annual summit in Tokyo called for “ambitious and binding” targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Their statement says curbing climate change will need mobilization of “unprecedented investments and finance” mainly from the private sector. It accepts that a Japanese plan to explore separate targets for different types of industry is “useful”. Leaders hoped to take their arguments forward into the July G8 meeting. Endorsing 2007 landmark assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the statement said that “global emissions of greenhouse gases need to peak in the next 10 to 15 years”, and to fall swiftly after that.
Japan and the EU stressed that a highly ambitious and binding international approach is required to deal with the scale and urgency of the climate change challenge of promoting a low carbon, high growth global economy. The two parties “reaffirm their willingness” to play “leading roles” in addressing climate change. Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (in his capacity as current European Council President) agreed that industrialized nations would need to cut emissions by between 25% and 40% compared to 1990 levels by 2020.
Europe is pushing for a global deal to take effect when the current Kyoto Protocol targets expire in 2012, and has pledged to cut its own emissions by 20% by 2020, and by 30% if the other industrialized countries follow suit.
Japan, with US approval, has been pushing a plan to set specific targets for various industrial sectors. It believes this could be a more efficient way to cut emissions, while also reducing the possibility that industries that are hit hard will migrate to developing countries where emissions are unrestricted. The idea is viewed with suspicion by some environmentalists, who believe it could allow governments to avoid restricting emissions from their favored industries. Now, the EU has given some limited backing. The Bush administration contends it is only fair that major developing countries should accept obligations to reduce emissions as part of some future global deal. The EU/Japan document endorses this idea, stating: “Emerging economies should make appropriate contributions according to their responsibilities and respective capabilities”.
The challenge for industrialized nations such as Japan and the EU states is to find a way to bridge this gap, and provide adequate funds for adaptation, well before the 2009 deadline for securing a new global deal. The various parties look for fertile ground at the G8 summits. The communiqué from Tokyo indicates that the various industrialized countries are finding some common ground. The aims and priorities agreed in Tokyo fed into the G8 summit in the Japanese island of Hokkaido on 7-9 July. The outcomes of other bilateral and multilateral processes on climate change, notably the “major economies” (or “big emitters”) group established by President Bush encouraged to meet again and again. Notably, Japan’s promotion of a sectoral approach has received a sympathetic hearing.
All the various political initiatives, including the G8 process itself, were taken forward into the UN climate convention negotiations. Delegates at 2007 meeting in Bali agreed that a new deal should be concluded in two years’ time. But there is still a yawning gulf between the developed and the developing world. While Fukuda, Barroso and Jansa were formulating their text in Tokyo, India questioned USA: “The US says it will only accept caps if India accepts caps; where is the logic in this? The developed nations are the ones who created this mess. They are the ones who today produce most of the greenhouse gases and have not implemented what they said they will do (at the 1997 UN climate summit) in Kyoto.”
Nature is blind to borders and to human history. It has no sense of justice or fairness nor sympathy for those who suffer from its cataclysms. The relentless machinery of climate change responds equally to emissions from developed and developing countries. But UN and the leading global polluters cant pretend to be blinds too.
The nations that launched the industrial revolution and first developed modern economies do not bear a special moral burden for having done so. This principle absolves early contributors to the accumulation of greenhouse gases, but it does not lessen their obligation to assist the later developing countries to bear the burden of the present. All countries that have economies, or aspire to economies, and contribute to greenhouse gases bear responsibility for their emissions. They do not inherit a “right to pollute” because the situation has changed, the consequences are known, and the impacts are ultimately universal. Countries that are aware of the possibility of adverse impacts on their populations are morally correct to seek changes in behavior in all other countries that pollute the common resource sink, regardless of history.
International responses to existing conditions of desertification, vulnerability to extreme weather, and irrational water and land management—regardless of their causes—have been erratic at best. Whatever actions nations take to mitigate carbon emissions in the long run, international cooperation is imperative in the short run to address the needs of environmentally impacted populations.
For nearly two centuries, fossil fuels have been the cheapest source of energy for large-scale economic activity, and their use is growing at an unprecedented pace. However, various market inefficiencies exist that inhibit the most efficient technologies for these end uses. Depending on the perceived benefit from doing so, governments typically intervene through regulation, taxation, or incentives to drive behavior toward greater end-use efficiency.
It is first important to establish today’s current climate crisis, which is mainly focused around the energy resource question. Energy is a necessary ingredient of all activity of every kind and can be regarded as the primary physical basis of an economy. The fundamental and pervasive role of energy in the economy virtually guarantees that societies will exploit the least expensive means of producing it in facilities such as stationary power plants or petroleum refineries. These facilities manufacture energy media, such as electricity, gasoline, or hydrogen that are transportable and easily converted to useful work in an endless variety of devices and processes.
Atmospheric CO2 began to increase significantly as the Industrial Revolution gathered momentum early in the nineteenth century. Coal was the fuel that freed powered machinery from the constraints of wind or water driven mills. Petroleum and natural gas came later, and much of the energy for today’s world economy—about 85 percent—comes from fossil fuels. The scale of the human behaviors contributing to unwanted atmospheric CO2 is the scale of the world economy. The technologies in question range from large stationary power sources to widely dispersed end-uses in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, and domestic applications.
The USA alone uses more than 20 million barrels of oil per day, 60 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, and three million tons of coal per day. This is about a fifth of the world’s energy consumption. Worldwide, coal accounts for about 45 percent of electricity production, natural gas about 24 percent and nuclear energy about twelve percent. Oil is used mainly for transportation and as a feedstock for the chemical industry. Most scenarios for future energy production envision a mix of technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But nearly all the alternatives are substantially more expensive than fossil fuels at current prices, and those that are most competitive (hydroelectric, wind, and solar) have limitations that prevent them from being scaled up to the magnitudes needed to replace the large fossil fuel facilities.
At the present time world does not have price-competitive technologies for large scale replacement of fossil fuels. This simple fact is enormously consequential for the international response to climate change. It creates an imperative, for those countries that can afford it, to invest heavily in accelerating the development of scalable CO2-free energy technologies to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. For rapidly developing countries, however, of which China is the dramatic exemplar, there is simply no chance that technological solutions will be available in the near future that will allow such development without substantial increases in the production of greenhouse gases.
Climate change is ultimately a resource sink problem. The urgency of the problem is contingent on how seriously people consider the consequence of having to wait for technological convergence. What makes the international response to the issues of climate change and ozone depletion so different? The single most important factor is not the scale or seriousness of the impacts—arguably greater for climate change than for ozone depletion. The distinguishing factor is the profound link between the unwanted byproduct, greenhouse gases, and the economies of nations.
Specific regional climate forecasts are technically very difficult because of the complex, multi-scale nature of the interacting ocean-atmosphere-biosphere system as it responds to the imbalance in net solar heat flow caused by excess greenhouse gases. Human responses are even more difficult to model. The reports from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which are authoritative reviews of the entire literature of climate change, are frustratingly imprecise regarding when, where, and how extreme various impacts will be during this century. Ocean acidification, sea level rise, polar ice-melting, shifting habitats and agricultural zones, altered patterns of water supply, and volatile weather events are already familiar phenomena that are documented in the IPCC report. Historical and archeological records indicate that populations have previously been stressed by similar phenomena in the past. We know which parts of the world are likely to experience more intense versions of these phenomena in the future. Given the current pace of technology change compared to economic growth, these conditions will indeed occur and need to be addressed.
Exploiters of the commons can expect either to be condemned openly for spoiling the resource or secretly as “simpletons who can be shamed into standing aside” while the rest exploit it. Sensitivity to economic advantage is very high. International tinkering with the energy economy is explosive. The point is sharpened by the fact that we are living in an era of global economic competition unprecedented in the number of countries that can at least potentially participate. Distinctions among developed and developing nations are blurring… These social factors add to the technical difficulty of anthropogenic climate change and may be even less tractable in the long run.
In the long run, reducing greenhouse gas emissions requires changing the technologies for energy production and use. Reducing or eliminating the need for fossil-fueled energy could be the means through which this long run consequence could be achieved. It is also possible to increase the capacity of the biosphere to absorb CO2 through reforestation and other land-management practices, but this will always be less important than the primary goal of reducing emissions. Because efficient use and CO2-free production of energy are technical matters, it seems logical that the challenge of global climate change should boil down to a question of adjusting the technological basis of the energy economy.
Simply bringing the consequences of climate change forcibly into public view, however, will be insufficient to change behavior or to form the kind of overarching framework needed to regulate the common-pool resource of Earth’s atmosphere. The consequences of inaction are remote in time and linked to current actions through a chain of hypotheses about the future. The actions required of every major economy place a burden on entire populations, both rich and poor, and run against the grain of traditional economic incentives.
Wealth at any cost and economic considerations in preference to better environment and climatic conditions contribute to the disorders in atmosphere. Since ignoring climate change will simply not be an option in the long run, nations must begin to prepare for it now. All nations are obliged to set a path toward substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions in the future, but the pace of reductions will be strongly influenced by economic considerations, regardless of perceived future risk.
Climate change, its origins and impacts, and its interaction with the economies of nations, are extremely complex phenomena to which appropriate responses will not be simple. It requires coordinated and concentrated efforts by all. The complexity of the climate issue and its deep connection to national economies call for additional diverse mechanisms centered on technology, transfer, financing, and climate-related trade issues. International cooperation is necessary to promote the use of existing low emission technologies and to accelerate the development of new technologies and make them widely available. The UN Framework is appropriate for broad, high-level agreements and strict norms for every nation to adhere to.
But the top most polluters have to shoulder the biggest responsibility for reducing the effects of gas emissions considerably.