THE Covid-19 Pandemic descended upon Man kind like a bolt from the blue. The past is witness that other calamities afflicting humankind, more often than not, had served a decent notice and crept up gradually on humanity. Not so with the Coronavirus Pandemic! One can only hope and pray that this woe too shall pass the way it emerged; all in a jiffy! One would have surmised that like the calamities of another ilk – Climate Change for one – this one too would have served sufficient notice of sorts. But this was not fated to be! Talking of Climate Change, a rather alarming recent news report, datelined Berlin, warns that 60 percent of fish species may not survive a five degree centigrade rise in temperature due to global warming. This is the first time that the effect of global warming on the human food chain has been highlighted. Mother Nature has her own ways.
The news report aforementioned tends to confirm that Global Warming represents a major disaster waiting to happen. The mere fact that it creeps on gradually rather than descend as a bolt from the blue does not make it any the less calamitous. The one positive aspect, though, is that the world has plenty of warning to prepare itself or to make amends before the disaster unfolds. If only people who matter would pay heed before it is too late! A peep over the shoulder may be in order. Thanks to the pressure exerted by the agitating minority, some progress has been registered in the field of Global Warming. Still not sufficient advantage has been taken of several timely notices by Mother Nature.
In the course of several multilateral Conferences where the subject of global warming came up, it was brushed aside by the developed world as a Third World worry. From their jaundiced point of view, this matter was hardly worth sacrificing the First World’s prerogative to burn fossil fuel to its heart’s content! They also found it expedient to fob off the ultimate responsibility on those Third World states that were eking out a measly living through the clandestine sale of their rain-forest timber. The North felt secure in the belief that states of the Developed World would never ever be on the receiving end of things.
Nature is a great leveller, though. Man-made disasters may be designed to be partial against the poor and the deprived, but nature shows no such bias. One found it both interesting and somewhat edifying to come across, years back, a series of articles on the subject by Barry James published in the International Herald Tribune. Under the chapeau title of “Four Battlefronts in the War against Effects of Climate Change”, the author had identified four locales, all in the Developed World that had the potentiality of becoming casualties in the battle against ‘climate change’. This came as something of a revelation in that for the first time it was revealed that global warming was more than just a Third World problem. As it is, tens of millions of hapless people, mainly in South and Southeast Asia, face serious or permanent flooding of their lands if the climate change predictions associated with global warming become a reality. Would it be at all realistic to nurture the hope that someone from the developing world will take it upon himself to study and report upon this problem from the point of view of the poor and deprived lands? Given the past record, though, this is destined to remain one of those idealistic but unfulfilled dreams.
The World Metrological Organisation (WMO) had termed a past decade as the warmest since accurate records began in the mid-nineteenth century. The collapse of a huge ice shelf in the eastern Antarctic was reported some years ago. This was apparently due to the gradual rise in the temperatures in the region. Scientists have surmised that – if the present trends continue unabated – the Arctic could well turn into a navigable ocean by the middle of this century. This is a prospect hardly to be taken lightly. The ecological disaster that such a phenomenon could bring in its wake is too horrible to contemplate.
Nearer home, the landslide tragedy in the Siachin sector some years ago should have served as a wake-up call to both sides. Regrettably, this did not happen. Substantiated fears have been expressed that global warming could well lead to the melting of the Siachin glacier, an eventuality that could result in an ecological disaster of immense proportions. While the two bickering neighbours play a never-ending game of going round and round the mulberry bush, Mother Nature may have other and more venomous plans for the region.
Our ill-starred SAARC region is particularly prone. At least two member states can see global warming looming over the horizon. Some others have been victims of draught, floods and earthquakes. The planners in the member states of this Organization could, and should, have made common cause to counter these and other potential natural disasters, if only the powers that be had not been playing ducks and drakes with the issues that are crying out for settlement betimes. Be that as it may, humankind should understand that it never pays to play ducks and drakes with the laws of nature. And those that think that they can get away with wreaking havoc away from their shores may well discover that they are doing so at their own peril. If nothing else, Nature has rightfully earned the reputation of being the great leveller! There may be a lesson in this, considering the way Mankind was taken completely off-guard in the case of the Pandemic?
— The writer is a former Ambassador and former Assistant Secretary General of OIC.