Is climate change for real? Well, most available evidence suggests we have a climate crisis...and this is evidence from both widespread indigenous peoples’ and community observations of changes, as also modern scientific studies. So when Modi says these things, he is ignoring the mounting evidence of a climate crisis. Worse, when his government proceeds with aggressive plans of expanding coal mining and thermal power (with ecologically illiterate advice such as the latest from the Forest Survey of India saying 90 per cent of coal-bearing forest areas can be mined!), clearing other polluting industries, and expanding infrastructure that will greatly increase vehicular use, all of these at the expense of forests and wetlands, we’ll be dealing with a double-climate change whammy.
India has justifiably pointed to the need for industrialised countries to take action on climate change because of their overwhelming historical responsibility. But this position is ethically weakened if it refuses to take domestic action, given its rapidly increasing emissions, especially because the current form of industrialisation and infrastructure development in India hurts its own people. India needs to demonstrate that it can move in a different path of well-being, which is ecologically sustainable and socially equitable. The Indian government needs to learn from these initiatives and put its own house in order, even as it insists on industrialised countries taking urgent action. It is hard to know whether Modi believes that climate change is real or not, but certainly the decisions his government are taking suggest that we have not learnt a number of lessons. India and China were prominently missing in the recent climate summit called by the UN secretary-general, though a huge number of other heads of state were there. That’s how seriously Modi takes this issue.
Kothari heads Kalpavriksh, an environment action group; E-mail your columnist: chiki.kothari AT gmail DOT com