The coincidence is as remarkable as it is profoundly critical. In parallel with the award of the Nobel prize in Economics to two economists who have worked on the “green growth” model, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has emitted a direly disconcerting signal to the world from Incheon in South Korea.
In a word, climate change has been reckoned to be a global emergency ~ a grim foreboding that has been couched with the caveat that the consequences of catastrophic warming will be political and even military, not just environmental. It isn’t apocalyptic science fiction to aver that climate change is an existential threat to the human race, whatever the likes of Donald Trump might imagine.
And the IPCC findings are remarkably forthright in their assessment of the Earth, to which the withering world belongs. Of riveting interest is the report’s evaluation of conditions in the subcontinent. A 2- degree Celsius increase in global temperature will translate to “deadlier heatwaves” in India and Pakistan, a spurt in such vector-borne diseases as malaria and dengue, exposure of 350 million more people to “deadly heat” in megacities, and increase in poverty. Kolkata and Karachi have been mentioned as the cities that could face an increased threat of heatwaves. That threat is real and now must transcend the periodic jaw-jaw at the high table.
The latest IPCC report makes it plain that there are only a dozen or so years in which to change our economies radically if we are to keep the effects of the warming within manageable proportions. That would require the countries of the world to live up to the most ambitious of the goals of the Paris climate change agreement, and keep the rise in average global temperatures to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels. A rise of even half a degree above that, to 2 degrees C, will have effects that are far worse. The risk of disappearing corals, insects and plants is dangerously real. A warming of 3 degrees C or more will be utterly catastrophic.
It is not merely the direct effects of climate change but their indirect effects on the political and economic structures of the world that make it a genuinely existential threat. The IPCC’s prognosis has been spot-on; it remains for the developed and developing blocs to react with a degree of seriousness that has not always been manifest. The comity of nations must work in concert to strengthen the kind of political structures that will facilitate the cooperation that is the only alternative to destructive anarchy.
It is fervently to be hoped that the road from Incheon to Katowice in Poland this December will be paved with good intentions, and will find a way to overcome the roadblock that Washington, DC seems to have become.