Sunita Narain and Climate Change

Sunita Narain, of the ONG Centre for Science and Environment in  New Delhi, will present at Terra Madre Salone del Gusto alongside Amitav Ghosh in the conference Climate Change: How to Face the Biggest Challenges of the Coming Decades. More than ever this crisis of climate change has become clear in India with the recent flooding in Kerala, with monsoons bringing 37% excess rainfall, leaving over 350 dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.

The intertwining relationship between climate change and our food systems, biodiversity, and the effects of this change on communities will be a theme found all through Terra Madre Salone del Gusto. Apart from the conference presented by Narain and Ghosh, Dan Saladino of BBC Radio 4 will moderate a talk between chefs Pierre Thiam and Michelin-starred chef Olivier Roellinger of the Relais and Châteaux association. The chefs will speak about Food for Change at the Nuvola Lavazza and discuss how chefs can play a crucial role in the fight against climate change through their choice of products and collaborations with farmers. Meanwhile, at Lingotto, we will speak with agricultural communities to discuss how agriculture can be a solution to Climate Change. 

Climate Change is real and our action needs to be real by Sunita Narain:

Sunita NarainToday, globally climate change is in crescendo mode. In June and July 2018 some 140 wildfires raged across California; 80 people were killed in similar wildfires in Greece; Europe has been sizzling under heat waves; unseasonal dust storms have killed over 500 in India; torrential rains in Japan and other such extreme rain events are devastating crops and homes across vast parts of the world. All of these weather events are far beyond normal variability, called stationarity, as it followed past patterns. Now we are in the era of the unprecedented and unknown. What we know for certain is that this intensity, variability, and ferocity of weird weather will get worse.

The connection with weird weather and climate change is also being seen through studies called attribution. The World Weather Attribution network estimates that climate change has more than “doubled the likelihood of the European heatwave”. It has also tripled the likelihood of drought in Cape Town—the South African city that narrowly missed Day Zero when it would run out of water.

The question is what now? In the coming month, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release its 1.5°C report on the impacts when the world hits this level of temperature rise. The report, as I say, will only state the obvious. If the weather-related calamities being experienced at 1°C rise—roughly the temperature increase today over the pre-industrial period—then it would only get weirder and worse. That much is known.

What do we do now? This is what we should be focussing on. The fact also is that we are nowhere close to staying below the 1.5°C guardrail—a temperature increase that was once considered to be relatively safe. We are on a fast track to increase emissions and break all temperature barriers.

The good news is that India and China are aware of emissions from coal burning because of our horrendous air pollution. In India we need to close old and polluting thermal plants; this winter Delhi will shut down its only coal-based power plant; then new emission standards for coal must be implemented as early as possible; pet coke has already been banned, including its import from the US. The urgency is to make a massive move to cleaner fuels like renewables or natural gas. This is essential and we will push for it—not for climate change reasons but for cutting air pollution.

But we are not the question. The fact is that the world has completely run out of its carbon budget—it has been occupied by the already rich world for its growth—and now that there is nothing left, we will be told to jump off the bridge. This is not acceptable as climate justice demands that the poor must get their right to development; their right to clean energy.

The problem also is that the world is still not anywhere close to giving up its fossil addiction. For all the talk of renewable energy—other than in Germany where it has been scaled up—it is still at the edge of supply. In fact, in the past year, demand for coal is rising; investment in oil and gas is up and all of the climate change solutions are fighting to survive. It is not working.

I believe that my country India must take the lead to put forward our vulnerability; the economic and human cost of the climate change “attributed” disasters to the global stage. We must demand that the world acts—at speed and scale. And even as we push for the world to take climate change seriously, we must put forward our own plan to cut emissions for local air pollution, which we have co-benefits in terms of climate change. We must have something to show. We need to be decisive in our words and in our actions. This whimpering and simpering will not work in our climate-risked world.


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