The climate needs your attention. The future is doomed. Humanity needs a lifeline and it needs one right now. With climate change being so evidently upon us, it is only understandable that you fear the worst. Anxiety about the future, worry about whether humanity will make it in time, wonder about what life really will be like in a decade from now. We got in touch with Sweta Bhushan, a climate worker, Co-founder of CarboFlow, Associate at cBalance, and an Anant Fellow. She answers questions about the impending doom.
What is the most effective way of stopping the climate crisis?
Sweta emphasises the lack of a single way to achieve this feat. It is a complex problem and thus action needs to come in from different sides and angles. However, she says, one of the crucial ways is to link climate, environmental protection and the economy directly. “Once we see some monetary value attached to the act of safeguarding the environment or working towards climate change, more people, businesses and industries (energy, agriculture, construction, etc.) can be motivated to do more. Some of these may include tools like taxing or carbon markets.”
How many years do we have to save the planet before things get bad?
“Scientists have estimated various numbers to 'save the planet' over the years,” she says. “The planet will do just fine. The possibility of saving humankind might be the real question here. Estimating the years until 'doom' occurs is based on several technical calculations and represents a theoretical situation based on different methodologies and indicators.”
That being said, there are large scale changes that are occurring every second and this complicates things considerably. Mapping all the stakeholders who will be affected or impacted by this crisis are practically impossible, she says. “While one industry could do loads to combat, another one could just be as polluting. The same is the story with cities and countries on a larger scale. Therefore, our focus should be a climate-first approach within companies and individuals. This coupled with a monitoring system for each of these processes.”
What should be the goal of climate change management?
What exactly are we trying to achieve? Are we heading somewhere or simply blindly following paths that lead to nowhere?
Careful implementation of technology to develop processes and frameworks for targeted action is vital according to this climate worker. “Often a change in part of the ecosystem will amplify and affect another entity - because we are all part of a large connected system. Being mindful is extremely crucial. Several technologies are now being explored to directly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but how these may act with time is up for deep discussion. Lastly, evenly scaling climate-targeted solutions and processes keeping contextual (and local) demands in mind is just as vital.”
How much damage have we caused?
“In over 250 years, the carbon dioxide concentration reached a record of above 410 ppm. Recently, it peaked near 420 ppm in 2021 at the Mauna Loa observatory,” says Sweta highlighting that the planet has never seen this number in the history of its existence.
Is it too late to mitigate the damage?
Rapidly implementing a climate-first or climate-centred approach is only going to help the world, according to her. “Enabling this process earlier would only have led to a better situation today, preventing the unravelling of newer problems and widening deeper gaps in our society. But, action at this point is imperative and must be worked on without excusing ourselves on the grounds of ‘it is too late’. The cliche- better late than never stands through.”
Will the efforts we take now help our generation in any way?
“Change is constant when the universe is taken into consideration. So is climate change. What has been untoward is the acceleration caused due to anthropogenic activities. Therefore in the larger scheme of things, change is bound to happen.” Sweta says that by taking action, we can be accountable for the damage caused due to us and by us and may see communities and individuals suffer less across the globe.
How will our lives change in the coming years?
This climate worker points to the following possibly happening in the coming years.
- Our lives will change differently in different parts of the world. Some may experience heating whereas others may experience cooling. This may be received by adaption to temperatures through building design, clothes and changing food habits
- Environmental consequences like coastline flooding, glacier lake formation, saltwater intrusion and warming at higher altitudes will impact people locally and even their livelihoods
- Climate migration is a major consequence wherein people will transfer from an insecure habitat to a more secure one
- On an individual level, a lot of changes can be expected like working hours due to heat, health - mental, physical and emotional and livelihoods
How can climate change impact health?
Since warmer temperatures are optimal for bacterial growth, this will increase the chances of the spread of food and water-borne diseases. Certain diseases, she says might even amplify in tropical regions. Drastic weather changes might cause other health issues like breathing, allergies, etc.
Considering the worst-case scenario, will we be able to lead normal lives?
“A rich person living in an apartment in Mumbai with air conditioners is more likely to evade the harsh impacts of heat than an informal dweller living under tin roofs amid the city,” she says. “Another point to factor in is that while we may build resilience over time, only time can tell for how long can we push the thresholds and keep adapting to extremities. As we've experienced first hand, normal is relative.”
Is inhabiting another planet really an option?
The young climate activist says she has never believed moving to another planet may be a solution. “Firstly, the idea lends too much importance to humans and secondly, it seems a bit of an escapist's plan.”
She goes on to say that we have overestimated our presence on this planet and if you were to look at the history of the universe, our reality has been negligible. “Also how feasible is it to shift the massive population from one planet to another? To give time the benefit of doubt, sure it might be possible someday. But we have to stay on earth until that day and the only way to reside here is to ensure mending, rethinking and redirecting our ways of being.”