Last year, Pakistan struggled to stay afloat in what was its worst floods ever. India, earlier in the same year, was burning, owing to the most severe heat wave it had witnessed since the Indian Meteorological Department started keeping records. Both these extreme events had a common link—climate change.
Clearly, climate change is no longer a mirage—something so far away that sceptics among us believe it was hallucinated into existence by the ‘woke’ crowd. Its impact is visible and tangible even for those living under a rock. It has made its presence felt through wildfires, flash floods, heat waves, drought, rising sea levels, water scarcity and global hunger—all of them damaging and deadly, mostly for the poorest communities. Climate change was identified as a global problem by the United Nations General Assembly more than 30 years ago, in 1988. Yet, here we are.
Anilla Cherian, an independent global climate change and clean energy expert, looks at why we have found little success so far in her new book—Air Pollution, Clean Energy and Climate Change. The book argues that while the link between the three is well-established, there is no integrated approach to tackle the same; it is all happening in silos. “The core of what is being argued is that it is time to look beyond the confines of intergovernmental negotiations,” writes Cherian, “and to ask what can be done if access to clean air and energy is considered integral to responding to climate change by NNSAs (non nation state actors) including cities/local communities.”
Cities, believes Cherian, will be on the frontline for clean air and climate action. And, the future of integrated action on clean air and clean energy lies with India and its cities. Why, you ask. India is third in greenhouse gases emissions, after China and the US. In 2018, 14 of the 15 most polluted cities of the world were in India. Seven of the top 10 cities with the worst air quality were in India. “In the most congested and polluted cities in the world, curbing air pollution has not been responded within the context of climate change and clean energy, in part because global goal and partnership silos translate into fragmented policy agendas [at] the national level,” writes Cherian.
The book is no breezy read, neither is it dense like the smog that hangs heavy over Delhi’s wintry mornings. It is packed with information and statistics. There are repetitions, perhaps for emphasis, but some could have been avoided. The book has a matter-of-fact tone, not alarmist yet thought-provoking.
Last December, California was drenched. It had seen a decade of drought, and the rains brought with them blooms, in hues hidden for long. Many of the seeds reportedly were lying dormant for a decade or so. A reminder that earth will reclaim what was once its. Only, it won’t always be this pretty.
Air Pollution, Clean Energy and Climate Change
Author: Anilla Cherian
Pages: 271; price: $134.95