It is ironic that while on one hand the world is grappling with global warming triggered by climate change, the world's major powers are scrambling to profit from its consequences in the fragile Arctic zone. There is a deliberate effort to minimize the dangers of the melting of Arctic ice, which may affect the chemical composition of the world's oceans, raise sea-levels, affect ocean currents and thereby weather patterns across the globe, including our own monsoons, which are vital to our survival.
It is well established that the challenge of global climate change cannot be addressed unless there is a worldwide, accelerated and strategic shift from production and composition patterns that rely on carbon based fossil fuels to those based on renewable sources of energy such as solar power and clean sources of energy such as nuclear power. And yet, all available evidence points to fossil fuel use not only continuing but being significantly expanded in the coming years.
The British economist, Lord Nicolas Stern recently pointed out (Financial Times , December 8, 2011) that the world's largest coal, oil and gas companies are basing their current operations and future plans on the assumption that there will be no barriers to rising emissions from fossil fuel use, despite this being the stated policy of both governments and companies. The unseemly rush for Arctic resources is just the most glaring example of this. The ongoing multilateral negotiations on climate change under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change may soon become irrelevant.
The industrialized countries lose no opportunity to preach a low carbon growth strategy to developing countries like India on grounds that this is globally responsible behavior. And yet their actions, including in the Arctic, demonstrate their intention of intensifying their own carbon intensive life styles.
The depleting rainforests in the Amazon basin in Latin America, Central Africa and the Indonesian archipelago have been declared “global commons,” on grounds that their preservation is vital to maintaining the health of the global eco-system. These ecological resources, it is argued, cannot be treated as exclusive national resources by the countries in which they are located. The rest of the world has a legitimate interest in their being managed in an environmentally sound manner. By the same token, the preservation of the extremely fragile ecology of the Arctic, whose disturbance may adversely affect the survival of peoples across the planet, is of vital concern to the international community. The Arctic Ocean is as much a “global commons” as is the Antarctica. Non-Arctic countries like India need to assert their right to have their say in the management of the Arctic. This cannot be the exclusive privilege of the Arctic littoral countries. India should mobilize international public opinion in favor of declaring the Arctic a common heritage of mankind and sponsoring an international legal regime on the lines of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty.
Role for India
There may be many voices in the country