Author: Anshu Bansal, Research Associate
Global Warming is a cause of concern for all of us irrespective of our different consumption pattern. The presence of carbon dioxide, methane and other green house gases are significant to keep earth warm and hence, important for our survival but when the concentration of these gases increases in the atmosphere, average temperature of the earth increases, sea-level rises and other unnatural events take place. It thus leads to Global warming which causes ocean expansion, decrease in snow cover, increase in the intensity of tropical cyclones etc. Hence, it is important to check emission of these gases which is popularly known as green house gases. While some feel that global warming does one of the biggest frauds of our era, with some even believe that it is designed to harm the economy of developed countries others feel that, climate scientists are able to make a lot of money by using fear as a tool to earn more research grants.
At this juncture, the roles and responsibility of inhabitants of earth comes into picture. While developing countries blame developed countries for accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over decades, developed countries dispute that it is not feasible to reduce greenhouse gases without active participation of giant developing countries such as India and China. Research shows that industrialized countries account for roughly 80% of the carbon dioxide build up in the atmosphere to date and annually, more than 60 percent of global industrial carbon dioxide emissions originate in industrialized countries ((World Resources Institute Highlight )).
Developing countries also tend to argue that since they are in the crucial stage of development, it is not fair to mitigate the harmful effect of global warming at the cost of their emerging economy. They are not the one who pumped greenhouse gases causing global warming during the last few decades. It is also observed that one-third of Chinese carbon dioxide emissions were due to the production of exports and that it is mostly the developed world consuming these productions ((Energy policy [Sep. 2008])). Hence, the different views lead to chaos among the member of developed and developing countries. In order to balance the conflicting interest between developed and developing countries the principle of “Common but differentiated responsibilities” emerged.
This principle was acknowledged when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was formulated and then signed and ratified in 1992 by most of the world’s countries. It recognises that ((The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1992)):
- The largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries;
- The share of global emissions originating in developing countries will grow to meet their social and development needs.
- The rich countries were to help in providing means for the developing world to transition to cleaner technologies while developing:
- Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.
- Also Article 3.3 states that the parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects.
But unfortunately some countries, mainly developed countries backed out of their promises and hence, the objective with which the convention is formulated in not achieved in its true sense.
SWINDLE BY SOME DEVELOPED COUNTRIES
“What we have is a ragbag collection of un-peer reviewed web pages, an unhealthy dose of sunstroke, a dash of astrology and more cherries than you can poke a cocktail stick at ((Gary Schmidt, Bubkes, RealClimate.org [June 26, 2009])).”
Among all these debates about the roles and responsibilities of developed countries versus developing countries and the necessary implications of global warming, some countries are trying to censor the documents and reports by scientists in order to undermine its effect. A report suggests that rather than being a think tank, it was more like a lobbyist, funded by large corporations and individuals with an aim to discredit climate change science and propagate denialist views ((Heartland Institute Exposed: Internal Document Unmask Heart of Climate Denial Machine, leaked internal documents from the right-wing organization the Heartland Institute February 14, 2012)). They also pay some scientists and others because they are sceptical on climate change ((Id.)).
It is observed that Scientists and Economists have been offered lot of money to undermine some major climate change report ((Guardian Reports [February 2007])). The Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) also revealed that some business lobby groups have influenced the Australian government to prevent Australia from reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is also alleged by NASA’s top climate scientist that the Bush Administration have tried to silence him ((Id, [January 2006]))and many scientists also felt they were being censored and that various reports had been systematically suppressed, even altered ((BBC Panorama documentary [June, 2006])). Hence, these issues need to be taken seriously and the authenticity of this kind of news is to be checked and action should be taken accordingly. Fortunately, recently Mr. Obama rightly observed that the United States, as both major polluter and world leader, has a deep obligation to help shield the international community from rising sea levels, floods, droughts and other devastating consequences of a warming planet ((Climate Warnings, Growing Louder, The Editorial Board [May 18, 2013])). But it is not easy to foresee how far such initiative is impactful. Time itself will unfold it.
EMERGING TECHNIQUES: HOW EFFECTIVE IT IS?
Since the problem of climate change is not limited to any specific country, the situation it far more complicated when it comes to taking mitigating actions. One such potential threat among others is Geo-engineering. It is a global concern that will have climate and weather impacts in all countries, and it is virtually inevitable that some group of people will be harmed in the process ((Jon Carlson, professor of law at the UI College of Law)). It comes with obvious international legal implications because no one country can implement its own geo-engineering plan without causing weather or climate changes in other countries ((Id)).
Some of the example of Geo-engineering are building space-based shields and mirrors to deflect solar heat from the planet or injecting chemicals like hydrogen sulphide or sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, creating an aerosol shield that reduces the amount of solar heat reaching Earth’s surface. But the consequences of such artificial actions are not fully predictable. While it may give effective result in one area, it may affect other things as well. For instance, manually cooling the ocean may be seen as a generally good idea, what impact will that have on farmers in India whose crops depend on rain from heat-induced tropical monsoons ((Adam D.K. Abelkop, Reining in Phaethon’s Chariot: Principles for the Governance of Geo-engineering, published in the current issue of the journal Transnational Law and Contemporary Problems.))?
Hence, it is important to mull over the use and side-effect of these new techniques internationally and it should be planned accordingly which is not prejudicial to the interest of any country. For this, representative from the countries need to assemble and after deliberation required steps should be taken as environmentalist warn that “with the stark realisation that global warming is transforming our world, there will be a crazy new era of ‘green washing’, desperate ‘geo-engineering’ schemes, ‘grandfathering’ of newly-built coal power plants and carbon-credit ‘profiteering’ ((Stephen Leahy, No getting around emission cap, Inter Press Service (IPS) Reports [Feb. 5, 2007])).”
Most importantly, it is significant for public at large to understand and feel a sense of obligation towards the planet. It is found that 69 percent of Americans believe that the earth is warming, but only 42 percent believe human activity is largely the reason ((Survey by Pew Research cited in Christopher F. Schuetze, Scientists Agree Overwhelmingly on Global Warming. Why Doesn’t the Public Know That?(May16,2013) available at http://rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/16/scientists-agree-overwhelmingly-on-global-warming-why-doesnt-the-public-know-that/?ref=globalwarming accessed on 21 May, 2013)). More surprisingly, only 45 percent of Americans said they believed there was scientific consensus, with 43 percent believing science has yet to come to a clear conclusion on what causes global warming ((Id.)). But contrary to the same, recent report concluded and Climate scientists agreed that humans cause global warming in 97.1 percent ((Andrew C. Revkin, The Other Climate Science Gap, (May 17, 2013) available at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/17/the-other-climate-science-gap/?ref=globalwarming accessed on 21 May,2013)). Hence, through media and the source of dissemination of technology public should be made aware of their respective roles and responsibility. On December 17, 2010 ARB adopted a cap-and-trade program to place an upper limit on state-wide greenhouse gas emissions ((California Air Resources Board, Auction information)). Such programs are expected to give fruitful result.
Hence, it is clear enough that global warming is indeed increasing day by day and human intervention is one of the major causative factors. Neither an individual nor a country could be blamed rather all of us are responsible for it. Over a period, the issue is debated upon so many times that it became so common that old redundant method will not suffice to mitigate its effect. Author opines that new approach is required. Therefore, joint effort is needed and each individual should understand and play their respective part to deal with the situation because it is high time that we can afford any delay.