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Environmental Disaster

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India is home to 15 out of 20 of the world's most polluted cities. The government's lack of concern for the environment and capitulation to corporate interests greatly affects its carbon ecology, periling the fate of the entire planet.

The climate crisis is the biggest issue of the 21st century. Decades of greed — capitalism, colonialism, and globalization — have led us down this path.

According to the Global Footprint Network, 2014, 1.5 Earths would be needed to meet the current demands humanity makes on nature. For over 40 years, these demands have exceeded the planet’s biocapacity — “the amount of biologically productive land and sea area that is available to regenerate these resources.” 

The good news is that scientists know what needs to be done, the bad news is that we have a long way to go and world leaders are not taking sufficient steps forward. India is already experiencing the harsh consequences of the climate crisis. 

One of the most prominent impacts in India is air pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2016 around 7 million premature deaths resulted from air pollution — that is 1 in 9 deaths globally. Fifteen of the twenty most polluted cities in the world are in India.

Severe Drought in India, BBC News

Other impacts in India include floods, extreme weather patterns, biodiversity loss, and climate-induced displacement. While Modi has given speeches calling world leaders to action, his own policies do not reflect the interests of protecting the environment. 

“We must accept that if we have to overcome a serious challenge like climate change, then what we are doing at the moment is just not enough,” Modi said at the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. While under the Paris Agreement, India’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) is within the 2 degree Celsius warming target, it is not within reach of the 1.5 degree Celsius target. At the Summit, Modi did not provide a plan to reach this goal.

In 2017, India was 8th place in per capita greenhouse gas emissions. Youth in India are calling on their government to take action. India’s Charter of Fridays for Future — a movement started by Greta Thunberg, takes to the streets to strike at least one Friday a month. On an individual level, there needs to be a decline in consumption patterns and an increase in awareness of environmental impacts. 

The political challenge that is stopping real change from being made is the prioritization of energy demand and economic gains. A new barrier to meeting climate change targets is the reset that will take place after the COVID-19 pandemic. The government has an opportunity to prioritize clean energy sources in its pandemic recovery — but will they use it?

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