GWYNNE DYER: We evade the truth on warming

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It was Mumbai's second hottest October day in a decade. The first piece of news received attention in the city.

Brussels, Oct 18 In response to the landmark IPCC report on global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius published last week, 28 European Union heads of state and government have called upon all countries of the world to commit at the upcoming climate summit in Poland to review the levels of ambition of their Paris Agreement pledges by 2020.

The governments take climate change very seriously these days, but they worry that too much frankness about the cost of going past 1.5C will create irresistible pressure on them to take radical action now.

The supposed threat is a 1.5 to 2C increase, but global temperatures were higher than today by at least that much for most of the last 10,000 years. Ice is melting rapidly in the Arctic, contributing to rising sea levels. Coastal communities in New Zealand and Australia will begin to flood from rising seas by the 2080's. Urban heat islands are a reality; Mumbai shows "heat stresses" that other megacities do.

Preventing a temperature rise of 2 degrees C will be a major challenge, one that the current commitments from various countries will likely be unable to meet. Almost 40% of Mumbai could be underwater in the next 100 years if sea levels continue to rise, warned the National Institute of Oceanography in 2016.

According to the report, temperatures will reach 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052, and 1°C of it is a direct result of human activities.

TT's NDC states our national GHG emissions reduction of 15 per cent (from business as usual) by 2030 or 103 megatonnes in three key sectors: industry, power generation and transport. It warned that the world has just twelve years to avert the climate change catastrophe, which would include massive flooding, wildfires and food shortages. This integrated framework laid out the principles for estimating the damaging impacts of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) on human welfare, and could therefore be used to calculate the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions and to study the consequences of climate policy interventions such as carbon pricing.

According to the report, at +1.5°C of warming, twice as many megacities as present are likely to become heat stressed, exposing an additional 350 million more people to deadly heat stress by 2050.

In "Living in Denial: Climate Change, Emotions, and Everyday Life", University of OR sociology professor Kari Marie Norgaard noted that people "stopped paying attention to global climate change when they realized that there is no easy solution". What governance mechanisms exist?

A section of the act also provides for the establishment of the Renewable Energy Fund to serve the objective of providing financial resources for the promotion, development, sustainable management and utilisation of renewable energy sources.

Mainstream economists are now in favour of instituting carbon taxes that Nordhaus proposed to reduce noxious emissions. It is critical to humanize the issue of climate change because the changes that Inuit and Indigenous peoples observe in their close relationship with the natural environment provide warning and wisdom for the rest of humanity in collectively working to curtail climate change.

This lackadaisical approach will hurt Mumbai.

Before we run around screaming that the climate is crumbling, let's step back and get a full picture of the climate science. There is very little time; they have to act fast and decisively.

While clearly not moving quickly enough in the right direction, business is increasingly thinking more widely and comprehensively about its objective and impact in this area - driven not least by growing corporate reporting against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). No one person can change the world, but together, we can change many things. At the juncture Mumbai's policymakers are, this seems a long, really long, way off.