Holding out false hopes on climate

Rich countries have a moral obligation to help the developing world with green technology



Climate activists hold banners at Glasgow Central station in Glasgow, Scotland ahead of the start of COP26. — AP
Climate activists hold banners at Glasgow Central station in Glasgow, Scotland ahead of the start of COP26. — AP

“We are digging our own graves on the climate. Stop treating nature like a toilet,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres. “Let’s do all we can,” chanted celebrity teenage environment activist Greta Thunberg at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Prince Charles chimed in and said: “Time is literally running out to save the planet.” Indeed, the world is warming and land could go under as oceans rise. Cities and people are at risk and celebrity politicians, environmentalists and royalty are predicting gloom and doom if we continue to burn coal and fuel. There’s dread, fear and a volcano of frustration all over the world that little’s being done to save the world from a climate apocalypse. We hear them but livelihoods are at stake in the developing world as newer, cleaner technology taking longer to reach them. The pandemic may have changed the way we work and commute, albeit briefly, but that’s not enough to reverse climate disaster, proclaim the experts.

The West, meanwhile, is taking its green lessons seriously and is attempting to keep things cool in their part of the hemisphere that has seen the full extent of the Industrial Revolution. We are now in a phase of history that’s been called the Fourth Industrial Revolution where virtual technology rules. However, virtual tech has serious environmental issues: it involves producing more electricity that could, in turn, warm the earth further. It’s a cycle we cannot ignore because the future depends on how we deal with and mitigate the impact of climate change. Now, let’s go back to who’s responsible for the most emissions since 1750. Our World in Data shows the US has emitted 410.2 billion tonnes of carbon. China comes in second but has emitted half that amount of the gas. Russia, Germany and the UK follow have also done their part to raise CO2 levels. India and others follow suit but these carbon emissions are a fallout of recent growth spurts.

The trouble with conclaves like COP26 is that there’s a lot of talk and no concrete action. Development goals are in open conflict with green statements; temperature targets are unlikely to be met. Human activity has been blamed for a warmer world and must be curtailed to keep temperature rise below 1.5C under the previous Paris climate deal. But countries are prone to flouting these limits as they draw up growth plans post the pandemic. How do you hold them to account? Punitive action is ruled out. Setting temperature limits, while showing intent, does little to prevent a warmer planet. The result could be devastating for future generations who deserve a better, safer life. It’s important to dig deeper to reach a consensus on the dangers of climate change. Rich countries have a moral obligation to help the developing world with green technology. Unless that happens climate summits like COP26 will hold out false hopes.


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