As the world grapples to clobber out a consensus on reducing Green House Gases (GHGs) emission rate this time in Durban, erratic weather disruptions and climate change take the centre-stage yet again. Despite efforts by developing nations to bridge the trust deficit with regard to carbon footprints, the Copenhagen and the Cancun Meets have come a cropper.
Considering the fact that the ravaging effects of climate change are transnational, the perpetual failure of the multilateral organizations to eke out a deal poses a big question: Do climate change conferences only serve the semantics and rhetoric?
Speaking on the contentious issue of climate change to Soumendra Mitra of Zeenews.com, Dr. Milap Chand Sharma, Professor in Glaciology in the School of Social Sciences in Jawahar Lal Nehru University, says it’s time the developed nations come out of their comfort zones to make the Durban Meet somewhat successful.
You have been doing research on the climatic pattern of India since long. Personally how do you see the shift in the climatic condition of northern India?
Personally speaking, I do not find any major change in the climatic set-up of the northern belt. Few years back when I had to go to Himachal or Kashmir, I had to take the resort of warm clothes to save myself from the ravages of cold and even now it happens to be the same. But yes, when we compare certain natural phenomenon like snowfall, there has been a shift in terms of quantity and periodicity.
So you mean to say that snowfall in J&K or Himachal Pradesh has been erratic of late?
No not of-late. Infact, in last three years, the region has witnessed a healthy amount of snowfall, which indeed is a good sign. But few years back, from the late 80s to early 2000, there was reduced snowfall in terms of quantity. Normally, it begins in mid-December and extends till March, but during those 20 years or so, there was not enough snowfall in the region.
What could be the reasons for this climatic shift?
See, I do not regard it to be any major climatic shift. It is a natural phenomenon.
You mean to say that the reduced snowfall and the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayan region is a natural phenomenon?
`Yes, it is a natural phenomenon and the reasons why one cannot call this change any major climatic shift because 20 years of observation is too small a time to arrive at conclusions. To call it a climatic change, one needs to observe a particular weather phenomenon for atleast a period of 30 years. It is a cyclic event. This weather fluctuation is more to do with change in wind circulation over the last few years. I am not ruling out the fact that it is not human caused. Indeed the environmental pollution which has gone up courtesy the rapid pace of industrialisation and urbanisation in areas like Delhi and Uttrakhand, have put a definite impact on the circulation of winds.
What is your take on the controversial IPCC report which mentioned about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035?
We have rubbished that report. Actually that report in a way intended to deride the YK Raina report titled ‘Climate Change and India’ published on the website of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) in November 2010. One needs to understand the propaganda theory of various institutions which work in tandem with the politics at the national and international level. The report regarding the melting of Himalayan glaciers is a big blunder. The report commissioned during the tenure of former Environment Minister Jayram Ramesh was a welcome move by the Ministry. Frankly speaking, IPCC has done no major scientific revelations with regard to climate change except spreading awareness on the issue.
Talking of Jayram Ramesh, one major thing which India agreed to during his tenure as the Environment Minister was reduction of emissions by 20-25% relative to the level of 2005 in the Cancun Meet. How do you see India’s emissions reduction pledge affecting the domestic economy?
We as a nation have lesser carbon history compared to the European nations and the US. Industrialisation in India is a recent phenomenon unlike its European counterparts. So, economic development and sustenance is the need of the hour. I remember, in one of her writings Mrs. Indira Gandhi mentioned poverty is the biggest enemy of a developing nation like India. By saying this, what I want to suggest is that without compromising the economic need of a nation in terms of healthy socio-economic life across all the strata, a developing nation like India should morally bind itself as far as emissions reduction target is concerned. And at the same time we should try to shift our energy dependence on other forms like the nuclear and solar.
So do you want to suggest that emissions reduction should not be legally binding even in the multilateral meets?
It is not possible to make emissions reduction plan legally binding for a nation. Even the multilateral institutions like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) lack the legal teeth. Considering the geo-politics at work, it’s better for the nations to go for morally binding emissions cut.
What according to you are the major bottlenecks for arriving at an international consensus?
Well, there are many. But the two major hindrances are the pressure by the developed nations on the Lesser Developed Countries (LDCs) regarding emissions cut and the transfer of green technologies. A country like US by exercising all its hegemonic clout wants to ensure that its interests are safeguarded come what may. Climate change is a transnational issue and considering the greater carbon footprint, nations like the US and France should pass on the green technologies to the poor nations without any personal riders. Instead what they are trying to do is commercially exploit the issue of climate change.
Both the Copenhagen and the Cancun Meets have come a cropper for the interests of the developing and less developed nations. What are your predictions for this year’s meet to be held in Durban?
I am not pinning high hopes on this meet as well. Until and unless the developed nations stop commercially exploiting the issue of climate change and adopt realistic emissions cut, these meets will continue to remain as a platform for rhetoric. Instead of snuggling in their comfort zone, the major economies need to take the poor nations in confidence and not throttle a decision taken by the major players down their throat.