Photo by Green_MambaThe Climate Talks in Copenhagen, Denmark: Is it a disaster in the making or a mere storm in a tea cup?
By Fareeha Qayoom
don’t read the newspapers every day. I don’t have the time. I don’t even watch the news on Cable TV every day. All my friends know that. However, I was anxiously following the Climate Talks’ news on the net and posting updates on my face book for my friends and family.
One friend finally asked me why did I sound so worried about the whole thing? Yes, obviously, the world recession, unemployment, wars (including Afghanistan-NATO conflict, situation in Iraq and Palestine-Israel Conflict and even the situation in our home ground – TTP activities and the current spate of terrorism) and famines and food shortages (like wheat and sugar), or even the NRO, corruption and their possible accountability and the controversial role of the President of Pakistan are the hot new issues. Any person with common sense would be following that instead of an obscure climate conference in Denmark? So what was the big idea anyway? Was I being silly to worry about the weather changes that are going to effect the future generations of the world?
Majority of scientists the world over have already subscribed to the point of view that 2 degrees Celsius climate change over a century is no big deal anyway and since this can be achieved if minor action is taken, the politicians have already bought into this philosophy and are not planning to tackle this problem in any meaningful way in the near future – the conference was not going to achieve anything significant anyway. Why was I expecting things to change? Define irony why don’t you? While all these guys who have bought into this massive denial were planning to debate things to death and were planning to conclude, it’s not an immediate problem and if it becomes a problem, it will be China and India’s fault for not agreeing to reduce their carbon emissions, Europe and North America was in a grip of cold-wave – snow fell in Copenhagen, Denmark after 17 years which was apparently some kind of record.
Well, I don’t need the scientists to tell me if the climate is changing or not. I can see it for myself. When I was young, I know, December and January used to be the coldest months of winter in Pakistan. We had to wear two sweaters and a jacket to school, had to have gas heaters on in the evenings and take warm duvets and comforters during the night to keep warm while sleeping. Within a quarter of a century, now, it’s become a major effort convincing the kids to wear warm clothes – they keep defending, “hey, I am wearing two layers – one t-shirt and one sweatshirt.” I have to literally bully them to wear some warm clothes so we can go out. No, we still have not taken out the comforters this year. There was no need. A blanket is enough to keep you warm during the cold nights. It used to rain at the start of winters in my childhood without fail. This year, no rains; in fact, the whole nation is praying for rains. In the evenings you see this smoke-like smog in the air…if you are on a bridge this smog can be seen with your naked eye for miles ahead. No, according to the scientists the climate is not changing significantly enough to warrant mass hysteria. What used to take centuries is now taking a few decades but still, it’s not a problem apparently!
The developed countries are willing to spend millions on their star wars programs to locate potential new earths or planets with water but they are not willing to spend the same funds to plant more trees and protect the existing natural forests. Common sense would tell you, the best way to reduce carbon emissions is to plant more trees and protect existing forests and natural habitats from urbanization. However, since that takes a lot of money, the world leaders would rather spend time in debating meaningless rhetoric and conducting ‘witch hunts’ and a ‘blame game.’
The climate is definitely changing. Summer is getting longer, the winter is getting shorter; the rains have become unpredictable while the world is suffering from extremes of temperatures. The world keeps whining about food shortages and water shortages…why do you think this is happening? There is a direct link between agriculture and weather. Natural habitats are disappearing, more eco-systems are becoming extinct, more lands are becoming barren, clean air and organic lifestyle is being marketed as a special luxury lifestyle that only the rich can afford. It used to be available to all the citizens of the world a couple of centuries ago!
The problem in a nutshell – the climate is changing. The world leaders sit around creating policies that are contributing to this problem. Now, the guys who are responsible for this change refused to pay for saving forests and planting some more trees; in the meantime, they are pressuring the third world countries to slow down their industrialization rate. Obviously India and China don’t want to do that, so it was a stalemate with no meaningful result. In fact, it went two steps back from Kyoto Protocol instead of moving forward. Because of this non-action; the climate is going to change some more which means more snow, more blizzards, more floods, more storms and more unpredictable weather each year the world over, which means more deaths and destruction due to natural disasters, disappearance of natural habitats and eco-systems and more extinction of rare species of flora and fauna. With majority of destruction happening in the third world; obviously, we are responsible for our own destruction! This is just another example of rampant capitalism versus doing the right thing being played out on the world stage while we watch. In other words, it’s a conflict between ‘Money vs. Ethics’ and unfortunately, money wins each time!
Photo by suburbanblokekistan should start planting trees aggressively on government lands, especially in metro areas like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. We should create more forests on the hills, mountains and plateaus and bring natural, organic forests under government protection so we can stop rampant logging. (Besides, don’t forget Pakistan is in the direct line of fire – our northern areas are full of fresh water glaciers, this area is called the third pole because of its close resemblance to the polar regions – if they melt, we are in trouble. Furthermore, we have a very long coastline – hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones can wreak havoc with our coastlines…what if our rivers flood because of climatic change? Our economic mainstay is agriculture – what would happen to us if we can’t grow our cash and food crops? What if there is a long dry spell between rains? We are moaning and groaning about minor food shortages even now – what would happen to us when the scale of it multiplies in the coming years? )
Taking action now might be only a drop in the ocean but it will go a long way in halting humanity’s rapid march towards extinction. Not everyone will be able to afford a place on the rocket that will be leaving for another potential earth that will be discovered in the future, naturally, by the USA if you go by the movies! Some of us will have to die on this earth and for those of us, the cheapest and most effective way is to protect our forests and create some more to balance out carbon emissions in the air. This is still doable and we should just do it regardless.