A RAPIDLY changing climate is a burning subject, being discussed by policy makers, activists, industry, academia, researchers and media.

At international climate meets negotiators painstakingly try to reach agreements on major issues and at country level nations struggle to achieve voluntary targets for reducing emissions but so far results have just been encouraging.

The pre-industrial concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million. During the past 800,000  years, carbon dioxide fluctuated between 180 ppm during the ice ages and 280 ppm during the interglacial warm periods.

When scientists first started measuring atmospheric CO2 in 1958 at the Mauna Loa mountaintop observatory Hawaii, the level was 316 ppm, not very much higher than the pre-industrial level of 280.

In May 2013, the level jumped to 400 ppm and in September 2016 crossed the symbolic red line of 400 ppm.

Today, it stands at 413 ppm, and the current rate of CO2 emissions, growth levels will hit 500 ppm within 50 years putting us on track to reach temperature increase of more than three degrees Celsius, a level that will be catastrophic for all life on the planet.

This the scenario that we face and yet there is reluctance to revisit the model of development that has brought us to this state.

The problem lies with our financial model and our endless quest for growth that is predicated on the assumption that a successful economy must keep growing by at least 3 pc annually. In other words, the economy must double itself every 20 years to remain afloat.

The logic of this economic model based on exponential growth does not take into account the finite resources of the planet and builds on a pattern of production and consumption that is challenging the limits of the natural habitat and proving to be incompatible with life on Earth.

Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz has been calling for a shift from GDP to ecological and social media of economic activity as a measure of economic progress, but corporate interests, big banks, reliance on debt-based currency and rampant consumerism comes in the way of breaking the mould and reinventing our money systems to make it more ecologically sound and economically even.

The present  trajectory of growth also poses a moral dilemma. At the international level the question we need to ask is whether high-emitting countries have the right to -

To continue releasing CO2 into the atmosphere just because they have the financial resources, access to technology and human capital to make the necessary change, albeit at the cost of inflicting extreme hardships on millions who lack coping capacities.

The Honor and Serving of the latest Global Operation Research on ''Climate Change and Tough Choices'', continues. The World Students Society thanks author Aisha Khan, chief executive of the Civil Society Coalition for Climate Change.


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