Wednesday, June 24, 2015

South Asian heatwaves, climate change, development and the awakening of the great faiths to our planetary emergency


In mid-2015 there was a very severe heatwave in parts of India - soon followed by one in Pakistan. It has been worsened by its occurrence during Ramadan. The requirement for fasting during daylight hours include to abstain not just from food, but also water, though this requirement can be relaxed for health reasons.

Electricity cuts also made the Pakistani heatwave worse. The BBC reported in June that "612 people had died in the main government-run hospitals in the city of Karachi during the past four days. Another 80 are reported to have died in private hospitals." But a lot more will have died before getting to hospital - really, once at the hospital, hardly any should die .. like a lot of things from the sub-continent, this statement needs interpreting.

Heatwaves are getting worse due to climate change. In June 2015 the Lancet released a major report into climate change and health. I was invited to speak at the Canberra launch, especially on the implications for Australia from migration and conflict, but in the end couldn't. My slides, however, are available here.

Some friends in India have been affected by the heat, but I haven't heard of any that have died. But no doubt productivity has been harmed. Climate change is a slow emergency. Solutions are emerging, but one that is vastly under-recognised is of a fairer world.  Related to that is the need to reduce fertility, especially in low-income countries, not because that will slow climate change (much) but because it will promote development and reduce poverty. That will better prepare societies for the emergency that is unfolding.  The failure to recognise this is the greatest weakness in the otherwise excellent Papal encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si . The much shorter Lambeth Declaration on climate change did not mention population at all. Of interest, it was signed by representatives of several faiths, including the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a Zoroastrian, several rabbis, a Buddhist and a Sikh.

PS. In late October a Buddhist declaration on climate change, calling for a cap below 1.5 degrees, was released.

adapted from a blog at BODHI US