Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected President of France, vowed on Thursday to “Make Our Planet Great Again” by slightly modifying the slogan of “Make America Great Again” chanted by his contemporary in the United States of America. This slight alteration in the slogan is what has pushed today’s world to worry about its future. This subtle modification is what is expected to leave indelible footprints of humanity on the environment. This difference in choice of words is what is believed to cause yet another ‘tragedy of the commons’. Although Garret Hardin, in his essay titled the same, enumerated human population, use of the Earth’s natural resources and the concept of welfare state to be the causative agents of this tragedy, yet he failed to identify the root cause – ignorance. The common resource, in current scenario, is our climate and environment, and the possible tragedy in the form of an irrevocable threat is global warming.

“We’re getting out.” This sentence alone is sufficient to give shivers down the planet’s spine because soon enough it will be sweating and burning. US withdrawing from The Paris Agreement, signed by 195 member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is terrifying because of the foreboded price the whole world will have to pay.

Unlike its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol of 1997, the Paris accord emphasises on “common but differentiated responsibility and respective capabilities” of all countries, thus making it “an executive agreement rather than a treaty”. This logically made every individual country accountable for its own actions as each would pitch in “nationally determined contributions” in achieving the worldwide goals that aim to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels, building capacity to cope with the adverse impacts of climate change, and making finance flows coherent to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and lead to climate-resilient development. This discretionary power, along with freedom of voluntary enforcement, awarded to every country is, in actuality, the root cause of resentment and resistance shown by Trump.

“The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement”, said Trump, “are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance.”

He appended his decision’s vindication by saying, “China will be able to increase the emissions by a staggering number of years – 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us… China will be allowed to build hundreds of coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”

As philosophers of the past had predicted and those of today had said, this is exactly what happens when the ruling and elite classes unite, of which President Donald J. Trump is an apt manifestation. While the environmentalists are busy in making the world realise a simple fact that carbon dioxide levels must be brought down to 350 ppm (currently a little over 400 ppm) if we are to avoid talking about severe ‘climate disruption’, the capitalist class is busy in negotiating “on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers”.

His decision was not only slammed by the mayor of Pittsburgh, the state whose people’s representation was claimed by Trump in his historic address, but also by the Vatican City, several world political leaders, scientists, and members of entertainment fraternity. Some called it “a huge slap on the face”, while others called it a “careless decision”.

America, or at least its president, has some economic concerns when it comes to making this decision. “Billions of dollars” that reportedly should be invested in America “will be sent to the very countries that have taken our factories and our jobs from us”. This is one side. The flipside is putting the abundant energy reserves America has “under lock and key”. Yet the third dimension is the claim that their business will “come to a halt” along with the “vast fortune” the Green Climate Fund is costing America, resulting in an increase in unemployment and deterioration of the quality of life.

“Thus our withdrawal from the agreement represents a reassertion of America’s sovereignty”, Trump reaffirmed.

The question that might still be disturbing many among us is that how a simple withdrawal could lead towards the absolute destruction everyone seems to be afraid of. The answer to this is hidden in the following sentence: greenhouse gas emissions are the major culprit.

The only question troubling the minds of people living in third-world countries like Pakistan is on what to expect in the future. To draw a simple comparison, China contributed 29.51% of global carbon dioxide emissions in 2015 and the US pooled in 14.34%, while the order reverses when emissions are measured in tonnes per capita, with America and China emitting 16.1 and 7.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person. This is one of the pivots of the contest between a developed country and a developing one; however, the consequences of this rivalry are the ones that are most likely to affect Pakistan whose percentage of greenhouse gases for ratification was only 0.43% as of 2016.

In simpler words, we are not contributing as much as we are and will be suffering from. With increasing frequency of floods, experiencing the warmest years ever, unexpected spells of famine and unpredicted showers of rain, Pakistan is at the brunt of bearing the upshots of global warming and climate change. This is the main problem; no matter who is the highest contributor.

Our planet’s temperature went up by 0.74 ˚C between 1906 and 2005, much of which took place after 1980 with coequal increase in annual greenhouse gas emissions from anthropogenic activities by 70%. This century also saw a 10-to-20-centimentre rise in average sea level due to melting of permafrost and glaciers and which, in turn, caused increase in temperature and expansion of ocean water.

With the US and China being the highest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions, former President Obama’s cooperation with China had made the world believe in the Paris accord’s early success. With the easily detectable phenomenon of climate change being nothing more than “a hoax” for the current President of the United States, the absence of annexes and strategies of negotiated responsibility and voluntary enforcement have led towards its ostensible failure.

Nevertheless, with several landmarks shining emerald on the eve of Trump’s address, a little hope was given to our beloved Earth that its denizens are standing for and with its environment. Canada, along with other countries, has resolved to “keep marching on” to combat global warming and kerb the catastrophic effects of climate change. Hawaii, too, has stepped up and become the first American state to join the accord and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state.

The future is unseen and has uncertainty, yet it is this hope which will make us step into our future reality and face whatever it has to offer.

 

The writer is a student of Biotechnology with an interest in current affairs and politics.