The Third Pole – Informed Comment Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion Sat, 04 Dec 2021 05:16:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Will this Year’s Conference of Parties (COP) 26 Seek Climate Justice for Global South, too? Wed, 06 Oct 2021 04:02:20 +0000 By Omair Ahmad | –

( Third Pole ) – Unless the connection between economic security and a green transition is made clear by the media and politicians, the climate summit will remain full of high talk with little content Woman loading charcoal in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. There will be little progress in combating climate change at COP26 unless millions of people are helped to move away from their dependence on the fossil fuel economy. (Image: Alamy)

The COP26 summit this year will take place under the shadow of Covid-19. It had to be delayed last year due to the pandemic – with the venue itself being transformed into a temporary hospital – and the problem is ongoing. While public health faced the most direct consequences of the Covid-19 crisis, with millions of lives lost around the world, the other impact for most developing countries has been on financial security. Economic growth and job security plummeted, endangering the future of hundreds of millions, and reversing gains on everything from poverty reduction to nutrition.

The primary issue for most countries attending COP26 will be economic growth and job security of their citizens. These issues are not only compatible with the climate change agenda, they are essential to it. Too often the conversation has been framed as economy versus ecology, but what the pandemic has revealed in unsparing detail is that the current economic model is incredibly fragile, and incapable of dealing with global shocks.

Economic growth and job security are not only compatible with the climate change agenda, they are essential to it

This year’s gas prices hike across Europe, due to competition with Asian markets and slow response from Russia, as well as coal shortages in China and India due to manufacturing and trade disruptions, may mean that millions of people will struggle to keep warm in winter, or will run out of power altogether. Such crises demonstrate the inherent instability of the global fossil fuel system, and things can only worsen as the world faces more shocks due to climate change.

Different conversations on climate insecurity

In many ways the lingering impact of the pandemic – in terms of economic insecurity – is symptomatic of how issues of climate change continue to be covered. Partially because much of the international media is based in developed countries, the precarity of large populations in the face of increased disasters does not get its due. When floods hit Europe, or a massive storm makes landfall in the United States, it is a story for a few news cycles. In India, a flood wiping away villages in Arunachal Pradesh may leave its people abandoned even six years later. Both these issues are climate change-related, but their effects on states that have a robust welfare system, and those that do not, are starkly different.

The relative difference in impact is also why the conversation is framed so differently, making communication across the political divide almost impossible. When developed countries push for a commitment to reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, they are largely considering trying to make the world less vulnerable in the future. For developing countries, resources are needed to deal with the fact that their people are vulnerable now. These governments desperately need to provide economic security and prosperity – if only for the regimes to survive. But if they have no reliable pathway except through a broken carbon economy, then neither mitigation nor adaptation will receive priority.

Agriculture and refugees are central to developing countries’ problems

Maybe nothing demonstrates this difference so starkly as the conversations on agriculture and climate refugees. For countries like India, agriculture and its allied industries support nearly half the working population. And this mainstay of the economy is being disrupted in three major ways by climate change: the change in weather patterns in the mountains, making it harder to grow traditional crops; the rise in sea levels leading to greater salinity of coastal lands; and the increased incidence of floods and droughts.

Forced off their lands, some of which are swallowed by seas or eroded by rivers, people are fleeing destitution. Worse, it is next to impossible to assess the scale of this migration since, in most cases, such movement is within the borders of states rather than across them.

For those still making their lives off agriculture, the future looks insecure, and “business as usual” as practised by the developed countries offers little hope. For a year now, farmers have been protesting against three laws passed by the Indian Parliament. These are often seen as pro-business, and certainly they replicate the business model of agriculture in the US. But is this a model that makes sense – in terms of cost of water, fertiliser, crop diversity and resilience in today’s world?

Dubbed the largest civil society protest in the world, it has slowly slipped off the radar from both international and national news coverage, except for stories of violence. This is a disaster, because if the world is not discussing how to do agriculture in a sustainable manner, there is little hope that we can effectively deal with the climate crisis, much less feed the world.

Climate change is the story of thirst, poverty, hunger, deprivation and conflict

Climate change has a real, powerful impact on billions of people, most of whom do not know or do not use that particular term. It is the story of thirst, poverty, hunger, deprivation and conflict caused by changes to the environment on which they depend for their lives and livelihoods. And like most things political, it is about money, how we make it, and how we distribute it.

Unfortunately, neither the delegates who take part in such discussion, nor many of the journalists covering such events, seem willing to make that connection. Without that focus, COP26 runs the risk of being yet another event where high-minded prose hides the fact that our current model of “business as usual” is not even good business, much less good sense.

Omair Ahmad has worked as a political analyst and journalist, with a particular focus on the Himalayan region. He is the author of a political history of Bhutan, and a few novels.

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Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Euractiv: “COP26 – Can renewed political will result in concrete actions?”

COVID death Tolls are Horrific, but those of Global Heating are much Worse Fri, 28 Aug 2020 04:01:49 +0000

Increasing heat-related deaths due to climate change reveal an unequal world, with people in poorer countries at much higher risk.

By Soumya Sarkar | –

( – Unless the world curbs greenhouse gas emissions significantly, extreme heat could become a major global killer by the end of this century, equalling death rates for all infectious diseases combined, including tuberculosis, HIV and malaria.

In the largest international study till now on health and financial impacts of temperature-related deaths, the Climate Impact Lab said climate change’s effect on temperatures could raise global mortality rates by 73 additional deaths per 100,000 people in 2100 under a continued high emissions scenario, compared to a world with no warming.

Climate change has led to heat waves that are longer, more intense and more frequent. Researchers say the increasing heat will take a worsening toll in human lives as temperatures continue to rise.

“Previous research has significantly understated climate change damages due to mortality,” said the study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “The mortality damages we estimate in 2100 account for 49% to 135% of total damages across all sectors of the economy according to leading IAMs.”

IAMs, or integrated assessment models for climate change refer to a broad category of research approaches in climate change.

Unequal risk

The perils of extreme heat are also grossly unequal. The poor and marginalised are likely to be much more vulnerable to extreme heat. People in countries such as Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan and Bangladesh may face an additional 200 or more deaths compared with the global average of 73 per 100,000 people.

“The data show that poor communities don’t have the means to adapt, so they end up dying from warming at much higher rates,” said co-author Tamma Carleton of University of California.

“In poor hot countries, the heat may be even more threatening than cancer and heart disease are today,” said Michael Greenstone of the University of Chicago, another co-author of the study.

To analyse the historical links between temperature records and mortality data, the multi-institutional team of the Climate Impact Lab studied 399 million death records in 41 countries, about 55% of the global population.

By projecting future deaths using regional climate projections, they found that emitting one additional tonne of carbon dioxide today costs USD 36.6 in health costs under a continued high emissions scenario and USD 17.1 under a moderate emissions scenario.

“This means an average American imposes about USD 575 worth of unpaid-for death-related harm on the world each year by emitting 15.7 tonnes of CO2,” said co-author Robert Kopp of the Rutgers Institute of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences. “By comparison, the entire foreign aid budget of the US amounts to about USD 150 per person.”

Richer countries will be able to spend more to adapt, through more air conditioning and better health infrastructure, which would see smaller increases in heat-related deaths, the study found.

Avoidable deaths

If nations meet the goals of the Paris climate accord, an estimated 84% of the additional heat-associated mortality would be avoided compared with the high-emissions scenario, it said.

This is not the first time a study has revealed the stark inequality in the effect of ambient temperatures on death in human populations. Using district-level daily weather and annual mortality data from 1957 to 2000 in India, researchers at the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC) in 2017 found that hot days led to substantial increases in mortality in rural but not urban India.

An October 2019 study by the Climate Impact Lab had found that by 2100, around 1.5 million more people are likely to die every year in India as a result of climate change, a rate that is as high as the death rate from all infectious diseases in the country today.

With continued high emissions, the average annual temperature in India is projected to increase from about 24 degrees Celsius to about 28 degrees by the end of the century, the 2019 study had found.

Extremely hot days are expected to greatly increase, with days over 35 degrees Celsius increasing from about five per year in 2010 to about 42 every year in 2100.

“These findings are a reminder that we have to keep making concerted, long-term efforts to build resilience to extreme heat,” Kamal Kishore, member of National Management Disaster Authority, had said at the release of the report on October 31 last year.

Productivity loss due to heat stress in India, brought on by rapidly rising temperatures, will be equivalent to 34 million full-time jobs in another 10 years, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said in a report in July 2019.

Agriculture and construction work are expected to suffer the most, ILO said. This is bad news for India, where farming is the single largest occupation, followed closely by construction work, where people have to work for long hours in the hot outdoors.

Millions of outdoor workers in India are already finding it difficult to work as temperatures rise every year, hurting productivity and health.



Bonus Video added by Informed Comment:

Bloomberg Markets: “Climate Change and Human Health: The Vicious Cycle of Negative Impacts”

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