Human species will survive climate change?


Irshad Khan

Catastrophic climate impacts threatening survival of human race are inevitable if business as usual continues resulting in ever increasing green house gas (GHG) emissions intensity and addition of GHG concentration to the earth’s atmosphere. However, if actions are taken by all members of the international community, both developed and developing countries aiming at reducing emissions of GHG and sincere efforts are made to reduce GHG concentration in the atmosphere, the future survival of human as well as other animal and plant species will be assured.

It is evident from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change (2016) that the global community has arrived at a consensus that that our planet’s average atmospheric temperature increase should be limited to 2 degree C from pre-industrial revolution temperature by 2050. Actions to mitigate climate change are found expression in the intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) submitted to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) by most countries have done it and the other are in the process preparing and submission.

It is a well recognised fact that GHG emissions have not peaked as yet and many developing countries and emerging economies are increasing their emission intensity as well as per capita emissions with the justification that they are at a development stage when they are compelled to use increasing energy from fossil fuels to make progress and reduce poverty in their respective countries. They also assert, from time to time, the principle of equity and climate justice along with that of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR), though these principles have been diluted in recent international climate change negotiations. For example, both China and India (China being the highest emitter) intend their emissions peaking around 2030. Similar is case with countries like Brazil, Russia and South Africa. Simultaneously these countries are also taking steps to reduce dependence on fossil fuel based energy and increase share of renewable energy gradually.

The Paris Agreement has given hope to our society. It is a scientific fact that the strongest instinct that all animals have is “survival”. They fight back attacks, resist threats and use all their energies both physical and mental to save their lives. A question arises whether human species has come to possess that collective consciousness and instinct today? Historically, it did not and this is one species that has been killing and destroying its own kind. The most primitive instinct of man has been to create security by killing others perceived as threat. The ancient tribal battles, invasions, occupation of other countries and land, extermination of villages and towns by invading and conquering armies, expansion of territories, colonisation other countries and exploitation of fellow human beings-have characterised human attitude and behaviour.  This trait appears to be deep rooted in our unconscious and subconscious mind and human egoistic approach is reflected in our social, economic and political system.

One striking difference in case of climate change appears to be that it is challenging one and all members of human community. The GHG emissions diffuse throughout earth’s atmosphere quickly irrespective of where the source is. Even the most powerful economies have no power to prevent the emissions from traveling.

Should collective risk and threats raise level of human consciousness to be ready to face climate change disasters or even to reverse these? Or will collective catastrophe and  miseries provide solace in accepting as a day of doom for all.

There is a hope in the wisdom of mankind that they will face this challenge collectively, unite to take remedial measures, change their life styles, mitigate impacts and mobilise resources and organise adaptation to climate change.  This and this alone will ensure survival of human species beyond 2050 and 2100 AD.