Our personal perception of Climate Change is largely developed through experience and interpretation of records compiled by our ancestors. People who grow up in the warmer temperate regions and tropics are in awe at the first sight of snow, no matter what they have read or visualized from film and television. It is also true that normal climate for a locality is based on weather, which we have experienced over recent years. This perception often occurs despite accounts of earlier catastrophes that had their origin in climate extremes, such as violent storm, flood or drought. Perhaps the exception is the markings seen around many riverside towns that point to levels achieved by past flood events. One of the strengths of humankind has been the ability to survive, adapt and prosper across a wide range of climatic regimes. If we look through the doors of history then we find that our communities have shown a capacity to withstand persisting climatic fluctuations. They do adapt and try to stabilize themselves as and when the climate becomes normal. However, there have been times, when prosperous civilizations have fallen, apparently because the regional Climate Change was so severe and prolonged that the social systems based on food production and trade could not sustain and a disaster took place. An Early record of the annual flow of the Nile River more than two thousand years ago and irrigation activities in China more than one thousand years ago survived and gave us insights into how climate has been in the past. With more of human intervention due to various reasons, there is an increase of Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming, which destabilized our Environment.
The World has surpassed a UN Goal of planting one billion trees in 2007 to help slow climate change. It was basically huge forestry projects in Ethiopia and Mexico. According to Indonesia President, about 79 million trees have been planted. He stated that the country would take steps to protect its rapidly dwindling rain forest. When we talk of green belt movement in Kenya, then one obviously remember the name of the Kenyan Environmentalist and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner Wangari Maathai, who through her tireless work have contributed a lot to counter deforestation from logging and the burning of forests to create farmland.
A very interesting approach for a good forest management is the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.
GBM Kenya is a non-profit grassroots non-governmental organization. GBM Kenya focuses on six core programs:
·Environmental Conservation/Tree Planting
·Civic & Environmental Education
·Advocacy & Networking
·Pan African Training Workshops
·Green Belt Safaris (GBS)
·Women for Change (Capacity Building)
Green Belt Movement International has four goals:
·Goal 1: To strengthen and expand the Green Belt Movement in Kenya
·Goal 2: To share the Green Belt Movement’s program with other countries in Africa and beyond
·Goal 3: To empower Africans, especially women and girls, and nurture their leadership and entrepreneurial skills
·Goal 4: Advocate internationally for the environment, good governance, equity and cultures of peace
Asia and Pacific region accounts for 18.8 per cent of global forests. Within the region, Northwest Pacific and East Asia has the largest forest area (29.3 per cent of the regional total, followed by Southeast Asia (29.1 percent). Deforestation and forest degradation are critical issues, threatening biodiversity, ecosystem stability and the long term availability of forest products as well as depleting the natural resource. Population Pressure, Need for timber, urban and industrial need is the main causes for deforestation. Africa’s forest cover was estimated to be about 650 million ha, constituting 17 percent of the World’s Forest (FAO 2001). Here also deforestation both for commercial timber and to make room for agriculture is the main concern and represents an enormous loss of natural economic wealth to the Countries.
This in turn had a very bad effect on Climate. Therefore effective climate management also has to include these points:
·Strengthen basic and applied research for improved forest planning and management, with emphasis on environmental functions of forests.
·Modernize forest management concepts by including multiple functions and reflecting the cost and benefits of the amenities that forest provide.
·Co-operation of United Nations bodies to meet the needs for new knowledge to incorporate environmental values in National Land Use and its Forest Management.
·Effective Surveillance of the World’s Forest Cover.
Recent Bali conference on Climate Change has a difficult road to go before we can create a sustainable environment. Problems are many and we have very little time. A careful planning, policies and its immediate implementation can go a long way in creation of a Good Climate and in turn a Safer World. The outcome of this conference will, to a degree, determine whether Bali – and other vulnerable places – is destined to become a lost paradise, or not. If the Outcome of this conference keeps pace with the many positive political signals of the past year, we are on a good road to preventing a lost paradise. Almost, now after IPCC’s series of reports on Climate Change, people are taking things seriously.
But all this took a lot of time. It was in October 1985, at an International meeting in Villach, Austria convened by United Nations agencies, a group of Scientists decided it was time for the World to take action. The meeting concluded that there was a need to combat the perceived danger of global warming that would result from increasing concentrations of so-called green house gases in the atmosphere. These green house gas concentrations, particularly those of carbon dioxide (a product of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels) are increasing as a direct consequence of a range of human activities. A good climate leads to a sustainable development. Sustainable development is a deep –seated value and it encompasses issues of great importance to citizens, whether it is maintaining and increasing long term prosperity, addressing climate change or working towards a safe, healthy and socially inclusive society.
As, we face increasingly rapid Global Changes, from the melting of the icecaps to growing energy demand and higher prices, the need to address unsustainable trends and change our behavior and attitudes is more pressing than ever.
If we take a deep look at the European Union’s Sustainable development, then we find that it is targeted at achieving high level of Environmental Protection, Social equity and cohesion, economic prosperity and active promotion of sustainable development worldwide.
There are infact multiple inter linkages between key challenges: for example between the use of renewable energy and climate change and poverty.
The overallObjective of this sustainable development is to identify and develop actions to enable us to achieve continuous improvement of quality of life both for current and for future generations, through the creation of sustainable communities, who are able to manage and use resources efficiently and to tap the ecological and social innovation potential of the economy, ensuring prosperity, environmental protection and social cohesion. The renewed strategy sets the overall objectives:
·Climate Change and Clean Energy
·Sustainable Consumption and Production
·Public Health Threats
·Better Management of Natural Resources
·Social Inclusion, demography and migration
The best way to deal with Climate Change is to renew our commitment to Sustainable Development. It doesn’t mean that we use our resources in a random way. It means that the needs of the present generation should be met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It should be an objective of our policy makers to set out a treaty, governing all the Union’s Policies and activities. It is about safe guarding the earth’s capacity to support life in all its diversity and is based on the principles of democracy, gender equality, solidarity, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights, including freedom and equal opportunities for all. Its all so inter related. To that end it promotes a dynamic economy with full employment and a high level of education, health protection, social and territorial cohesion and environmental protection in a peaceful and secure World, respecting the Cultural Diversity, Traditions, Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religions etc. To that effect, it is also important to use ways for newer technology to fight Climate Change. Use of Remote Sensing Satellites and GIS has to be given more importance. Use of green technology has a great role to play for a sustainable environment and in turn a sustainable Climate.
The Villach Statement and its threat of global warming became an international forum for actions to curb emissions of green house gases to the atmosphere. Around the World a diverse range of interest groups, especially across the environment movement, co-operated to raise public awareness of the greenhouse climate change threat.Later a series of Government and National and International conferences of invited experts were widely reported in the media and ensured a raised public recognition of the issue. So, successful was the awareness- raising campaign that within 3 years the United Nations, through its agencies UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and WMO (The World Meteorological Organization), had established an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which we know as IPCC.
This organization was empowered with:
a) “Assessing the scientific information that is related to the various components of the climate change issue, such as emissions of major green house gases and modification of the earth’s radiation balance resulting there from and that needed to enable the environmental and socioeconomic consequences of climate change to be evaluated.
b) Formulating realistic response strategies for the management of the climate change issue.
3 working groups were established to address the IPCC objectives. The tasks of Working Groups I, II and III were respectively to:
i) Assess available scientific information on climate change.
ii) Assess environmental and socio-economic impacts of climate change.
iii) Formulate response strategies.
The working group did confirm the Villach conclusions and found a serious anthropogenic threat to the Global Climate. After a period of less than 18 months, in July 1990, the IPCC WG1 published their findings following an assessment of the available scientific literature. The principal findings of the report were:
i)There is a greenhouse effect because a range of gases occurring naturally in the atmosphere, such carbon dioxide, keep the earth’s surface warmer than it would otherwise be.
ii)The concentrations in the atmosphere of a range of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, are increasing because of human activities.
iii)The increasing concentrations of certain greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide will lead to global warming but neither its magnitude timing, nor its regional characteristics could be determined.
Later the United Nations General Assembly took up the challenge presented by the IPCC scientific assessment and the Statement of the second World Climate conference. An Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee was convened to develop a Framework Convention on Climate Change in time for the June 1992, Earth Summit at Rio de Janeiro.The committee, open to all member countries of the United Nations, met six occasions between 1991 and May 1992 before finally a reaching agreement. At the Earth Summit, representatives of more than 150 countries signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that results from negotiations. More countries signed subsequently.
The Convention requires countries to take actions necessary for “Stabilization of green house gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
Despite the perceived threat posed by anthropogenic global warming, the short period available for negotiations meant that agreement could not be reached on binding mechanisms for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and commitments that individual countries should make. Counter balancing the global warming threat were the immediate economic and social costs that would be experienced by many countries if they took action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The IPCC continued its work and issued its Second Assessment Report in 1995. Contemporary experiments using computer models of the climate system and various natural and anthropogenic forcing functions pointed to anthropogenic signals that could be detected in the observed Global Warming Pattern. The IPCC in its Second Assessment Report concluded that the balance of evidence suggested that a discernible human influence on global climate could be detected.
The public interest in the anthropogenic global warming issue and the perceived need for action did not abate. More than 10,000 people, made up mostly of non-government lobby groups and representatives of the World media, converged on Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 for the third meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC. They were there to witness Government delegates negotiate a Protocol to stem the unconstrained emission of green house gases into the atmosphere. The Protocol was expected to give teeth to the Convention.
The Recent Conference on Climate Change (December 3rd, 2007), hosted by the Government of Indonesia, is taking place at the Bali International Convention Centre and brings together representatives of over 180 countries together with observers from Intergovernmental and Nongovernmental organizations and the media. The two week period includes the sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, its subsidiary bodies as well as the Meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol. A ministerial segment in the second week will conclude the Conference.
What is needed is a breakthrough in the form of a roadmap for a future international agreement on enhanced global action to fight climate change in the period after 2012, the year the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.
The main goal of the Bali Conference is threefold: to launch negotiations on a climate change deal for the post-2012 period, to set the agenda for these negotiations and to reach agreement on when these negotiations will have to be concluded.
However, this is an opportunity for good negotiations and would constitute a breakthrough. Areas which countries have already indicated a new deal is likely to cover are mitigation – including reducing emissions from deforestation – adaptation, technology and financing.
In addition to the future climate change process, other important ongoing issues will are inclusion of adaptation to climate change, the management and operation of a fund for adaptation, technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation and issues relating to the international carbon market spawned by the Kyoto Protocol.
However, European Union has gone a long way towards sustainable Climate Change. The ‘Environment for Europe’ process now brings together 56 countries across three continents to jointly address environmental challenges. In support of this process, the European Environment Agency has prepared a series of assessments of the environment for the pan European region to provide policy relevant, up to date and reliable information on the interactions between the environment and society.
The first comprehensive assessment of the state of the pan European environment was presented in Sofia in 1995. Updated assessments were presented at the Ministerial Conferences in Aarhus in 1998 and Kiev in 2003. This is the fourth report in the series. Where possible the report evaluates progress, primarily against the objectives of the Sixth Environment Action Programme of the European Community and the Environment Strategy for Countries of Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. The report has been prepared in close partnership with a range of international organizations, governmental institutions and non governmental organizations across the region.
Successful implementation depends on the setting of clear and realistic targets together with mechanisms to monitor progress. Environmental information across the region still varies in quality, with the availability and reliability of data differing considerably. There is substantial room for further improvement in making much needed data and information not only accessible, but also more comparable and reliable.
Biodiversity decline and loss of ecosystem services continue to be a major concern across the pan European region. In addition, the number of invasive alien species in the region continues to increase. The Kiev Resolution’s overarching target of halting biodiversity loss in the region by 2010 will not be achieved without considerable additional efforts and resources. Communication, education and public awareness programmes, however, are being implemented according to the Kiev Resolution.
The main fact lies is what is our political answer to the prognostications made by our scientific community? Will the Bali Conference effectively handle these issues? Climate Change has become a global issue and needs global response. This was again followed by European Union’s Courageous Commitment to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020. The G8 then called for negotiations on a future climate deal to be concluded by 2009 and at an unprecedented High-Level Event at United Nations Headquarters in New York in September, many World Leaders called for a Breakthrough at Bali on a long term climate change regime. Climate Change has a global impact. Many scientific theories do support the views. Impacts such as intensified drought and rainfall, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, however are helping raise public awareness of climate change and therefore support for politicians to take action. It is also forecasted that Asia would be among the worst affected regions. Projected impacts include an increase of 10 to 20% in tropical cyclone intensity and more frequent heat waves like the one in India in 2002 which killed over 1000 people. Rising sea levels will also threaten millions of Asians, with over half of the population in 21 Asian Countries living in high – risk areas. There need to be four steps to tackle these issues and forecasts:
a)Mitigation: Action to limit or reduce emissions.
b)Adaptation: Putting in place a strategy to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
c)Technology:Helping countries limit or reduce emissions and adapt to the Impacts of Climate Change.
d)Finance:Generating investment and financial flows which will allow developing countries to act on mitigation and adaptation without harming their primary economic growth and poverty eradication.
The other points that can be kept in mind are: Effective management of our existing forests and biodiversity conservation along with afforestation initiatives. Another important topic is CDM (Clean Development Mechanism), one of the three innovative mechanisms under the Kyoto Protocol which offers rich countries the choice of reducing emissions at home or in developing countries, which can benefit both parties. We also need good awareness initiatives for the masses and the media of the World should be on board of the project, so that our POLICIES AND PLANNING reaches to every corner of the World.
More over most important is use of greener technology for effective climate management. Let’s work together and create a Safer, Stronger, Greener and a Disaster Free World for us as well as for our future generations.
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Mr. Mainak Mazumder
Disaster Management Specialist and Consultant