May 2008

The change we often disown

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The dynamics of change is inherent in every form of matter. From a conventional point of view, climate change refers to variability in average weather over a substantial period of time. Average weather includes atmospheric temperature, precipitation patterns, wind cycles, ocean tides etc. The causes behind this change may be anything from intense solar radiation, to celestial bodies hitting the earth's surface to human-driven changes. The present deliberations and concerns on climate change is primarily centred around a framework that focuses on human-driven change events and their bearing on present-day society.

The human dimension is undeniably quintessential to the entire discourse on climate change. This is because the climate hazards and other climate justice issues are attributed to human functions. The urge for modernisation has driven human beings to develop technology-enabled and technology-related platforms, devices and mechanisms. The human-driven machine society creates a lot of scientific and not-so-scientific waste products. This apart, the present day machine society banks on industries that emit insurmountable amounts of toxic gases including greenhouse gases. Human beings also use a number of refrigerants and air conditioners that emit a lot of CFC's that deplete the ozone layer.

The present day policies and initiatives of UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) and IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) do focus more on the non-climate factors. International treaties like UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) also recognise climate change to be more human-driven and consider greenhouse gas emissions as the major reason behind the change. The Kyoto protocol speaks about combating emission effects mainly with the help of low-emission technologies, Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and carbon trading. The recently concluded Bangkok conference referred to boosting renewable energy, reducing deforestation and improving energy efficiency to tackle the issue of climate change.

But who bears the onus of change impact? The underprivileged sections of the developing nations are indeed bearing the brunt of climate impact. Neither are they equipped enough to prefigure meteorological changes in their weather nor do they have the capacity to mitigate the impact caused by climate hazards. There are no specific early warning systems to forecast natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, etc.

In this issue, we have attempted to know what are the long-term and short-term implications of climate change, who contributes to climate change and in what form, who owns it and who disowns, whether there are any mechanisms to measure change events, what are the justice issues and how the same are to be solved etc. We have also tried to investigate whether integrated tools of information and communication can provide viable solutions to address climate change.

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