Climate change concerns have moved far from just ‘inconvenient truth’ to a ‘real and present danger’.
For the last three decades, experts and political leaders have been trying to find solutions by means of mitigation and adaptation. They would meet periodically in exotic locations, flying in private jets and public flights, raising the carbon footprints. Small commitments have been agreed upon at times; many of them just to be ignored later, rescheduled or implemented in fractions. Even school children have started questioning the sufficiency of such steps and the sincerity of the world leaders in addressing climate change.
Many experts proudly claim that human ingenuity has succeeded in keeping the Malthusian population bomb at bay. The global population, currently at 9 billion is estimated to grow to 12 billion plus before stabilising by the 2070s. Does earth have the capacity to support such a number of aspirational population who want everything in life? Therefore, we need to reframe the Malthusian question on population growth vs food production. Whether production of everything (all goods and services) can grow in geometrical progression to meet the insatiable demand and desires of an increasing population?
Mobility, mass tourism
Mobility has assumed new meaning and dimensions with people criss-crossing the world — in luxury liners, private planes/vehicles, and in ever-expanding public transportation modes. Larger and larger numbers are queuing up for travelling to mountain peaks. Adventure tourism is taking on every part, from outer space to the deepest trenches of the ocean and to the centres of the poles. The new generation, who is vocal on climate change, is in the forefront of adventure/mass tourism and mass consumption.
Even with net-zero technology can production of all such means of mobility be sustained? What will you do with the exploding junk of even the net-zero products? The government and people are trying to adapt wild animals into human civilisation. They need to be protected, radio-collared, chipped and vaccinated against diseases, and so on. However, wild animals do not need such protection. Wildlife and forests have flourished without any civilised human support Can we stop plundering the forests and pampering the wildlife in the name of protecting them? Can we stop mass travel into the core of jungles for poking the animals?
This Gandhi Jayanti, one hopes a fresh approach will be adopted to address climate change. Moderate consumption, reduce non-essential travels and big gatherings, leave forests and wildlife to themselves. A global approach on these steps would have been the first-order solution. Each individual and each nation can also adopt policies to mitigate consumption on these lines.
Will it not reduce economic growth? Yes, some of the steps might. To cushion those effects, start with extreme activities like adventure travel, mass tourism to fragile locations, etc., and progressively moderate consumption. There are still so many benign, useful activities, particularly in the developing world. Hence the net effect on growth will not be significant. In any case, growth at any cost does not help anyone; overheated growth and heating planet will lead only to massive explosion.
Fortunately, the new generation need not sacrifice much. They have modern technology. They can virtually travel and see every part of the world
The writer is Director, National Institute of Securities Markets. Views are personal