Column: Facing Climate Change

By Ashutosh Mishra

London: The month of October saw thousands of climate change protestors laying siege to this capital city. Brought together by the activist group Extinction Rebellion, they marched through the streets of London blocking several roads including those around the Parliament.

The protestors, many of whom were arrested by the police, sought changes in government policy to make them more effective in meeting the challenge of climate change, global warming being one of its signs. Similar demonstrations were also held in more than 60 cities around the world to highlight what is being described as the most pressing issue of our times.

Arrests were also made in cities like Amsterdam and Wellington. The message that the activists sought to convey through the protests is still ringing loud and clear and similar demonstrations continue to take place in other parts of the world. One of the most respectable British newspapers has carried a report about a recent demonstration outside Hungary’s parliament where thousands of people gathered to demand that country’s politicians take the climate emergency seriously.

But whether politicians deliberating public issues inside the parliament actually paid any heed to the demand remains a matter of speculation. The report talked about a new political divide in Europe between rightwing forces who consider migration to be the biggest scourge and those who insist that the real challenge comes from climate emergency.

A similar divide is now visible in several European countries where traditionally green politics has found little support. Climate emergency is slowly but certainly filtering into public consciousness, thanks mainly to the rise of Greta Thurnberg, the Swedish teenage environment activist. Last October, Gergely Karácsony, an opposition politician who stood on a platform that prominently featured green issues, won a surprise victory in Budapest’s mayoral election. Now his team believes that climate issue has the potential to galvanise people and make them realise the consequences of not taking it seriously.

But activists have to work harder as they are up against status quoists who think climate emergency is nothing more than a fashionable slogan. The report referred to a European council summit in June where Hungary was among four countries that blocked an EU-wide plan for net zero-carbon emissions by 2050, others being Poland, the Czech Republic and Estonia. The Czech Prime Minister asked at the summit, “Why should we decide 31 years ahead of time what will happen in 2050?” The statement is representative of the general attitude towards the issue among right wingers who want status quo to prevail.

Recently the European parliament declared a global “climate and environmental emergency” but activists feel that mere words mean nothing unless backed by action, specially now that tough measures are required. Support for global action to counter the adverse effects of climate change is, no doubt, growing. More and more people, especially young people, are joining the movement. But for the situation to really change on the ground a lot more needs to be done. It is imperative that the world focuses its attention on the problem of climate change with a resolve to set things right in the coming year.

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