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Adequate attention not paid on changing human life to realize climate change aim

By Bharat Dogra 

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times. It has to be checked as a matter of highest priority. Despite this adequate attention has not been given to how human life must change to realize this objective.
We know that fossil fuels must be phased out and replaced by renewable energy. But is renewable energy capable of meeting the present day massive energy requirements, along with the increase taking place? Even if it is, what are the implications if renewable energy has to be scaled up to this level, and at such gigantic level won’t renewable energy also have very adverse consequences, although of a different kind? Such questions make the situation more complicated, but these have to be faced.
So let us try to approach the issue in a somewhat different way. Since the daily consumption of various goods and utilities involves the use of fossil fuels in various ways, if all excessive, wasteful and harmful consumption can be given up, this will also lead to substantial reduction in fossil fuel use and the resulting GHG emission. At least the top one-third of the world population (in terms of access to wealth and income) can contribute hugely to this, in the process actually also also avoiding much harm to their health and well-being. The middle one-third can also contribute to a lesser extent. In the case of the bottom one-third, although they too can reduce some harmful consumption, in many ways their overall consumption must actually increase as at present they are unable to meet their basic needs. However even after providing well for this increase, the net impact can still be the desired one of achieving a significant decrease in overall world consumption leading to a big decrease in fossil fuel use and GHG emissions, achieved in a sustainable and justice-based way, increasing welfare of all people and not hurting anyone.
An important aspect of improving health and welfare of people of entire world is to shift to organic, healthy food (with a higher vegetarian content and zero GM content) based on social agro-ecology and sustainable livelihoods of hundreds of millions of small farmers. This is win-win for health, welfare, livelihoods, food security and human creativity; all this can be achieved by firm commitment. At the same time, by improving soil and green cover as well as by reducing fossil-fuel based inputs in a big way, this also helps greatly in reducing GHG emissions .
It is even clearer that by eliminating wars, arms race and weapons of mass destruction, massive reduction of human distress can be achieved, including protection of tens of millions of human lives. At the same time very massive reduction in fossil fuels and GHG emissions can be achieved; as war, war preparations and weapons industry are the biggest polluters and the biggest single source of GHG emissions.
Now imagine if all the three changes suggested above are achieved to a large extent over the next decade, then this would also mean that fossil fuel use is reduced drastically on these three accounts and GHG emission too is greatly reduced. Then the remaining reduced target of replacing fossil fuels can be achieved much more easily by renewable energy sources, without these having to collapse under the burden of scaling up beyond capacity, and without having to resort to highly dubious ‘solutions’ like large dams and nuclear energy.
The path outlined above is consistent with achieving justice—on this path we can have increase of consumption and utility access by the poor so that they are all able to meet their basic needs. This is also the path for checking several other forms of ecological ruin, and not just GHG emissions. Above all this is the path of peace. On this path we have almost no weapons and war, much less of luxury and ‘sin’ goods, but at the same time we have more, better housing and health care for the poor and much healthier, nourishing food for all. This is a path of checking climate change which also reduces human distress in many other ways.
However the present path being followed is almost the reverse of what we have suggested as on this path there is increased war, war-mongering and arms race; increasing inequality and luxury consumption by the super-rich, increasing domination of the food system by a few giant corporations with their ecologically harmful and disruptive technologies. This path is not at all conducive to checking climate change but is being pursued nevertheless as those who dominate decision making are incapable of bringing change that is really needed. This path will take us nowhere.
As time is fast running out, all forces of environment protection, peace, justice, youth and women movements should come together to create an alternative agenda which can combine the objectives of checking climate change and other environmental ruin with the objectives of increasing justice and peace.
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The writer is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include ‘Planet in Peril', ‘Man over Machine’ and ‘A Day in 2071’

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