Combat Climate Crisis Together

Uploaded on September 8, 2023


Combat Climate Crisis Together

“Climate change is affecting almost every aspect of human life. At times reports on the issue read like a horror story. The situation calls for action with great urgency,” observes DR MOHAMMAD MANZOOR ALAM

I’m reading a report on climate change and farming in the context of China in The Economist (‘A growing problem’, July 15th 2023). The report turns the spotlight on massive floods and scorching heat in the country and the toll they are taking on the farmers besides affecting food supplies. It seems the situation will get worse in future.

The report says that the heat came early this year in the areas around the northern Chinese city of Chengde, which is famous for producing maize, and triggered drought that was the worst in decades. “The needle-shaped leaves on the region’s pine trees are turning brown. Worse, much of its maize is now stunted.”

Another Chinese province Henan is afflicted with opposite problem. In this landlocked province in the central part of China that produces a quarter of the country’s wheat, it was the rain that arrived early and caused floods that drowned fields, leaving much of the wheat unfit for human consumption.

The report further informs that “heavy rains elsewhere in China threaten the rice harvest. Heatwaves across the country have killed fish and rabbits. Extreme weather is hitting Chinese farmers from all sides this year.”

It also notes that when the government is paying attention to the food supply, it is likely that the plight of the farmers, most of whom are elderly and are bearing the brunt of climate change, is ignored.

Climate Change in South Asia

Climate change has rendered South-Asian countries vulnerable to food insecurity, displacement and diseases. Aljazeera reports that “climate-change-induced downpours, drought, and soaring temperatures have become increasingly common across the eight countries of South Asia, making it one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to the impacts of global warming.”

Thousands of Indians in as many as 20 districts of the northeastern state of Assam were rendered homeless as a result of flash floods in June this year.

Last year massive floods killed over 1,700 people and affected millions in Pakistan. As many as 50 people across the country were killed by heavy monsoon rains this year.

Citing World Bank study, Aljazeera reports that some 7.5 million people in South Asia have been affected by at least one natural disaster.

When it has been established that climate change is playing a part in increasing the frequency and severity of extreme-weather events, we should sit up and take notice. It should be a wake-up call for all the governments of the world.

What’s Climate Change?

Let’s try to understand the basics of climate change. Long-term changes in the earth’s temperature, wind patterns and rainfall are called climate change. There could be natural reasons for it such as variations in the solar cycle or volcanic eruptions.

However, when we say climate change today, we refer to the rise in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere — that started in the middle of the 20th century — due to the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.

What does actually happen when fossil fuels are burnt? When fossil fuels are burnt, they produce greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. These gases cover the whole earth like a blanket which results in the trapping of solar heat and rise in the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere.

Who’s Responsible for it?

We humans are responsible for climate change that has taken place over the last two centuries. Climate change is driven by human economic activities. However, according to Oxfam America, the climate crisis neither affects everyone equally nor is everyone equally responsible. It reveals that “just 125 billionaires are each responsible for one million times more greenhouse gas emissions than the average person”.

Wealthy corporations, rich industrialised countries, the rich and famous who are often called “carbon billionaires” are responsible for the climate crisis; thus, they must be held accountable on the world stage. 

What are the Solutions?

Environmental NGO Greenpeace calls upon people to pressure governments and businesses to keep fossil fuels in the ground, invest in renewable energy, switch to sustainable transport, protect forests and oceans, restore nature to absorb more carbon, reduce how much people consume, and reduce plastic.

International frameworks and agreements like the Sustainable Development Goals, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, and the Paris Agreement, are there to help us save the environment.

What Can Individuals Do?

Of course, it’s the responsibility of the governments and the businesses to co-operate with each other and work out ways to tackle climate change. However, the BBC says, we as individuals can also make a difference by making informed choices, such as taking fewer flights, using less energy, improving home insulation and energy efficiency, living car-free, replacing gas central heating with electric systems like heat pumps, and eating less red meat.

As July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded in history, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, “Climate change is here. It is terrifying. And it is just the beginning. The era of global warming has ended, and the era of global boiling has arrived.”

The UN Secretary-General said inaction and excuses were unacceptable. He underscored the importance of accelerated action to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

Global news agency IPS, in one of its reports, has quoted Mr Guterres as saying, “Leaders and particularly G20 countries responsible for 80 percent of global emissions must step up for climate action and climate justice.” He added, “No more greenwashing, no more deception, and no more abusive distortion of antitrust laws to sabotage net zero alliances.”

Islam and Climate Action

Islam is the way of life, rather than a religion. Islam offers guidance for every aspect of life. Allah Almighty has appointed humans his khalifah (vicegerent) on the earth. Therefore, we are duty-bound to take care of this planet earth and make it a beautiful place to live in. “It is He [Allah] Who hath made you (His) agents, inheritors of the earth: He hath raised you in ranks, some above others: that He may try you in the gifts He hath given you: for thy Lord is quick in punishment: yet He is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.” (The Qur’an 6:165)

We’re not supposed to fritter away natural resources and indulge in conspicuous consumerism. Allah Almighty says: “O children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.” (The Qur’an 7:31)

Let’s all come together to protect the planet for future generations. We need to be responsible to the environment. We should also make others aware of the environmental concerns. And we have to keep urging our governments to make concerted efforts in this regard.

(The writer is Chairman, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi)


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