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Climate change and governance

By- Dr. Bhupendranath Goswami

The life on the earth is virtually a gift of congenial climatic condition. Severe adversity against a tolerable climatic condition may induce severe devastation to all life form on this earth. Changes, in the climate, therefore, become a serious concern of today’s Scientists, environmentalists and the administrators. Nobel Laureates Rejendra Pachauri warned the world community that we have very few months in our hand to save this green planet from total extinctions of life. Individual organisms survive within specific range of temperature, precipitation, humidity and sunlight. Organisms exposed to climate conditions outside the normal range must adapt or migrate or they will perish. Changes in climate conditions can affect the health and function of ecosystems and the survival of entire species. The distribution pattern of fossils show evidence of gradual as well as abrupt extinction of related to climate change in the past.

A range of natural records shows that the last 10,000 years have been a usually stable period in Earth’s climate history. Modern human societies developed during this time. The agricultural, economic and transportation systems we rely upon are vulnerable if the climate changes significantly. Life including microbes, plants, animals and human – is a major driver of the global carbon cycle and can influence global climate by modifying the chemical make – up of the atmosphere. The geologic record proves that life has significantly altered the atmosphere during Earth’s history. Climatic conditions help to shake various ecosystems and habitats around the globe. A particular climate can be a boon to one specific species and devastation to another. The manner in which the earth sustains life is of vital importance on many levels. These are –

  1. The conditions on earth such as temperature, moisture, oxygen concentration and sunlight are what sustain life.
  2. Throughout geologic history, life on Earth has affected the climate system and vice versa.
  3. Extinctions of species, both in the geologic past and in the present day, can be linked to changes in climate.
  4. Unraveling past climatic changes is key to understanding present and future shifts in the climate.
  5. Changes in climate will result in shifting ecosystems. It is as possible to predict the details of specific effects of climate change on each of the world’s ecosystems.
  6. Although the concentration of greenhouse gases have changed throughout Earth’s history, there is no natural analog to today’s rapid increases in human – created green house gas emissions.

Effects of climate change on human health

Global warming has brought about possibly irreversible alterations to Earth’s geological, biological and ecological systems. These changes have led to the emergence of large scale environmental hazards to human health, such as extreme weather, ozone depletion, increasing intensity of wild land fire, loss of biodiversity, stresses to food producing systems and the global spread of infectious diseases, in addition, climatic changes are estimated to cause over 1,50,000 deaths annually.

To date, much less research has been conducted on the impacts of climate change on health, food supply, economic growth, migration, security, social change and public goods such as drinking water, than on the geophysical changes related to global warming. The consequences of these changes can help or hurt local human populations. For example, climatic changes in Siberia, for instance, are expected to improve food production and local economic activity, at least in the short to medium term. Whereas, Bangladesh has experiences an increase in climate sensitive diseases such as Malaria, Dengue, childhood diarrhea, and pneumonia among vulnerable communities. Numerous students suggest that the net current and future impacts of climate change on human society are and will continue to be overwhelmingly negatives.

The majority of the adverse effects of climate change are experienced by poor and low income communities around the world, who have much higher levels of vulnerability to environmental determinists of health, wealth and other factors and much lower levels of capacity available for coping with environmental change. A report on the global human impact of climate change published by Global Humanitarian Forum in 2009, estimated more than 300,000 deaths and about € 125 billion in economic losses each year and indicating that most climate change induced mortality is due to worsening floods and draughts in developing countries.
Key vulnerabilities: – (1) Health, (2) Environmental, (3) Displacement and migration, (4) Security, (5) Social impacts, (6) Human settlement, (7) Energy sector, (8) Insurance, (9) Transport.

The episode of climate change

The climate is defined as the study of aggregate atmospheric conditions of any region in long term perspectives. According to Trewartha “climate represents a composite of day to day weather conditions and of atmospheric elements within a specified area over a long period of time.”  On the other hand koeppen and De Long define the climate – “Climate is a summary, a composite of weather conditions over a long period of time, truly portrayed, it includes details of variations, extremes, frequencies, sequences of weather elements which occur from year to year particularly in temperature and precipitation. Climate is thus aggregate of weather.” It should be mentioned here that in the beginning the concept of environmental determinism in the late 19th century gave rise to climatic determinism because climate being major environmental component of physical environment was demonstrated as the most dominant factor in determining the human activities. E. Huntington’s ‘civilization and climate’ (1915) very clearly elaborated the strong control of climate on human. The study of relationship between man and climate become more logical and rational in the content of changing climate condition which in turn, poses a serious threat to the survival of man and other living organism. With the increasing intervention of man within the natural ecosystem the climate condition gradually turn into adverse one by the changes in its composition. Over the past several years many Scientists and a substantial number research concerns have subscribed to the view that, with the rising trend of fossil fuel-based power industry and automobiles the global climate is bound to change. The main reasons for these climatic changes were established only recently. For example, the cooling process which has been going on over the past tens of millions of year has apparently been caused by a drop in the quantity of carbon-di- oxide in the atmosphere. Possible changes in the climate are expected to set in at the end of 20th century and in the first quarter of 21st century. This prognostication is based on the assumption that in the future the amount of carbon-di-oxide in the atmosphere will grow as a result of increasing trend of burning fossil fuel and large scale deforestation as a whole in the world. At present, nearly 14 billion tons of carbon-di-oxide is released every year into the atmosphere where fossil-fuel alone contributes 76.6 percent and 21.4 percent is contributed by deforestation. The trend of growing concentration of Co2 in the atmosphere is now quite conspicuous. In 2020, the concentration of carbon-di-oxide in the atmosphere stands at 417 PPM against 280 PPM in the year 1750, in the conference on “global chemical cycles and their alteration by man” held in Dahlem, W. Stumn ensured through an analysis showed that Carbon-di-oxide will grow by 30-40 percent by the year 2000 and might roughly double by the year 2025 over its level in the pre-industrial period and leave all possibility to rise the global temperature by 2.0o C to 2.5o C.

It is well established that the climate is changing constantly under the influence of many natural factors. In the course of the past thirty million years the climate of the earth has been getting increasingly colder which led to massive polar glaciations at the end of tertiary period. In the Quaternary period the glaciations extends even to middle latitudes. In the present epoch which is known as interglacial period, climatic changes have been much less pronounced. For example, over the past hundred years, the climate has warmed up twice. The first warming began at the end of last century. The temperature reached its peak in the 1930s’ when the average temperature rose by nearly 0.80C. After that, until the 1960s’ the average temperature decreased by 0.40C. During mid 60s’ the climate began to get warmer and in consequence a sizeable reduction in the ice cover of the Arctic Ocean was pronounced.

The prime causes for these climatic changes were established with the help of experiments. For instance, the cooling process took place over the past tens of millions of years has apparently been due to the drop in the quantity of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It has been proved that the fluctuation of ice sheets in the Quaternary period was the result of periodic shifts in the position of the earth’s surface in relation to the Sun. On the other hand, climatic changes over the past 100 years were the resultant feature of fluctuating quantities of aerosols in the lower stratosphere. This fluctuation of aerosol was related to intensive volcanic activity. Quantity of aerosols increases with the increase in volcanic eruption and drops with a decline in volcanic activity.

It is already established that the state of climate is extensively influenced by human’s economic activities, particularly by burning of different kinds of fuel which in turn leads to the growing concentration of Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Table – I

Rate of carbon dioxide emission by burning of fossil-fuel

Fuel Amount Release of Co2 (Kg)
Diesel

Petrol

Coal

1 Litre

1 Litre

1 Ton

2.639

2.304

2419

Source: UNO, climate change conference, cop-25

The most virulent picture is well reflected in the picture of worldwide pattern of fossil fuel consumption. The total consumption of fossil fuel as a whole in the World accounts a total of 96,260,000 barrels. With the increase in the amount of fossil fuel burning the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is also increasing. The concentration of carbon dioxide is alarmingly rising from 339 PPM in 1980 to 417 PPM in 2019. British Researcher Koaling estimated that the air temperature as a result of growing concentration of carbon dioxide will rise by 2.0 – 2.50C at the time of 2025.

Table – II

Impact of Global Warming

Impact 1980 1990 2000 2050
Sea level rise 2.6 mt 3.7 mt 4.3 mt 18 mt
Shore line recession 4.0 mt 5.6 mt 6.5 mt 22 mt
Reduction in food production 0.2% 4.5% 6.5% 14%
Emission of Carbon di Oxide 5.0 GT/ Year NA 8 GT/Year 10 GT/ Year
Emission of Mithane 40 Mt/ Year NA 60 mt/ Year 110 mt/ Year

Source – IPCC Report

 

Changes in the air temperature are linked to the variations in the transparency of the air which varies due to dust. The range of air temperature accordingly showed confined within 0.2 – 0.40C, whereas the rise in the concentration of Carbon dioxide has by now excluded the average air temperature by 0.50C. It is established that the second factor is chiefly responsible for anthropogenic rise in temperature. The contribution made by the greenhouse effect of Carbon dioxide to the rise in mean temperature is well indicated by curve 2 (Fig – I). W. Broecker on the basis of the following assumption calculated the growth in air temperature. The assumptions are: (i) 50% of the Carbon dioxide produced by the burning of fossil fuel stay in the atmosphere. (ii) The growing intensity of the burning of fuel in 1960 – 75 was maintained of 4.5% a year, (3) Every new 10% growth in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere corresponds to a rise in mean temperature of the air, which can be expected over the next period is shown by curve 3 (Fig – 2).

Fig: Changing Trend of Global Temperature

——1: Natural temperature cycle

–..—..2: Changes in global temperature due to the greenhouse effect

______3: Resultant effect of the first and record factor. (After Broecker)

 

The curve shows that the major factor of the warming up over the past forty years of the 20th century was the trend of natural temperature change. In the next 40 years the curve went down, indicating a drop in the global temperature. As a result of increasing industrial activity the next forty years experienced a four-fold rise in temperature (from 0.1 to 0.40C). But that increase was neutralized by the active downward natural trend. Contrary to that the post 1980s period the natural cooling down process is overtaken by another warm period and the effect of greenhouse gas becomes more pronounced. Global emission of carbon dioxide already registered an alarming amount with 32.5 billion metric ton in 2017. It is estimated that by 2020 the total carbon dioxide emission will cross the mark of 36 billion metric tons. Under all these circumstances, it is predicted that the mean global temperature will rise by 20C to a level which has never been as high over the past thousand years. This means that unless the consumption of fossil fuel is drastically reduced, the air temperatures will continue to rise and impose on alarming situation on the globe.

Probable consequences

Future rises in global temperatures will probably affect the regimen of glaciers. Almost the entire cycling water mass is confined in the world ocean measuring about 134.109  cubic kilometer and 26.106 cubic kilometer in the ice sheets. The exchange between these two reservoirs is controlled by the thermal state of atmosphere. During the moderate inter global warming up periods the volume of ocean water grew by 2.5 – 3.106 cubic kilometer and its level rose by 5-7 meters. When the air temperature dropped to its lowest point during the cooling down periods, particularly towards the end of Cenozoic period, the sea level dropped by 120 – 150 meter as a result of increasing glaciations.

  • All these aspects ensure the extensive reduction in glaciers and will raise the sea level during impending global warming. It is clear, that the recession of glaciers in the continental mountains will reduce the fluvial run off and will drastically alter the hydrography of rivers. It will certainly bring uncertainty to agriculture and the reduced run off will dismantle the hydro- power stations. The rise in sea level may create unprecedented situation for all the coastal cities and low lends as most of the low lying coastal belt.
  • Global warming will adversely affect the precipitation regime all over the world. As a result of rising temperature the permanent pressure will either be disappeared or shifts its location and in absence of pressure difference the wind movement become slugging a non-existent. In absence of air movement most of the continental mass will be deprived from laving rainfall and turn into agriculturally unproductive belt, Food crisis, may prevail all over the world under such a prevailing situation.
  • With the changes in rainfall regime most of the continental rivers will become unproductive and cause uncertainty to a large number of hydropower project and create a severe shortage in energy supply. As a result, a sizeable number into a total collapse. Downfall in industrial productivity along with large scale unemployment problem will create a severe situation to as a whole of the economy.
  • As per the Scientists’ prediction, under changing climatic scenario there will be appear gradual environmental erosion such as desertification, reduction in soil futility, massive coastal erosion and sea level rise which induce long term migration. Displacement and migration related to sea level rise will mostly affect the inhabitants of coastal areas. Numerous coastal cities of U.S.A, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia will experience chronic Hooding, low lying pacific island like Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Micronesia, the marshal island, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, etc. are vulnerable to sea level rise. In July 2019, they issued a declaration that their lands could become uninhabitable as early as 2030. In 2018, the World Bank estimated that climate change will cause internal migration of nearly 143 million people as they escape crop failures, water scarcity and sea transgression.
  • Possibility of pandemic and endemic will increase with the changes in atmospheric temperature. Many more new virus and bacteria will emerge under their favorable climatic condition which will cause severe damage to plants, animals and human life. Numerous virus and bacteria which are now in almost inorganic state they become active and regenerate enormously in favour of climate change and become more virulent to the life farm of word as a whole.
  • Frequent crop failure, reduction in agricultural land abrupt drop in industrial productivity will cause severe poverty and lowered the GDP drastically. The poor countries belongs to the tropical belt will be probably the worst sufferer for this sudden drop in productivity ranging from agriculture to industry.

 

Role of Governance:

In order to mitigate this impending danger of climate change the role governance is one of the most pervading components with all positive attitudes to relieve the people of the world. Climate change governance definitely requires action on two fronts: adaptation and mitigation. Both political and administrative system needs to develop justicious and rational means to handle emerging issues of climate change mitigation and adaptation. A collective action at the global level is required to address climate change. Adaptation implies the adjustment of society to a changing climatic situation while mitigation implies a shift in current behavior of climate to end practices and to end all kind of practices during further climate change. Adaptation will be necessary because climate change is already underway. Mitigation efforts need to be continued to prevent the emission of greenhouse gas to reduce the concentration and to bring a total stoppage from further warming.

Governance of adaptation requires a clear knowledge of anticipated regional and local climate effects as it requires planning to deal with expected impacts on human life style and activity. Important climate issues detailed in scientific reports relate to sea level rise, extreme weather events, changing temperature and precipitation pattern is necessary for deriving policies. Ecosystem stresses, loss of bio-diversity, disruption human settlement pattern, infrastructure, livelihood and welfare of human population are some major effects of climate change. Particular governance measures that can be taken include: i) a requirement for climate change impacts to be addressed in national, regional and local planning processes, the preparation of periodic national and regional reports on adaptation and anticipated long range adaptation costs, the establishment of regional and sector based adaptation forums with key stakeholders to explore impacts and responses; collaboration with the insurance industries to indentify vulnerabilities and take remedial actions; the integration climate adaptation into planning for protected areas and in agriculture and natural resource management plans and the incorporation of adaptation issues into work of research funding council. All the countries of the world and the international bodies need to work in collaboration to derive positive adaptation measure with an in-depth analysis on the varying physical, social and economic condition of the world.

Governance of mitigation basically requires a clear understanding of emission sources, cost effective abatement potentials and policy approaches. For countries pursuing mandatory emissions abatement the introduction of a cost for carbon di-oxide emissions provides an economy wide incentive to reduce the carbon emission trend. Abolition of subsidies for fossil fuel usage will bring substantial economic and environmental benefits. Energy efficiency is another promising area which will enhance the environmental benefit.

As mitigation measure, every country needs to be imposed strict resolution to increase the area of carbon sink zone by adopting massive aforestation measures and imposed restriction on all kinds of deforestation activities to prevent extension of carbon emission zone. Moreover, strict resolution should be adapted in order to prevent the intervention in the natural bodies. Quito protocol, Paris agreement should be re- assessed and needs to derive strict measures for proper implementation, since, the climate change episode is a world- wide phenomenon therefore, people’s participation to implement all the mitigation measures is necessary and therefore, a judicious and planned drive should be make a compulsory issue for all countries to make the people aware of climate change.

Few Commandments:

  1. Man’s place and role in nature should be re-examined.
  2. Man should refrain from making large scale transformation of environment without proper environment impact analysis.
  3. Man as a part of Erath watch program should ensure that the fate of ‘global commons’ does not end in the “tragedy of commons.”
  4. A balance between population growth and resource utilization should be established.
  5. The gap between rich and poor between developed and developing countries should be minimized.
  6. Equitable distribution of resources to all for rightful use should be allowed and needful conservation of vital resources should be practiced.
  7. Essential ecological process should be avoided from intervention and water should be recycled as far as practicable.
  8. Man will have to develop a profound respect for nature.

With all these noble spirit we need to remember the appeal of Graham Brundtland- “The library of life is on fire, we must put it out.” Along with this we need to acknowledge the concept of Green philosophy- “Man must recognize the necessity of cooperating with nature. He must temper his demand and use and converse the natural living resources of this earth in a manner that alone provide for the continuation of human civilization.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

References:

  1. Budyko, M.et.al. (1986): Coming changes in the climate in geographical                      prognostication: Problems and prospects. Progress                                                        Publishers, Moscow.
  2. Longfellow, B (2006) : Weather report: images from the climate crisis in coming                                         to terms with nature, ed. Leo panitch and colin leys.                                                      Jhevealin press, London.
  3. White, J.F. (1968) : Study of the Earth (ed). Prentice-Hall of India Private                                              Limited, New Delhi.
  4. Haidore, J.J. (1996) : Global Environmental change, Printic Hall, Ne Jersey.
  5. Lockwood, J.G. (1979 : World climatology, ELBS and Edward Arnold                                                         (publishers) Ltd.
  6. Barry, R.G. and

Chorley R.J. (1995)          : Atmosphere, Weather and Climate, Route Ledge, London                                               and New York.

  1. Goswami, B.N. (2013) : Political Ecology of Deforestation and Tribal life;                                                    Concept Publishing Company Pvt. Ltd. New Delhi

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