A cheering crowd of 50000 people in Modi’s grand event in Houston threatens to drown out the desperate pleas of 4 million climate change protestors from across the world.
A massive crowd, estimated at 50,000 gathered in Houston and made immense noise as the leaders of the world’s two biggest democracies came together to share the stage where a new ‘history and chemistry’ was apparently made. On the other hand, a different type of leader, a young teenager by the name of Greta Thunberg addressed an estimated gathering of 250,000 in New York. They were supported by over 4 million (40 lakh) people who rallied in different cities around the world with Global Climate Strikes.
50,000 gathered in Houston to watch the leaders of the world’s two biggest democracies share the stage while over 4 million people rallied in different cities around the world with Global Climate Strikes.
The ‘Howdy Modi’ event emphasized on the start of a special new bond and was widely covered by global media. But the much larger protest from global citizens was somehow unable to garner the same attention.
US President Trump and Indian PM Modi vowed to protect innocent civilians. The threats they claimed were radical Islamic terrorism and raised the issue of border security. Neither of the two mentioned climate change or even acknowledge the massive global citizen outcry. On the other hand, Global Climate Strikes vowed to make the world leaders hear them.
The two apparent global forms of terrorism were at the forefront of worldwide attention. Both are big talking points at any forum today. While one is the biggest issue touted by politicians, the other is mostly being propelled to diplomatic forums by citizens. But ‘which one caught the eye more and why’ is perhaps the most alarming question that plagues the planet.
The Trump Modi Bonanza and Media Delight
The Houston event was grand. It was on-air everywhere. Furthermore, hundreds of notifications flooded smartphones on the weekend. The two democratically elected leaders raised complex issues and resonated with their respective audience. The addresses from both revolved around the menace of radical terrorism, border issues, and immigration. The 9/11/2001 attack on US soil and the 26/11/2008 attack on Indian soil were linked.
The two leaders called for a ‘decisive battle’ against terrorism. They also complimented each other on the economic reforms.
President Trump supported his argument with the claim of 70,000 new manufacturing jobs in Texas alone. The result of the grand gathering: ‘A Trade Deal on the cards’. The US, being the top oil and natural gas producer in the world will now have a pledge from India for up to 5 million tonnes of LNG import per year (worth billions of dollars in the coming years).
Moreover, President Trump stated that the India-US defense relationship will prosper and make ‘dramatic progress’. This means more defense equipment-related trade deals between the two democracies. However, apart from the corporate agenda of growth and citizen security from ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, the ‘much-expected to be raised’ issue of global sustainability in the much larger fight against climate change was left untouched.
Trump and Modi shared amiability. Both called each other ‘Great Leaders’. PM Modi even claimed POTUS has made a ‘deep and lasting impact everywhere’. And he’s not wrong. President Trump pulled America out of the Paris Agreement, consequently making it toothless. It is understandable then why sustainability and the great event with 4 million global citizens out on streets were not mentioned.
Greta Thunberg and Youth-led Global Climate Strikes
On the other hand, a 16-year old Swedish teenage activist did a solo 15-day, 3,000-mile voyage across the Atlantic to make a point. The politicos grew wary, and she along with other young activists embarrassed a few in an address in the US Congress. With her at the forefront, over 4 million young global citizens left schools and offices to join in solidarity with the planet. From New York, Washington DC, Sydney, Berlin, and Moscow to Mumbai, Madrid, Belfast, Dar es Salaam, Islamabad and Bahamas, they all marched in one of the largest and most widespread youth-led demonstrations in history.
Moreover, thousands were interviewed and their angst was the same. Politicians are often only focusing on how to garner votes for the next term. There are repercussions of our unsustainable corporate-friendly growth and global strikes. However, the biggest countries have still not made climate change a part of the political conversation. A protester even called the event a ‘social tipping point’. This happened on the same weekend when the US-India relationship was solidified on the ground of the exponential increase in Oil Trade. But, not even a single sentence shed any light on renewable resources.
Thousands of protesters at the Global Climate Strikes had the same angst: Politicians are often only focusing on how to garner the next vote.
A week ago, the UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres said that Governments always follow public opinion everywhere in the world. So sooner or later they would listen to the global citizens. But the appeasing of a much smaller number which is comprised of corporate lobbies has an edge over the common citizens till date.
World Leaders and the other kind of Global terror threatening 8 billion
The most recent scare comes from a significant UN-backed report. It found that the last five years have been the warmest ever since we had started recording the temperature. Moreover, the annual sea-level rise has grown at a harrowing rate in the last 20 years.
Carbon Dioxide (the biggest terrorist perhaps that threatens the 8 billion global population) in the atmosphere has grown 20 percent faster in the last 10 years.
The report is not just alarming. It is a forecast of the catastrophe that will hit the world by 2040 if emissions continue to rise at the current rate: Extreme weather, drought, and inundated coastlines. Unfortunately, the enhanced oil trade and defense relationship between the US and India adds to these emissions instead of helping check them.
The stricter Green New Deal suggested by US Senator Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, that penalizes big corporates for their impact on climate, was condemned and shown the door. In these circumstances, it can be argued how much the sheer pledge without any bindings, the UN Climate Pact signed by dozens of major multinationals with a combined market cap of $2.3 trillion to bring down their emissions and “decarbonize” in the years ahead, will actually achieve.
The Big UN Summit where hypocrisy and diplomacy will go hand in hand
Global citizens in more than 150 countries rose up in solidarity with climate strikes. They hoped to send across an unambiguous message to world leaders. Similarly, opinion polls in various media reports have shown that young populations in the majority of the countries are looking forward to substantial action.
While the millions of Climate Change protesters want governments to address global warming with urgency, the first major summit right after it, ‘Howdy Modi’ missed the message.
Now, it’s the turn of the UN-led Climate Action Summit which will take place in New York. The summit will see world leaders from 60 nations come together. They are set to release major new commitments to check emissions and create more sustainable economies.
Unsurprisingly, President Trump has decided to skip the Climate Action Summit in favour of a Summit on ‘Religious Freedom’. He is an ardent protester against the US being the world leader and chief crusader in climate change. Furthermore, he undid a lot of good work in the US by revoking a number of environmental regulations.
Consequently, POTUS shunned any responsibility for the first world America. He also claimed that such responsibility on US’ shoulders will give leverage to coal-run developing India and China in the economic race. Furthermore, his allies like the coal-brandishing Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Amazon Rainforests’ environmental villain Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro are far from the climate crusaders in their own countries.
The Future Conversations on What Matters
The world has been in a fossil fuel-powered industrial era of economic growth for decades now. The capitalist trajectory is not sustainable in uplifting global population from poverty. Nor is it sustainable from the environmental point of view. Yet, most climate change debates in diplomatic forums fall short due to nationalistic interests in the face of the incoming calamity. Furthermore, world leaders have shown hypocrisy in their claims as climate crusaders. They covertly change their message when addressing corporates looking to open more mines and produce more fossil fuel.
It is rather unfortunate that climate change is not a bipartisan debate in the world’s most powerful and richest nation.
Philanthropist Bill Gates recently opined that there was a need for much more action than just symbolic gestures. Furthermore, he said that this would involve significant public and private investment to transform into sustainable economic ecosystems. Moreover, Gates said that if this involves taxing the wealthy, he would happily oblige. However, not many of the world’s billionaires share the view.
There is no doubt that we have seen an amplification of the intensity and scale of conversations on climate change. However, that has come along simultaneously with horrific real events. So, efforts like the Global Climate Strikes fall short if governments have no intentions to join in.
Action summits come and go but the world’s future looks bleak. At least, till ‘planetary arsonists occupy the highest offices’ in the world’s biggest countries like the US.
Quite literally, there needs to be more fire and not just from the young population of the world. Moreover, no new policies or global partnerships should come at the cost of destroying the planet and its living ecosystem. It is high time that the world wakes up in its entirety. Thus, there’s a need to shame the lawmakers for their dubious empathy towards the planet. Global Climate Strikes will reignite coming Friday. But there’s a long way to go till we spark a transformation. Therefore, a trajectory changes the face of global politics. One that makes climate change the central agenda of any diplomatic debate among world leaders.