Caring about climate change!

Global warming is hardly a phenomenon to be taken lightly

Khalid Saleem March 25, 2019
The writer is a former Ambassador of Pakistan and ex-Assistant Secretary General of OIC

When President Trump carried out his threat to opt out of the Paris Accord, hardly anyone was surprised considering the big man’s shoot-from-the-hip disposition. It would not do to ignore the other side of the coin, either.

In a world in which human values — what to talk of human life — have lost all sanctity, it often comes as a pleasant surprise that there exist people who still worry about such causes as global warming.

The perspicacious reader might recall that in the not-too-recent past, in multilateral conferences whenever the subject of global warming came up, it was brushed aside by the developed world as a Third World worry. Why bother, they appear to have argued, if merely a few measly poor nations were in danger of being submerged by the rising sea? It was considered expedient to fob off the responsibility on those Third World states that were eking out a measly living through the clandestine sale of their rain-forest timber. The developed world never expected to be on the receiving end.

Nature is a great leveler. It was interesting to come across, several years back, a series of four articles by Barry James in International Herald Tribune — each on one of “Four Battlefronts” in what was termed as the “war against effects of climate change”. What drew one’s interest was the fact that all four “Battle Fronts” selected by the author were in the Developed World.

The first of the series, relating to Venice — the much-heralded city of “romantic canals and splendid palaces” — was of direct relevance. It revealed that Venice had already sunk a good depth of a step due to the indiscriminate drainage of the underground water table during industrialisation.

Regrettably, the ‘thinkers’ in the Third World countries that are projected to be on the “hit list” of global warming have failed to take notice. Let it not be forgotten that tens of millions of hapless people, mainly in South and Southeast Asia, face serious or permanent flooding of their lands if the climate change predictions become a reality.

The World Metrological Organisation (WMO) had termed the decade before last in the 20th century as the warmest since accurate records began to be maintained in the mid 19th century. The collapse of a huge ice shelf in the eastern Antarctic had been reported some years ago. This was apparently due to rise in the temperatures in the region.

What a pity, then, that the world leadership is still engaged in playing ducks and drakes with such issues of far-reaching import. Multilateral diplomacy, which has progressively become the bane of what we euphemistically refer to as “our civilisation”, has been let loose in the world’s arena.

It is becoming obvious that multilateral diplomatists are mainly interested in their paid jaunts to far-off exotic resorts than in the wellbeing of the populace at risk. They are bound to sell their sponsors short, as evidently their priorities hardly square in with the anxieties of the struggling millions of the Third World.

Meanwhile, several ecological upheavals are clearly visible on the horizon. The melting of huge chunks of ice near the North Pole is already the cause for serious concern.

Nearer home, there is a looming ecological disaster waiting to happen in the Siachin region, where the glacier is in imminent danger of melting. Experts have already warned that unless the military operations in the area are terminated and the forces withdrawn, an ecological catastrophe of immense proportions is waiting round the corner.

Global warming is hardly a phenomenon to be taken lightly. The future of millions of human beings is at stake. The sooner the powers-that-be recognise the impending danger, the better it will be for the mankind. Time is of the essence. The world would need to act before it is too late. Needless to add, Trumping of the Paris Accord is hardly a good omen!

Published in The Express Tribune, March 25th, 2019.

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