Climate Change and Social Transformations

(July 25, 2015)
Dr. (Mrs) Malti Goel

   During 1990s, global warming phenomena and its consequences were crammed with uncertainty. In the 21st century, the fourth and fifth assessments of Inter-governmental Panel of climate change have come out with assertions that global warming is a certainity and climate change due to anthopogenic emissions is a reality. In response to this, global actions and protocols have been evoked to address the climate change challenges.

India has a National Action Plan on Climate Change launched in 2008. States have been suggested to develop their own action plans. The concepts of vulnerability, adaptive capacity, resilience have been at the centre of climate change debates. Most of these Action Plans have a focus on adverse impacts on society at large and ways to adaptation and mitigation are being suggested.  For example, the state of Madhya Pradesh is marked with complex social studies. Madhya Pradesh State Action Plan has highlighted vulnerability of the state to climate change. The major highlights of SAPCC include pro-active approach in identification of policy reforms, institutional arrangements, stakeholder participation, and estimation of regional climate change vulnerabilities. Mainstreaming of climate change concerns in various inter-sectoral schemes and development projects has been devised as a strategyThere are several analytical perspective studies on climate change impact projections, suggesting need for urgent action.

How does climate change affects social infrastructure? Would climate change make poverty reduction more difficult? Innovation is basic to climate change adaptation and mitigation.. The information on science & technology solutions is needed for responding to climate change. We need to develop perspective plans on social transformations. There could be several dimensions to it. Let us begin with current projections for solar energy in India to reach 100 GW of installed capacity by 2019. Undoubtedly, a new chapter in solar energy development has been started in our country since the launch of the JN National Solar Mission (JNSSM), yet there are uncertainties in the path for development and selection of technologies. Schemes of solar PV generation plants, CSP and Solar thermal are increasingly being announced

At the beginning of the current in 2010, total solar capacity added to less than 50 MW. To reach a 2000 times growth, the scale of operation has to change. In an report which appeared in Down to Earth ‘Solar Threat to Sambhar’ by Ankur paliwal1. Talking about solar ultra mega solar power plants of matching capacity as that of coal i.e. 4000MW specific concerns have been expresses about ecological damage and Chandra Bhushan rightly observed that it may turn out to be an accident. A lot of time and money would have been invested until then. Transparency in the policies of the Government has been promulgated. Availability of resources like; land, finances, PV modules and impacts on imports & ecology of the region (survival of the salt lake itself)  as well as matching source of energy to provide 24x7 power supply all are questionable. The social transformation is inevitable. There will be possible solar rooftops, micro grids and decentralization of power. It would impact each citizen to achieve the target. The way we use electricity would change. The building industry would have to undergo a sea change from current consumerism perspective to zero consumption perspective.

The second example can be from transportation sector. Transport sector is becoming a major contributor of air pollution and CO2 emissions adding to and causing climate concerns. For mitigating climate change in transport sector, an approach to avoid-shift-improve-has been proposed as a solution2.

Avoid - would mean that city are planned in a manner that it requires less mobility in reaching the place of work or performing other daily chores. The advent of oil in 20th century has led to immense increase in the mobility of societies. Discovery of Internet has been seen as a possible means to minimize or avoid transport by suggesting concepts such as Work-from-home and Video conferencing etc.

The Shift - would be from Private to Public mode of transport and also increased uses of non-motorable transport such as bicycle. It would require social transformation in terms of the way we live and perform our various functions. The modal shift from personal to public transport such as Rail, Metro etc. would require city planners to put their minds in finding appropriate solution.

Improve - to address the transport technologies so that their contribution to pollution decreases by reducing emissions and increasing their efficiency. New technologies which can work on CNG or biofuels or Hydrogen as fuels are also becoming desirable. Use of these would result in social infrastructural changes from the current mode of living.
The third example of social transformation is from Governance. The Governance has a major role in implementing Climate Change Action Plans. The governance can introduce analysis on co-benefits for the society to adopt to change. The climate change scenario is demanding new policies and regulations. Government need to develop strategies and facilitate response to climate change emergencies and apprise the communities to take action.

Existing institutions and other professional bodies assume greater responsibility in this regard. The institutions perform key functions in synthesizing information about climate change and make the communities aware of consequences of their action. Role of institutions in coordinating with different stakeholders and in capacity building becomes a significant. No doubt thr climate change is a complex issue, requiring actions on many fronts which are having long-term implications and therefore sustainable governance would be is the key to social transformation.