Millennium Post (Kolkata)

A selfless pursuit

In the battle against climate change, humanity must confront its most primitive instincts and rise above them with acts of exceptiona­l altruism and empathy

- SHOVANLAL CHAKRABORT­Y Views expressed are personal

In the fight against climate change, the human species is up against all its most fundamenta­l and inherent frailties — greed, selfishnes­s, envy, tribalism, narcissism. If God had wanted to design an enemy for mankind, he would have chosen climate change, not Satan. Island-states are striving to save themselves from drowning, quite literally; In 2023, global sea levels were on average four inches above 1993 levels.

Meanwhile, erratic climate patterns have triggered a wave of crop losses and farmer suicides across the tropics. Take, for instance, the fact that countries that have the most resources are also the ones with the least to lose. Increased wildfires across the developed world have been wreaking havoc every summer. This year, New York looked like a city straight out of the apocalypse, shrouded in brown haze. Yet, richer countries are still far better placed than small islands or agrarian economies. By contrast, countries like Russia are, in fact, gaining. For most of history, Russian emperors have waged wars in the quest for warm seas and trade routes. But as the Arctic icecaps melt, Russia has begun to discover new shipping lanes and maritime resources

— including, possibly, fossil fuels — worth tens of trillions of dollars up north. Estimates predict that the Arctic will be completely free of summer sea-ice by 2035.

Russia is also waiting to unlock agricultur­e in its long inhospitab­le tundra region. Some two-thirds of Russia’s territory is covered in frost all year round. But in 2021, Russia’s environmen­t minister declared that much

of that will become arable within 20-30 years. To combat climate change, therefore, mankind needs to combat its basest impulses and showcase extraordin­ary altruism and empathy. That was the impossible brief for diplomats in Dubai at the UN climate summit — also called CoP28.

As these competing interests came to the fore, the otherwise staid world of diplomacy saw much drama and emotion. To start with, there was controvers­y over the fact that a petro state was hosting the world’s preeminent climate change summit. Then, there was pushback from the oil industry against a campaign to end fossil fuels. That evoked tears from the minister of one Pacific island-nation, who lamented that she can barely face her 12-year-old daughter when she returns home. Then, there’s the question of money. Of the 10 highest revenue-earning companies on the Fortune 500 list, five are oil companies. Of the eight Indian companies that make that list, three are oil companies (four, if you include Reliance Industries, which owns massive oil interests).

In the end, the summit ended with an historic agreement that mentioned — for the first time in 30 years of climate change diplomacy! — the problem of fossil fuels. But even in that triumph, there was controvers­y. The final declaratio­n upset several delegates by calling for “transition­ing away” from fossil fuels without a deadline, instead of “phasing out.” There were also passionate accusation­s that the president of the summit — unironical­ly, an Emirati oil executive — had gavelled through the deal without consulting the small island-states.

Yet, as Denmark’s Minister for Climate and Energy, Dan Jorgensen, said, “We’re standing here in an oil country, surrounded by oil countries, and we made the decision saying let’s move away from oil and gas.” That was admittedly an extraordin­ary outcome — and perhaps a sign that more climate summits ought to be held in the tropics and deserts, under the full brunt of climate change.

As the Arctic icecaps melt, Russia has begun to discover new shipping lanes and maritime resources worth tens of trillions of dollars up north

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 ?? ?? In 2023, global sea levels were on average four inches above 1993 levels
In 2023, global sea levels were on average four inches above 1993 levels

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