'Unitary view won't help tackle climate change'

British expert locks horns with Pachauri

In some very insightful observations that are bound to kick up dust ahead of the forthcoming global meet in Copenhagen on CC, Prof Mike Hulme questioned Pachauri’s recent response that it is the “science and not the politics of CC” that should drive the talks. Referring to Pachauri’s remarks that, “the road to Copenhagen must be based on awareness of the scientific basis for CC and not the debate on its political aspects,” Prof Hulme said a unitary view might not help to tackle climate change issues faced by various countries with different cultural settings. 

Hulme, Professor of Climate Change, University of East Anglia, UK, now on a British Council-sponsored tour of India , was addressing Science professors and students at the Anna University here. “An IPCC consensus about the Science of Climate Change has little relevance when we consider the meaning of CC and what our responses (in different societies) must be,” he observed, adding, “I disagree” with Pachauri on the approach to this issue.

The crux of Hulme’s critique is that though “climate change has become the Mother of all issues,” there are at least five equally legitimate ways of “framing issues of CC”. These “different frames require different types of solutions” to resolve problems like catastrophic drought, floods or food shortage caused by CC.

Five frameworks
The five frameworks from which issues of CC are seen and articulated, according to him are: “CC as a market failure, as a technological hazard, as global injustice, as materialist over-consumption and CC as planetary tipping point (views like the great Indian Monsoon failing in 50 years)”. Dwelling on each in detail, Prof Hulme said that CC as ‘the greatest example of market failure’ echoes the view that greenhouse gases get accumulated beyond control. Therefore, the solution as per this frame “is price Carbon to control core industrial emissions,” he pointed out.

Similarly, solutions to CC issues differed when they were seen through the prism of the four other perspectives, Prof Hulme argued. For instance, when CC is seen as a grave technological risk, leading to depletion of the ozone layer from a host of technologies like nuclear waste, the solution is to “go in for clean technologies” like solar energy, he underlined.

Under the third view that saw CC as problems of ‘global injustice”- industrially advanced countries historically responsible for 80 per cent of the carbon emissions-, he said NGOs’ now voiced this model. The solution seen under this frame is “long-term convergence of per-capita emissions as the only equitable basis for a global compact on CC,” he said.

For those who saw CC arising from ‘materialist over-consumption’, the solution lay in changing the “entire paradigm of economic growth”, posing spiritual concerns as in the East against highly materialist Western societies, he said.

Last, under the fifth framework, the solution to CC issues was seen as “intervening in the climate system massively to cool the planet”, he said.

Pure science could not adjudicate between these five frameworks, to decide which one was right or wrong, as the moral goals of each frame was different, he stressed. So, CC issues should be used not as an end-point, but as means to “attend to projects we want to attend to”, Prof Hulme said.

Prof Hulme’s critique
*Climate change issue is the mother of all issues
*There are five legitimate ways of framing climate change issues
*The frames require different types of solutions to resolve problems like drought, flood or food shortage
*Pure science cannot adjudicate between these frameworks as their moral goals are different
*Long-term convergence of per-capita emissions only
equitable basis for global

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