Climate Emergency

Survival Crisis

Bharat Dogra

The much-awaited climate Summit COP26 will be discussing very important issues relating to climate change. These are among the most important issues facing the planet earth and deserve all the importance they get. At the same time it is important to emphasise that other aspects of ecological ruin are also of critical importance and secondly, it is very important to emphasise that all the good work done to check climate change as well as other ecological ruin can be nullified in just a few hours by the use of nuclear weapons. A related aspect is that the weapons race, war and militarsation are themselves the biggest contributor to ecological ruin and climate change. Hence there is a strong case for all looking at the wider survival criss, and not just climate change.

The number of scientists who are convinced that basic life-nurturing conditions of the planet are seriously threatened has been growing, and this is not just because of climate change. About a dozen other serious environmental problems are also implicated in this, as also the accumulation of WMDs, or Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In 1992, 1575 senior scientists, including 99 Nobel laureates, signed a document titled World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. This document was sent to government leaders all over the world.

This document stated, “We the undersigned, senior members of the world’s scientific community, hereby warn humanity of what lies ahead. A great change in our stewardship of the earth and life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated.”

25 years later, in 2017 a follow-up statement was issued, this time with nearly 8 times the earlier number of endorsements, with 13,524 signatories. This statement concluded,“ Since 1992, with the exception of stabilising the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

This assertion by over 13,000 scientists of life-threatening environmental problems getting worse is worrying enough, but it is important to add the threat of WMDs. At present there are around 14,000 nuclear weapons. The use of only 1 per cent of these can destroy most life on earth, in terms of impact of fire, explosion and radiation. In addition the resulting smoke and dust can block out sunlight for a period of several months, endangering much of the earth’s remaining life.

Apart from nuclear weapons it is essential to contend with the implications of chemical and biological weapons, weather weapon, robot or AI weapons, the possibility of space warfare as well as highly scaled up conventional weapons.

The Bulletin of Atomic Weapons, supported by the opinion of several senior scientists including Nobel laureates, has set up a doomsday clock which considers 12 a.m. midnight as a metaphor for doomsday time. This clock currently shows a time of 100 seconds to 12 a.m.

What is more, several of the factors that constitute the survival crisis come with ‘tipping points’, meaning that beyond a point these can quickly escalate and spiral beyond human control.

Having spent decades reporting on these problems as an independent writer, this writer became increasingly struck with an idea in early 2019 that the next decade 2020-30 should be declared the decade of saving earth, when an agenda of peace and environment protection within a framework of justice and democracy should predominantly guide global discourse and actions. In truth justice based aspects are not getting the due emphasis in such efforts and without this no mass mobilisation on such important issues can be sutained. Hence summoning all my limited resources and energy I devoted the year to this effort. By October I had written and published books in English and Hindi as the factual and intellectual base of this campaign. Giving up for once my preference for working quietly, this time I even arranged public book release functions. I collected endorsements from some eminent persons, and then sent a campaign statement endorsed by them to the UN Secretary General.

Exhausted, I now started waiting for the results of my labours to appear. Alas! Just then COVID made its entry and the entire discourse shifted to the pandemic. Most of what has happened since then has been far removed from the agenda which my campaign had asked for. One lives on hope, however, and so my small, non-funded, campaign to declare next decade as Save the Earth Decade, or SED, still continues.

This campaign emphasises that this crisis should be resolved within a framework of justice, peace and democracy. Reduction of GHG emissions should be linked also to meeting basic needs of all people and to basic freedoms. Time is running out and the decade 2022-32 is most crucial. A firm commitment to peace and non-violence at all levels is essential. Spread of values of cooperation, equality, justice and environment protection as well as world citizens uniting as one to protect earth can be extremely helpful in this effort.


[The writer is Honorary Convener of Campaign to Save Earth Now with SED Demand and author of recently published books Planet in Peril, Man Over Machine, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth Beyond Borders.]

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Vol. 54, No. 21, Nov 21 - 27, 2021