The Climate Is Changing: Why Aren’t We?

“UK declares national emergency, forests across Europe burn as extreme heatwaves wreak havoc.”

“Climate change made heat waves 30 times more likely in South Asia”

“Dozens dead in Canada as heatwave shatters records”

“40% of Mumbai could be underwater in the next century”

Climate change is not just excess heat, it’s also unseasonal rain, extreme cold, rising sea levels, and every other natural change which affects our lives. A small shift in climate is normal — but ever since humans started exploiting fossil fuels excessively, the gradual change has become a lot more obvious and fast. 

It was very easy to blame the slow economic development on climate change protests and ignore the deterioration. However, now that major cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, and New York City are in danger of submerging partly or fully in the next few decades, governments and common people have started acknowledging the impact. 

Is it enough? Have humans come to a point where we endanger the human race itself after centuries of affecting flora and fauna? Is there anything we can do to at least delay the destruction we have brought upon ourselves?

A country’s development plan can also affect climate change, as most of the time, it aims to build cities, metros, highways, and other such infrastructure by cutting trees.

The recent shift of the car shed of Aqua Line 3 of the Mumbai Metro to Aarey colony is one such example. Aarey Colony is often referred to as Mumbai’s last green lungs. Hence, when the car shed was first proposed, many people took to the streets and signed petitions to save this last hope of Mumbai. 

Post the public resentment, a series of events took place, of which a major one included a shift in government, resulting in a relocation of the car shed to a salt pan land in Kanjurmarg. This was resisted by the Centre, as the land comes under the Centre and not the State, and the development process was delayed further. 

Cut to 2022 — it’s been 2.5 years, and we are back to square one — activists and common people are fighting so that Mumbai can breathe, and at the same time, benefit from an upgrade in public transportation. After all, local trains have become heavily burdened to the point where commuting in them is more of a nuisance than a convenience. 

As of now, it’s difficult to say what the future holds for Aarey. All that we can hope for, is that the government comes up with a decision that is in the best interest of Mumbai’s people and environment. 

Aarey is just one such recent example. The Buxwaha forest in Madhya Pradesh was also in the limelight in 2021. The forest is expected to house 34 million carats of diamonds — if it becomes functional, it will be the biggest diamond mine in Asia. 

Madhya Pradesh is expected to earn INR 23,000 crore as royalties from this project, but for all this to happen, around 2,15,000 trees will have to be cut. Obviously, this attracted a lot of criticism and protests. 

Moreover, the land where Buxwaha forest stands has very less groundwater level and diamond mining needs a lot of water. If the groundwater level depletes further, surface water will continue to evaporate, and this will affect everything in that particular region, including fish and wildlife.

There is no shortage of environmentally detrimental projects in India. Projects such as the Ken-Betwa River Interlinking Project and Bundelkhand Expressway received a lot of political attention due to their positive impact on the economic development of the country. However, these projects cost us 23,00,000 and 1,90,000 trees respectively. In fact, a few days after its inauguration by the PM, the Bundelkhand Expressway has made headlines again due to the development of cracks, potholes, and damaged railings. Its potholes have already caused a major accident too. The Bundelkhand Expressway will have to be highly equipped for catastrophic climate crises like extreme drought, famine, earthquake, etc.

Our planet witnessed its hottest decade in the last 1,25,000 years in the 2010s. In fact, every decade has averaged hotter than the prior one since the 1960s. Carbon emissions were higher in 2019 than at any time in at least 2 million years. 

At this rate, the world is expected to breach the 1.5° C global warming limit within the next 20 years — and this is the best case scenario, assuming we come up with immediate, rapid, and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report is a “code red for humanity”.

As Oxford scientist Tim Palmer bluntly stated, “If we do not halt our emissions soon, our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth.”

Remember, there is no Planet B.

By Pranav Jainani, SYBAF

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