Climate Change And Its Common But Differentiated Impacts

What the hell is going on with global warming? Please come back fast we need you!

This tweet from the White House shows dastard apathy towards  22.5 million climate refugees moving across borders sustaining poverty, disaster, and grave human right violations. I wish this tweet could humor Tarasiya, a baiga woman in Madhya Pradesh who is clueless about the term climate change: but she is baffled with frequent droughts, reduced forests and emerging cattle diseases.

 ipccAfter decades of constant efforts, global community woke up to the glaring evidence of climate change. IPCC has vehemently established that climate change is not a figment of imagination it is a reality. As a result world community gathered at Earth summit in Rio 1992 and enshrined the principle of “Common but differentiated responsibilities”. The text of the convention reads: … the global nature of climate change calls for the widest possible cooperation by all countries and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities and their social and economic conditions

However, the idea of Climate Justice based on CBDR without acknowledging common but differentiated impacts remains elusive.

Scientific evidence and observations suggest that the consequences of climate change are highly varied. If we consider the spatial dimension then small islands of Maldives, Kiribati and a certain area of Bangladesh, India, and China face a greater threat than the countries in the first world. To our surprise, climate change may bring some positive outcomes for Russia, Canada etc. by opening new sea routes and freeing up land for agriculture. Some reports suggest that Siberia will be the next grain basket of the world. Such a variety in phenomenon guides the intentions and urgency to combat climate change differently.

If we further deepen our analysis, we find that the countries and communities which had no role in increasing the duration of infrared staying in the atmosphere are paying the major price.  South Asia Hotspot report by World Bank makes a strong case in point. For India, it has projected that living conditions in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh will decline by more than 9%, followed by Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

Of the top 10 most affected hotspot districts, 7 (Chandrapur, Bhandara, Gondiya, Wardha, Nagpur, Raj Nandgaon, Durg) are in Vidarbha and the remaining 3 in Chhattisgarh and MP. These areas are the major tribal belt of India and harbor indigenous people who are intimately dependent on natural resources for livelihood.

Their situation is further aggravated by poverty, social orthodoxy, misgovernance, and gender dynamics. Marred with poverty, and frequent crop failure these tribal communities are constantly on move. Dwindling forest resources and unfamiliarity with the procedure established by law, uproot these communities from their ancestral dwelling and force them to enter an unknown world of exploitation.

A recent case in point is the SC eviction order of 12 lakh forest dwellers from forest land. Another case is of manhandling and forced eviction indigenous forest dwellers by Ratapani National Park(M.P.)  authorities. It indicates that instead of including local communities in strengthing forest and wildlife conservation efforts we are still carrying a colonial attitude of exclusion and exploitation.

Tribal women in Chhattisgarh (Source: IWP Flickr photos)

Source: IWP Flickr Photos

If we take the case forward,  we have often heard the appeals of helping the last man but unfortunately, every time we see a woman standing at the last. This discourse is no different. Women through their different roles are very intimately connected with Mother Nature. Biologically they take the generation forward, socially they are conditioned to be the sole caretakers and economically majority of farmers in the world are women. Such multidimensional interface with nature makes the impact of climate change highly gender-differentiated.

Related imageAccording to a report on Women and Water by Dr.Vandana Shiva- on an average a woman in dry rural areas walks 37 km a day to fetch 2 pots of water, this does not only take a toll on her health but has more disruptions than what we think. While her mother is out to fetch water the eldest girl has to drop out of school to take care of her minor siblings. A similar phenomenon is seen across the marginal communities where scarcity of resources puts a direct burden on women, depriving them of health and educational opportunities.

However, the question remains- How to deal with the situation where the section of people least prepared and equipped are the ones most at danger?

Paris Climate Deal 2015 does talk about special considerations for indigenous and other marginalized communities. But the present state of affairs does not provide any hope. In this increasingly post-sovereign governance, these stakeholders are muted. Instead of seeing the indigenous people and women as weaklings of this whole paradigm, they should be actively included in the policy making and implementation. Examples world over have shown that the participation of women and tribes in wildlife conservation and afforestation give efficient outcomes.

Image result for Paris Climate Deal 2015

Honestly speaking there are no easy answers. The only solution is to approach the question wisely. It should be a participatory approach which acknowledges marginalized stakeholders with compassion. One which values their concerns and suggestions and inquiries. One which enables them to connect with the global governance and empowers them from a passive recipient to an active decision maker.

On March 2019, We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth

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