Professor Rehburg was pretty much up todate with information upon which he lectured again today. 15 years ago he changed my perception on the perpetuation of Life on the Planet as We know It.
As someone who reads widely and deeply, he might be interested in Praful Bidwai‘s book, The Politics of Climate Change. His knee jerk response was to disagree with my observation and he may have more thought about the North Pole area and how little coastal area is part of the United States (Alaska) and how Canada, Russia and China are the major players from amount of coastal area.
Deccan Chronical: Praful Bidwai’s book The Politics of Climate Change and the Global Crisis: Mortgaging Our Future is written at a time of deep diplomatic despondency. It is brutally honest about what is at risk if no action is taken at the national and international level. It exposes the false solution offered by India in its National Action Plan on Climate Change, and its chasing the nuclear mirage as a clean energy option. But most importantly it looks at alternative visions and the role of renewable.
For those who think that climate change issues are a luxury we cannot afford to address Praful Bidwai gives a wakeup call. As he reports in the preface “the year 2010 witnessed 950 natural disasters 90 per cent of which were climate related. They cost the global community over $130 billion.”
We knew that the ecological, economic, social and political costs of climate change would be very high. That is why in 1992, the global community adopted a United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) at the Earth Summit in Rio. Rio+20 this year marks 20 years of the first Earth Summit. Governments of the world will again gather at Rio, with a deeper climate crisis, and a weaker international environmental governance framework than 20 years ago. The Copenhagen Climate Summit was the biggest mobilisation on climate change.
All heads of state were present. More than 100,000 people were on the streets demanding action. I remember addressing the citizens’ rally of 100,000 people. Copenhagen should have been remembered for a legally binding international commitment to limit and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Tragically, it will be remembered as the first step in the subversion of UNFCC, and an attempt to replace a UN Treaty with a voluntary Copenhagen Accord, which Bidwai describes as “a collusive agreement first signed between first five governments of the 193 present”. The five were the US plus the new group of Basic countries — the so-called “emerging” economies of Brazil, South Africa, India and China. While the US is the greatest historical emitter, the Basic countries are four of the world’s greatest present and future emitters.
India, which in 1992 played a leadership role in shaping the UNFCC, is now part of the “coalition of the unwilling” to dismantle the Rio commitments. The domestic impact of this shift is even more significant than its global impact. That is why Bidwai’s book is timely and vital. It shows the lack of will at the international level and the misguidedness of India’s climate policy. And it raises the fundamental question “How can the world’s citizens, who have a vital stake in the global solution to the climate crisis, become actors in the effort to resolve it? How might civil society organisations, environmentalist groups and political parties across the world forge the collective will and develop the wherewithal to educate the public and governments on the urgency of climate protection and influence policy-making and the international negotiations process? Along what axes should the moral energies and social concerns of citizens and commitments be mobilised?”
Climate change is by its very nature a global problem. Greenhouse gases which destabilise the earth’s climate cycles are emitted in one place, at one time, and the impact is felt hundreds of years later, thousands of miles away. This is at the core, the climate justice issue, that causes and effects, polluters and victims get linked through pollution, that its worst victims are those who have played no role in causing the problem. As Bidwai notes, the victims are “poor people, people primarily in the South, but also in the North. They have contributed very little to climate change but stand to suffer the worst from its effect”.
While hundreds of books and thousands of papers have been written on climate change, Bidwai’s book is unique in two ways. Firstly, it combines rigorous details of the climate crisis and international negotiations with robust arguments for climate justice and ecological democracy (which I call Earth Democracy). Secondly, it is the only book about India’s climate policy from a people’s perspective. As he writes “The climate crisis confronts India with many questions and some tough choices. India is emerging as a major power despite the persistence of mass deprivation and poverty at home. Yet, there is no genuine domestic debate on law and to what ends India should deploy its growing power. How can it be used to make the world better — less unequal and unjust from being conflict prone and violent? How can India combine the long overdue domestic task of fighting poverty with promoting global justice? In what ways can India contribute to the climate stabilisation and developmental equity agendas?”
These are vital questions. And they need urgent answers. False solutions like nuclear power will not do. They create new problems, without solving the climate crisis. In Chapter IX, “False promise: The bleak future of nuclear power after Fukushima”, Bidwai shows how nuclear power contributes to climate change while also adding nuclear risks.
The carbon footprint of nuclear power is far from negligible. On a life-cycle basis, emissions from a nuclear power plant can be as high as 288 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent to per kilowatt-hours (kwh) of electricity generation. In Jaitapur, Koodankulam, Gorakhpur, Haripur, Mithi Virdi, this false promise is being tested by people’s movements. After Fukushima, the last person in the last village has legitimate questions about nuclear safety. And to this is added the injustice and violence of land grabs and livelihood destruction.
India can have a carbon-free, nuclear-free future based on renewables. Renewable energy can provide more than 3,000 times the world’s current energy needs. As Bidwai concludes in the chapter titled, “The renewable revolutions is here”, “Policymakers everywhere need to develop moral and political clarity about the world’s renewable energy-based future and its inseparable links both with equity and combating climate change”.
Review of the book by: Vandana Shiva, who is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust.
- World at risk without climate justice (deccanchronicle.com)
- World At Risk Without Climate Justice (chimalaya.org)
- Glaciers Melting From Within Behind Rapid Ice Mass Loss in South America & Himalaya (treehugger.com)
- Climate Change Is Undeniable and Must Be Addressed Now, Says Former U.S. Senator Ted Kaufman (thinkprogress.org)