While scientists and activists have done well to establish the urgency of checking
climate change before it is too late, it is increasingly clear that the current paradigm
of checking climate change is not working. Briefly, it has to be changed in ways
which will link it very closely to checking militarism and inequalities while promoting
peace and justice, preventing all wars, eliminating all WMDs (weapons of mass
destruction) as well as eliminating all HBP (hypocrisy of big polluters).
A basic reason of the urgency of checking climate change is that it will change
climate and daily weather conditions in ways that will make our once bountiful and
beautiful planet increasingly inhospitable and then inhabitable for humanity and most
other forms of life. However what climate change can cause in a few years or
decades can be caused by WMDs within a few days if there is actual use, intended
or accidental, of less than one per cent of the current stock of nuclear weapons (not
to mention the destructive potential of several other WMDs). This one well-
established factor should be adequate ( there are several others) to convince all
sincere climate activists that both tasks—checking GHG emissions as well as
eliminating WMDs—should be pursued together as the biggest challenge facing
Military activities and equipment constitute the biggest single source of GHG
emissions which is almost entirely avoidable in a peaceful world, and eliminating
which will cause no decline in human welfare; it will only increase human welfare.
Hence a future without wars and with the minimum military activity should be an
integral part of climate activism. This should come with a guarantee that no military
personnel will lose jobs or income; they will merely shift, with retraining, to such
tasks as disaster prevention and rescue, ecological rehabilitation etc. It is only in
conditions of peace and stability, and much increased international cooperation and
understanding based on this, that the world will be able to resolve the most critical
environmental problems including climate change.
Checking climate change involves several restraints. However this should not lead to
any deprivation of those people and communities who are already at subsistence
levels or in deeper poverty and in no way responsible for climate change. Hence the
efforts to check climate change should be accompanied by efforts to ensure that
basic needs of all people are met, arriving at a balance of social justice and
environment protection. Once we attempt this task, we realize that within a limited
environmental space ensuring needs for all also involves reduction of harmful goods
(weapons, alcohol, tobacco, toxic industrial chemicals in daily use etc.) as well as
extreme luxury goods. Making justice an integral part of climate agenda also helps to
secure more enthusiastic involvement of the working classes in this task, and they
are the ones who can contribute the most. Improving international justice and
equality is also most helpful, but the increased funds which flow to the poorer
countries should reach the genuinely needy, instead of being grabbed by ever-too-
The climate agenda is unfortunately in the process of being co-opted and misused
by some of the biggest polluters, who would like to go on expanding their highly
polluting businesses by just giving it a cunning climate twist—providing some spin to
justify these in terms of climate change. This tendency of big business may be called
HFG (hypocrisy and falsehood gas) emissions. Increase of HFG emissions will only
contribute to continuing increase of GHG emissions, no real reduction.
Several changes are needed due to multiple welfare reasons, but these will also help
to reduce GHG emissions in significant ways. Such areas of change should be
identified carefully for special attention.
Shifting to natural farming based on small farmers, producing more diverse food
closer to consumption place in highly decentralized ways, is really needed for
protecting food safety, human health, soil health and sustainable livelihoods. At the
same time such a worldwide change will contribute very significantly to reducing
GHG emissions on sustainable basis.
Reducing consumption of alcohol, tobacco and all intoxicants is very important for
improving human health and several other social gains as well, but this can
contribute a lot to reducing GHG emissions as well.
On the other hand trying to base the climate change agenda on rapidly increasing
nuclear power, or rapidly building many more large dams on rivers, or by initiating
potentially even more harmful geo-engineering, will only create more risks without
facilitating the path to sustainable reduction of GHGs.
Climate change is also a way of nature to warn humanity that its present
development pattern and the thinking of greed and grab as well as injustices on
which it is largely based is not sustainable and will only lead to destruction of
humanity and other forms of life. In other words, we must change the prevailing
development pattern and ideology on which it is based. However, the existing
paradigm of climate change is one of largely preserving the status quo of the present
day world, with some tinkering focused on mainly reducing fossil fuels. This is a very
reductionist model which ignores very important linkages and cannot succeed in any
comprehensive sense. The world’s responses are increasingly departmentalized and
narrow. The scientist gives facts and figures, the politician makes vague
commitments, others issue rhetoric, and then over to the next conference. However
the basic task of real change by initiating and then carrying forward, rapidly and with
great commitment, an integrated, far-reaching agenda combining environment
protection, justice and peace has remained largely neglected. This is a challenge
that waits to be taken up worldwide with great commitment.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent
books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine, A Day in 2071, Protecting Earth for
Children and Earth Without Borders.