In the eighth month of this year’s Gregorian calendar, the world is confronted with multiple crises which have engulfed it in uncertainties and turbulence. Some of these predicaments flow from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine while others are embedded in the actions of an aggressive China which is determined to challenge the US led world order.
The impact of Russian and Chinese actions is being felt politically and economically in almost all parts of the globe, including our region. They are especially adding to the difficulties of the poor and vulnerable countries.
Also, worrying is that they are distracting even the limited interest that global leaders were displaying to confront the poor health of the planet which can lead, as a group of some scientists have recently warned, to an existential crisis for all human beings.
A group of climate scientists have issued a study relating to catastrophic effects of climate change on human societies.
They argue that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) itself, and other research bodies on climate change have largely focussed on the impact of a rise in the planet’s temperature between 1.5-2 degrees Celsius.
This in itself will have a grim impact on human life. But this group of climate scientists asserts that it is necessary to examine a greater rise in temperatures.
This is because such a rise will have catastrophic impact on human societies and may indeed imperil the sustainability of the human species. Hence, the imperative of global action to contain the emission of green-house gases.
It is noteworthy that this group of climate scientists concedes that while the worst-case scenarios of the impact of climate change may be considered unlikely, it is necessary to contemplate them for “prudent risk management demands that we thoroughly assess worst-case scenarios”.
The global leadership, as this writer has pointed out in his earlier articles on this subject, has shown little appetite for even following scientific advice on the lesser consequences of climate change.
Would such leaders be willing to take the caution of scientists who urge that worst-case scenarios should be considered so that the world truly begins to treat climate change as the greatest challenge of our times? There is no indication that the leaders of the great powers have any mind-space left for focussing on this issue.
In this matter the advanced states, including Russia and China, bear the greatest responsibility; but they are engaged in a serious contestation on world order instead of the existential threats to the human race. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Chinese endeavours to change the geo-political equations of the Indo-Pacific are causing worldwide difficulties but these countries are concerned with power politics, not the consequences of their actions on human welfare.
The impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on global food and energy security has been extremely adverse. This has been especially so on vulnerable countries including in South Asia.
Did Russian President Vladimir Putin take these into account before he launched his invasion of Ukraine? And if he did, how did he view them? As ‘cards’ which would assist Russia in putting pressure on the major powers and Ukraine itself to bend to Russian will? The US and its allies have held Putin responsible for precipitating these crises.
They too were, at least for many months, less concerned in trying to end the conflict so that global food and energy security could be, at least, cushioned than in using these ‘cards’ for propaganda purposes. It is good that a compromise has been reached and the export of Ukrainian wheat has begun.
The continuing Chinese reaction to US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan demonstrates Chinese sensitivity to territories it considers are part of China. At the same time it has shown scant respect for other countries’ territorial positions.
This is both in the South China Sea and also along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Indeed, in the former case it has not respected the decisions of international tribunals.
All this is a clear manifestation of President Xi Jinping’s ambition that compels him to believe that China’s time has come; that it is an ascending power while the old established powers are waning.
The Indo-Pacific region is now the first arena where China will flex its muscles more than it has done in the past. This would be irresponsible but China is not bothered about the dangers to international peace and security by its actions.
Indeed, China’s conduct in the initial stages of the Covid 19 pandemic was also irresponsible. Instead of openly taking the international community into confidence about the dangers which the new zoonotic virus posed to human health, it prevaricated.
When other countries, like Australia, pointed out Chinese lack of transparency on the issue it launched a trade war against it. China’s bullying of smaller countries through economic and commercial instruments is continuing. It is good that India prevailed on Sri Lanka recently to prevent a Chinese ‘spy’ naval vessel from docking in a Sri Lankan port.
Amidst the geo-political rivalries playing out to redefine world order extreme weather events have impacted on Europe, US, China, Korea and Pakistan, to name just a few countries. India too experienced unprecedented flooding in Assam.
However, these wild fires, scorching summers, and floods have not made a difference to the ongoing power games of the great powers. Not even the fear of pandemics is making an impact.
It seems that covid-19, which continues to be a danger, is now not being taken seriously. All this shows that the dire existential warnings of the impact of extreme climate change on the human race will hardly register on the consciousness of the global leadership.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.