Heed the fires: Which have turned the Australian sky blood red

Apocalyptically raging Australian bushfires, fearful flash floods in Jakarta, New Delhi experiencing its coldest December day in over a century – the ominous portents at the turn of the decade are a resounding call from nature to humankind to pay heed. By now the Australian fires aided by high daytime temperatures have consumed nearly six million hectares of brush, forest and farms forcing thousands of people to flee. Across the ocean, the smoke from these fires is painting even New Zealand’s sky an ominous orange.

Australia, world’s largest coal exporter, has made light of its historic responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions citing a low share in total global carbon output. But its people are now up in arms against their government’s disingenuous policies and escapism. What gets shipped out will come home to roost many Aussies and also another big coalminer Indonesia are finding out. Jakarta’s highest rainfall in recorded history has cost 43 lives and displaced over four lakh people, yet another sign of the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events requiring greater global attention.

Meanwhile, the COP25 summit at Madrid dispersed without framing rules for a new carbon market under the Paris agreement and failing to prod countries to increase their emission cut commitments. This debacle has primarily been on account of a deepening chasm between developed and developing countries over climate finance and tech transfers. Consider that an average Australian generates almost 17 tons of carbon dioxide pollution per person every year as compared to two tons by each person in India. Every rich country that refuses historical responsibility to act against the global climate emergency, contributes to global status quo. That’s dangerous for everybody. That must change.

This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.

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