While growing scientific evidence has raised the climate consciousness in the world, politics has also played a distinct role
Over the last two years, climate change seems to have got much wider political and media attention around the world. It is apparent from the increasing frequency of statements on the phenomenon from world leaders and its growing coverage in the media. What is more, online publications devoted to exclusive coverage of climate change are also proliferating.
This reflects a deepening awareness of the subject. One reason for this is the growing body of evidence about the changing weather patterns and the havoc they are wreaking on a global scale. Last year was an eye-opener with a series of catastrophic weather events taking the world by storm and impacting millions of people. It was the hottest on record for Europe and China, the second-hottest for North America and Asia, and the fifth-hottest for planet Earth since record-keeping began in 1880.
The consequent heatwaves triggered wildfires in Canada, the USA, Greece, Algeria, Italy, Spain, and Türkiye, and record temperatures scorched Australia, Canada, India, Italy, Oman, Türkiye, Pakistan, and the UK.
Floods wrought havoc in Pakistan, upending lives of tens of thousands of people. Australia, Brazil, China, western Europe, Malaysia,, South Africa, and South Sudan were also wracked by floods. India, according to a report by the Centre for Science and Environment, recorded “extreme weather events on 241 of 273 days” in the first nine months of 2022.
If anything, the successive extreme events give a grim glimpse of the future. We are fast hurtling towards irreversible tipping points, for example in global temperature rise or for that matter the loss of American rainforest. In 2023 El Nino is expected to turbocharge climate change bringing more extreme weather in its wake.
While climate change has a massive economic fallout with a potential to impoverish countries as we saw in Pakistan last year, it has far-reaching health consequences. We can experience heat waves that kill tens of thousands of people at once. Recurrent floods can spread typhoid and cholera, Dengue fever and malaria can become common outbreaks. And who knows we may soon encounter a new pandemic far deadlier than COVID-19.
And this is not something in air. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, 58 percent of human diseases have already become more severe as a result of rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientists examined over 70,000 scientific papers and discovered that climate change had an impact on 218 of the 375 illnesses they studied, with a majority of them getting worse.
This has rightly alarmed the world which, in turn, has drawn more public attention to unfolding climate change. At the same time, while growing scientific proof has raised the climate consciousness in the world, politics has also played a distinct role. For example, the change of guard in the US from Republicans to Democrats. During the rule of Donald Trump, a climate change denier, the US withdrew from the Paris Agreement, stopping, as a result, championing the climate cause. This had a chilling effect on global climate discourse. But the election of Joe Biden as the new US president which paved the way for the world’s most powerful country rejoining the Paris Agreement brought climate change back on world agenda. Here’s hoping it doesn’t only stay on the agenda but the world takes concrete steps to address the crisis. To that end, the COP28 meeting this year in the UAE will be a litmus test for the world’s sincerity and resolve.