Why The World Can’t Save The Earth — A Review

The original story is linked here.

“Why the World Can’t Save The Earth”, by Raj Chengappa, is an influential cover story about discussions and exchanges at the twenty first Paris Climate Change Summit and a gist of new and upcoming energy efficient techniques, published in December 2015 in India Today. The author asserts the fundamental shortcomings of the summit, expressing his deep sense of resentment at the summit’s outcome, and systematically discusses the insouciance of the nations’ leaders involved in it that led to a zero-sum conclusion at the insufferable issue. According to the author, the summit, which was supposed to be a pivotal turning point in the history of political and socio-economic action to climate change was simply a repetition of a sad history of mere display of power play and relentless arguments among nations with no conclusion reached or immediate action taken in past global conferences. The author expresses deep concern over this, since he and millions of others across the globe had invested their hopes in the summit. He hinges the blame on the dynamic between developed and developing countries in passing the responsibility of cutting their emission rates back and forth, with the developed countries imposing overwhelmingly high demands on their underdeveloped counterparts without providing them with sufficient funds or technology to do so.

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The tone of the author is formal and informative, which suggests that he writes for an audience of high school and university students, academically aware people and other like-minded individuals with an interest in learning about the environment. It also appeals to people equipped with an understanding of policy debate, the political functioning of the United Nations and similar bodies, and the dynamics of unions constituting world governments. The subsequent sections about upcoming technologies strongly appeal to science and technology enthusiasts. However, the article is written so as to delineate the basics for even a layman, hence can be read and enjoyed by a large set of readers. Supplemented with informative pictures and flowcharts, the article is complete within itself.

Opening with a beautiful quote engaging a sense of duty to the pure and nurturing earth from Atharva-Veda, the author relates the present growing need to address the issues of climate change across the globe to old, traditional values existing in literature, the juxtaposition throwing more light and bringing in more sentimental context to the matter.

The author affirms his argument using instances from the event witnessing a power play between opposing schools of thought in the activity such as governments versus corporations, warmists versus denialists, conservatives versus progressives and so on. Fake and hurried promises were made mostly by the developed nations, but what is even more upsetting is that even if all the countries in the summit were to abide by their commitments, the global temperatures would still rise by 2.7 degrees Celsius over the danger mark. The alarming increase in global temperatures would not be hampered without underdeveloped and currently developing nations joining in for the carbon cutting. Further, the author claims that there is a monetary budgeting issue with the commitments, which get more and more demanding on the country’s economy with the progression of years.

He answers British Prime Minister David Cameron’s question at the summit, “What is it that was so difficult in 2015 when the earth was in deep trouble?” He brings in the account of the Kyoto Protocol to show how history has been repeating itself, and humanity has been unable to make any progress because nobody tends to learn from their mistakes. Developing nations have been a dumping ground for unreasonable carbon emission cut targets. On the other hand, developed nations such as the US, Japan, Russia and Canada have safely backed out from binding themselves to any such targets and work on a self-paced, self-regulatory setting. The situation was somewhat quelled through the introduction of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs, which work on a personal commitment basis, rather than rigid targets. According to the author, the compromises made by the developed nations were not enough to bring about any change in the future. They agreed to shell out hundred billion dollars to support underdeveloped countries to meet their environmental goals, but even ten times this amount is not sufficient to considerably lessen their carbon footprints.

The second argument that the author makes, which is considerably a strong one, is that developed nations have been trying to systematically break down the unity between the developing ones. Since funding is a major concern for the developing countries, breaking down their unity and making them all individually answerable to strong giants such as the US in such summits stifles their only hopes of ever raising their voice against the injustice and laying their arguments down on logical, plausible grounds. For instance, China went on to appease the US in the Paris Summit and agreed to their unrealistic goals. India, however, having been a very minor contributor in the global carbon footprint and contributing less than the US and China, has been the earmark in all proceedings. The author gravitates towards US being the major culprit, being the biggest economy and as a result, the biggest emitter.

The author feels that the summit reiterated a common mistake from the past- the burdening of developing countries with over-the-top targets for cutting their costs, resulting in incomplete targets and a retreated responsibility from the developed nations. He believes that the problem of climate change is universal, hence the task of bringing it down is a shared responsibility. Giants

such as the US have been evading this responsibility by redirecting it to countries such as India and China for long, and he discusses the two cases independently to prove his argument.

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In addition to the summit, the article discusses some smart technologies contributed by individual writers which could pave way to a better, greener and energy efficient future, drawing the focus on energy conservation. These include Power Grids which can alter the way electricity is distributed to households using remotes and switches, LED lights which are electricity efficient and have the potential to prevent 16 billion tonnes of carbon being added to the atmosphere in the next 25 years, energy efficient air conditioners which use ozone-safe refrigerants, biodiesel as an effective biodegradable substitute to fossil fuels, hybrid cars with regenerative braking systems to store energy during deceleration to prevent added engine losses when more power is required, advanced coal-based power plants, wind turbines, low grade waste heat converters, solar thermal power, and bicycle power. Each of these sections briefly describe how the technology works using block diagrams and graphics, and how the technology is relevant with respect to the Indian landscape. This is quite informative and edifying to the readers who do not have much knowledge about forthcoming technologies.

Overall, the article is well-structured, cohesive and an interesting read which unravels the problem from both political and scientific perspectives, presenting the central problem to the reader i.e. the “why” in “Why The World Can’t Save The Earth”, and providing affirmation by listing out prospective ways to reduce their carbon footprints, gently encouraging them to take these up in their daily lives and help secure a better future for the planet.

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Literature | Philosophy | {Computer Science}

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