Changing Climes


Digital Discourse Foundation

Climate change is the greatest threat looming on the horizons of humanity’s future. Climate change is not a one off disaster or calamitous event like the monstrous Tsunamis that killed hundreds of thousands within a few hours in 2004 and 2011, rather it is an invisible force of nature that is creating havoc on humanity’s fate and lifestyle. Tsunami is usually a geological phenomenon unless triggered by an ice berg melting.

The Paris Accord signed in December 2015 recognises inter alia:

· That “Climate change represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies and the planet and thus requires the widest possible cooperation by all countries, and their participation in an effective and appropriate international response, with a view to accelerating the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions”;

· That “deep reductions in global emissions will be required in order to achieve the ultimate objective of the Convention and emphasizing the need for urgency in addressing climate change”; lest, …

· The Paris Accord notes with concern “that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030; and also notes

· That much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels…” (

Greenhouses gasses, toxic industrial and fuel emissions are increasing global temperatures, cracking ice sheets and glaciers, contributing to sea level rise. This sea level rise which is indeed markedly visible or quantifiable in some parts of the planet is contributing to rise in sea surface temperatures making coastal communities very vulnerable to increase in climate change events… coastal incursion and cyclonic storms wreck-havoc on coastal communities like fishers, eating into their livelihood and food security by decreasing the number of man days or fishing days / fishing hours; fish catch is dwindling.

Coastal communities are extremely vulnerable to extreme weather events like floods, coastal incursions, cyclones, leaving around 75 million people around the Indian Ocean Rim states alone at the mercy of the Ocean; stranded as they are between the Devil and the Deep Sea. Sustainable adaptation like eco-friendly fishing, bioshields (mangrove and littoral forests, coral reefs and sand dunes) conservation will go a long way in mitigation.

Realising the critical role played by Mangroves and littoral forests in mitigating the impact of hydrometeorological calamities, Governments now actively foster and nurse mangrove plantations like this one in the Andaman Nicobar Islands. © Dept. of Information and Publicity, UT Administration of Andaman Nicobar Islands

Climate change induced extreme weather events like Avalanches, Blizzards, Cloudbursts, Coastal Incursion, Cyclones, Droughts, Desertification, (differential impact of) El Niño Southern Oscillation, Epidemics, Floods, Flash Floods, Famine, Forest Fires, Fog, Hailstorm, Hurricanes, Landslides, Mudslides, Sand storm, Sea surge, Storms, squalls, Thunderstorms, Tsunamis, Typhoons, are ushering in change in cropping patterns which will have serious implications on food security of the weak and vulnerable like fisherfolk, indigenous people, children, frail and infirm.

More frequent occurrences of extreme weather will have deleterious impact on all walks of life:

Agriculture will be impaired by frequent occurrences of extreme weather skewing farm output; it will affect near term and long term price mechanism of agricultural produce. This has a bearing on food security for people from all walks of life.

India’s wheat imports in the early 1970s makes for a humbling case of reference. Importing by default an invasive species of toxic grass which came with wheat imports left a trail of public health challenges in the subcontinent. It took decades to weed out Parthenium from the subcontinent.

Microfinance to marketing agricultural produce, sustainable best practices in agriculture to enhancing food security, all the loopholes need to be plugged and streamlined. Water hungry crops like rice are already paving the way for dryland crops like millets.

Communities and future generations in Indonesia and Japan may have to forego rice altogether… an unimaginable trauma for future generations – all because of unsustainable consumption of the present powers that be.

If we do not succeed in decreasing global warming by 20 C by 2030 wheat production around the world will be affected, impacting the food security of millions. More than 20 C rise in global temperatures will leave millions malnourished and it will also imbalance international trade, agricultural subsidies as well as have drastic public health repercussions.

In order to achieve reduction in emission targets financial compliance in the form of national contribution is mandated in the Paris Accord. A 20 C will leave large parts of South Asia – especially the subcontinent vulnerable to chronic heat waves taking a very high toll of human and animal lives as these articles (, ) by Malini Shankar bring home.

Heat and humidity will take a huge toll of lives of the weak and vulnerable as this report ( vindicates.

Migration of both man and beast on account of climate change induced water scarcity is a logical consequence, yet we are unprepared for it. Interestingly tigers migrated to tropical South Asia only after the last Ice Age or the Glacial Maximum.

It was during the last Climate Change after the Last Glacial Maximum when Global warming melted ice sheets that sea levels rose - ushering in “seasonal monsoons” which supported deciduous broad leaved forests across South Asia. That was when (about 20,000 years ago) tigers migrated to South Asia from the Far East say Climatologists.

Rising sea levels are already triggering mass migration in many deltaic and estuarine regions of the world. Unseasonal weather triggered by climate change can unsettle native wildlife which maybe traumatised during habitat adaptation; this is bound to increase human wildlife conflict, with likely fatalities for both Man and Beast.

Food chain alters for wildlife and staple diets may alter drastically for humanity rendering meaningless agro meteorological wisdom; it portends badly for public health and thereby public finance.

Among the consequences, sociologists count massive socio economic upheavals like homelessness in migrant communities, gender based violence with emerging yet blurring roles for women, and women’s security becomes an issue in migrant labour communities. Economic crimes too will spiral with yawning gaps between haves and have nots.

Other significant changes to demographic profiles like regional population density and political representation will vary significantly with climate change. Obviously climate change calls for far sighted leadership instead of Far Right Leadership.

History is replete with civilisations collapsing because of climate change. Although fool proof documented research is still pending, it is reasonably certain that civilisations like Indus Valley, Kampuchea, Babylon, Chinese civilisation, Egyptian Civilisation etc rose and fell with the high points of climate change.

Apart from forcing change in cropping patterns climate change is also forcing a change in the automobile economy heretofore powered by the fossil fuel industry. Automobile industry being one of the prime triggers of climate change is being revolutionised in a transition to a fossil fuel bereft industrial engine.

While that augurs well for reaching emission targets and mitigation of emissions / pollutants, it also has repercussions – hopefully positively - on enhanced public transport systems, - which in turn will give a fillip to (especially) the emerging economies.

But without adequate transparent governance and planning it will all fall flat. Research and technological applications in industry – like alternate energy sources disciplined enforcement of emission targets, indeed the whole cycle of sustainable development needs to be backed with political will and without partisan favouritism.

Hidden costs and hidden agenda need to be scrutinised by a robust Press as this article ( highlights.

Drought and desertification will lead to depletion of the ground water table triggering water wars. Water borne diseases like diahorrea, cholera, malnutrition, malaria, chikungunya, Dengue, typhoid will destabilise the human development, achieved against all odds since the end of the IInd World War and birth of the United Nations.

Fishing is another sector which will be seriously affected by Climate Change. Extreme weather events change the hydrology of certain geographical areas… Consider this: Flash floods trigger and also result in landslides and mudslides which change the course of rivers and drainage at estuaries and deltas.

Siltation affects the bathymetry and sea surface temperatures of oceans, with changes affecting currents and marine diversity. Low pressure systems impact micro climate and fishing zones, spawning patterns and migration routes of fishes. Like already alluded to, such extreme events affects fisherfolk activity imbalancing the livelihood and food security of not just fishers but also of those who consume fish as their staple diet.

Malnutrition maybe at one end of the extreme impact of fishers’ livelihood security but endocrine / metabolic disorders like Diabetes is at the other end of the nutrition quotient / food security matrix.

Floods leave people - wealthy and not so wealthy, children aged and frail - homeless; leaving them vulnerable to water borne diseases, pestilence, and malnutrition. No part of the planet is spared extreme climate events, but the wealthier nations have the resilience built in with favourable socio political systems that sustain a minimum standard of living without compromising on human development index.

Although the geological perspective of climate change is gaining currency credibly this time the expediency and intensity of anthropogenic triggers of climate change is a reflection of the iniquitous Public Administration that favours the corrupt few at the cost of food and livelihood security of the frail, infirm, weak vulnerable children and indigenous people.

Entire future generations risk an imbalanced economic growth that deprives other denizens of Nature and future generations a means for sustainable development… only because of current unsustainable economic development and unsustainable consumption patterns.

The Paris Accord emphasises capacity building in reducing emission targets and achieving Sustainable Development Goals ( of the United Nations.

What does this mean for you and me?

· Acute water shortage

· Rice in prices of foods and agricultural produce

· Food shortages

· Malnutrition and digestive disorders

· Water borne diseases and infections

· Migration of tropical diseases to higher latitudes and colder climes

· Political instability wars and regional conflicts

· Frequent recurrence of extreme weather events like heat waves, cold waves and super cyclones, flash floods, floods, famine, forest fire etc… all of which will take a very heavy toll – more on the meek, mute and marginalised minorities. Voiceless vote-less wildlife will pay the ultimate price for no fault of theirs – anthropogenic climate change.

How can we stop climate change? There is an interesting read up available on

To Do List to mitigate Climate Change:

Ø Plant millions of trees … it will sink carbon emissions. Take a vow to plant as many trees as your age – every year. In case land paucity strikes you please initiate movements to plant saplings in cemeteries, lake shores, canal shores etc.

Ø Drastically reduce all sources of emissions, including air conditioners – plant more trees instead.

Ø Use alternate sources of energy to reduce emissions.

Ø Adapt and adopt sustainable technologies like LED light bulbs, solar cookers boilers and geysers to cook or to heat water.

Ø Use public transport more than private transport unless unavoidable.

Ø Shun fossil fuel as much as possible.

Ø Advocate and practise car-pooling.

Ø Think of the other creatures – like birds and wildlife which need trees – before felling the trees.


  • The geological perspective of climate change

By Malini Shankar

Digital Discourse Foundation

Bangalore: Dr. M.N. Rajeevan the Director of Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology ( in Pune tells this writer exclusively by email “The Chennai flood was caused due to continuous rainfall activity concentrated over the coastal Tamil Nadu, around Chennai between 28th Nov – and 3rd December 2015.

However, rainfall during 01-02 December at Chennai (around 35 Cm) was an extraordinary event; Recent studies suggest that such heavy rainfall spells are increasing and may increase in future due to global warming. The Chennai flood is caused due to above normal rainfall activity during the northeast monsoon season (October to December). The above normal rainfall during the season was expected as this year is an El Nino year and we can expect above normal NE Monsoon rainfall during El Nino periods” adds Dr. Rajeevan.

El Nino or climate change, the third dimension of the Chennai floods is encroachment of water bodies (courtesy the political class) that act as natural drainage in coastal ecosystems. “T Nagar is an affluent residential suburb in Chennai today but it is built on ponds that were clogged by developers and builders between 1978 and 1981. After the Mumbai flood of July 2005 a committee of which I was a member recommended that water weirs have to be designed and constructed to drain high tide water that lashes the city but remains in the city’s cemented environment clogged and unable to discharge into the sea” said Dr. Arun Bapat noted geologist, speaking exclusively to this writer.

El Nino is a term that refers to the reversal of the normally anticlockwise cold Humboldt Current that hugs the Chilean coast in the South Pacific Ocean and coursing instead in a clockwise motion, thus reversing seasons corresponding to a latitude-longitude calibration right across the whole world. Reversal of seasons brings in unseasonal weather, so if Southwest monsoons are washed out in India North East monsoons compensates for the deficit in south west monsoons.

El Nino is notorious for exacerbating weather systems bringing unseasonal weather almost around the whole world and in places where there is no unseasonal weather, the weather heaves gargantuan impacts.

El Nino exacerbates all hydrometeorological calamities - Avalanches, Blizzards, Cloudbursts, Coastal Incursion, Cyclones, Droughts, Desertification, (differential impact of) El Niño Southern Oscillation, Epidemics, Floods, Flash Floods, Famine, Forest Fires, Fog, Hailstorm Landslides, Mudslides, sand storm, Sea surge, Storms, squalls, thunderstorms and urban floods. Tsunamis triggered by ice berg melt and seamount explosions may also construe hydrometeorological disasters by definition atleast. Overground peat emissions in Indonesia spawn forest fires; and fog in Indonesia being exacerbated by El Nino events of 1998 and 2015 has been documented.

Understanding geological phenomena like El Nino helps documentation so we know better in the future. Sea level rise corresponds to the sinking of riparian deltas thanks to the deposition of silt say the purists.

Quantifying the Subterranean peat emissions of methane from deep underground by source will strengthen the case for reduction in emissions. The melting permafrost formed in Siberia 11,000 years ago is developing massive sinkholes with one being recorded as 70 metres deep and 600 metres in diametre. Hydrometeorological disasters will have increasingly debilitating impact on vulnerable communities and Island States in the decades ahead if emission targets are not met.

That the geological perspective of climate change is significant ( was also supported by a study by School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds which quantified the emissions from Iceland’s Bardarbunga volcanic eruption of summer 2014 @ 120,000 tons of sulphur dioxide gas per day at the onset of its eruption completely outdoing the industrial emissions in Europe.

According to a new study on the subject -- published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, Atmospheres -- the volcano's toxic emissions bested the average amount of sulphur dioxide produced by European industry, by a large margin.

“The eruption discharged lava at a rate of more than 200 cubic metres per second. In the study, we were concerned with the quantity of sulphur dioxide emissions, with numbers that are equally astonishing: In the beginning, the eruption emitted about eight times more sulphur dioxide per day than is emitted from all man-made sources in Europe per day” Dr Anja Schmidt School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds said in a press release ( Its significance lies in emphasising the natural, benign sources of global warming like volcanic emissions.

So does it mean that man-made emissions can be overwhelmed by volcanic emissions? Climate scientists aver and with good reason that anthropocentric emissions of CO2 is hundred times more than volcanic emissions on a year to year basis. It is a thin line of distinction that differentiates the emissions from steam and water vapour in the atmosphere. While volcanic emissions of SO2 cools the atmosphere, <1% of CO2 from volcanic emissions warm the atmosphere according to a NASA website article (

There are many other examples of volcanological perspective of climate change. Lake Toba’s super volcanic eruption 74000 years ago robbed the earth of sun rays triggering the Ice Age.

Krakatau super volcanic eruption in the Java Straits in August 1883 triggered a short term climate change globally, inducing crimson sunsets on the Chesapeake Bay near Washington DC on the East Coast of the United States for months after the super volcanic eruption of 1883.

To think that a volcano in the Java Straits between Sumatra and Java triggered crimson sunsets near Washington DC on Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast / Atlantic Coast of the United States implies that the band of volcanic plume in the stratosphere has painted the skies of the Pacific Ocean and mainland North America orange; it not just inspires awe but commands deeper study of the volcanic perspective of climate change.

In Bengal in India the Sun could not be sighted for a decade. “But a decade after the Krakatau super volcanic explosion”, - seismologists – like Dr. Arun Bapat allude to the transient nature of short term climate change – “wherever the ash of Krakatau had fallen, the agricultural lands became very fertile for six to eight months following the volcanic eruption”.

The Tambora super volcanic eruption in Sumbawa in Indonesia triggered the Year Without a Summer in Canadian Eastern Sea Board in 1815 - 16. It took a decade for the global climate to stabilise after Tambora’s eruption. ‘

Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines in October 1991 cooled the planet by a significant 0. 10 C, clearly establishing the link between global weather and volcanism. “During the 1900s there were three large eruptions that caused the entire planet to cool down by as much as 1°C. Volcanic cooling persist for only 2 to 3 years because the aerosols ultimately fall out of the stratosphere and enter the lower atmosphere where rain and wind quickly disperse them”. (

Lahars flowing from the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines in October 1991. A super volcano, it accunted for global decrease in temperatures that have been estimated variously frm 10 F to 10 C. © GVP of Smithsonian Institutions.

Climate scientists worry at the rapid pace of glacial retreats triggered by fossil fuel emissions and anthropocentric triggers. But geologists are sceptical of glacial retreat being triggered by anthropocentric emissions.

“Last Glacial Maximum Period is also a matter for study. It has been observed that most of the glaciation – there is evidence to suggest that major glacial advancement happened 50 – 55000 years ago, but it is still being worked out, but after that period there have been 3 – 4 periods of glaciations and de-glaciation. Glacial advancement and recession is a climate change cycle. It is not happening for the first time, we have those records. There is a geological cycle to it…” says Professor Rameshwar Bali Associate Professor of Geology at the Centre of Advanced Studies in Geology, Lucknow University in India.

“…For us in the Indian subcontinent global warming is not as bad as global cooling because then the monsoons and economy will be severely affected. Monsoons happen because of summer warming but if the summer temperatures cool, monsoons are affected, impairing our economy and the whole cycle of seasons in Asia. So global cooling is more dangerous to tropical countries as the entire economic cycle will be affected by global cooling and inadequate monsoons. Entire Indian Ocean rim countries will be affected” says Professor Bali during a discussion with this writer for my book research of “Preparing for the Day After” (

Retired Dean of Institute of Socio Economic Change ( Professor R. S. Deshpande says “modelling micro climate for long period average is difficult given that micro climate itself is affected by terrain, waterscape, landscape, humidity, precipitation (rainfall / snowfall) wind speeds etc. Lat long calibration of long term global climate is correspondingly diverse. Climate change has over the millennia shaped climate change adaptation - change in cropping patterns and consumption of agricultural produce”.

The earth’s axis varies between 220 and 24.50 according to the Milankovitch Cycle Milutin Milankovitch, a prisoner of Stalinist Russia in Siberia during the 2nd World War hypothesized that the speed of the earth’s revolution on its elliptical orbit is altered by the velocity of the earth’s rotation on its axis once in about 41000 years triggering a change in the angle of the earth’s tilt from an elliptical to circular orbit… thus making climate change inevitable.

This change in the tilt of its axis alters the amount of Sun’s radiation falling on earth – accounts for change in seasons drastically in the middle and higher latitudes (Our Changing Climate Fall 1994 – Volume 4 by Dennis Hartmann, University of Washington. Such changes inevitably have impact on zoological and biological diversity.

(Zoological perspective of climate change and its impact in South Asia)

Speaking exclusively to this writer, Professor R. Sukumar of the Centre for Ecological Sciences at the premier Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, said “Climate change is an ongoing phenomenon over the past millions of years. Between the Pleistocene Era (around 2.6 million years ago to about 10,000 years ago) which marks the beginning of the Holocene era there were about 25 periods of glaciation and inter glaciation with warmer climes lasting shorter periods.

The Last Glacial Maximum being the coldest period of glaciation occurred about 20,000 years ago. The cooling trend would have started much before that. Cold periods were also arid periods as rainfall declined. During such cold periods the tropical moist forests would have shrunk or contracted to small areas. … These places are referred to as Pleistocene Refugia. In India only two such shrunk places were there … in the extreme southwest and northeast of the subcontinent. Elephants were confined to these refugia during extremely cold periods.

The rest of India was arid scrub land or savanna ecosystems supporting fauna such as ostriches that can thrive in such ecosystems … (incidentally, giraffes were found in the subcontinent during the early Pleistocene while tigers entered the subcontinent from the Far East only after the climate warmed up after the Last Glacial Maximum - … somewhere between 20000 to 10000 years ago). This global warming would have facilitated an expansion of tropical moist forests on account of strengthening of the monsoon, and thus these more productive ranges of habitats would have supported a somewhat different faunal diversity.”

Mammals like apes, antelopes, bats, cheetahs, wild dogs, elephants, ostriches, rhinos, wild dogs, hippos, giraffe, reptiles like snakes, crocodiles, etc have all been documented by studies of Kurnool Caves by G.L. Badam et al ( Interestingly Asian Elephants started moving out of Pleistocene Refugia in extreme southwest (Southern Western Ghats) only when the climate became warmer supporting tropical broad leaved forests.

It seems like the fauna found in Africa today were all once endemic to the Indian subcontinent too, but have gone locally extinct … as a geomorphological adaptation of climate change.

What is not so easy to comprehend is the cyclical pattern of El Nino. The pattern of the notorious El Nino cycles desperately needs to be studied accurately, if only to be prepared for the catastrophic impact the geological cycle has on agriculture, fishing, food security and global economy. Given its varying cycles and its differential impacts on micro climate right across the world, modelling El Nino triggered extreme weather globally has become the greatest challenge of our times.

Could it be that volcanic eruptions in the South Pacific Gyre plausibly determine the course of currents accounting for reversing the normally anticlockwise course of the Humboldt Current on the west coast of Chile in the South Pacific? It thus alters the normal course of hydrometeorological cycles right across the world offsetting the hydrology and currents in each Latitude and Longitude… accounting for the variations in agro meteorology, fisheries, shipping, and global economy.

The role of seamounts in the South Pacific Ocean in warming the waters of the South Pacific Ocean and also in reversing the normally anti clockwise cold Humboldt Current to a clockwise rotation demands credible attention too (

It is only when we understand the geological perspective of climate change can we do accurate justice to mitigation.

Geological Perspective of climate change Kannada.pdf

Geological perspective of climate change (in Kannada)

Expert Interview of Mr George Grinson, CMFRI: Impact of climate change on fisheries (Audio):

Expert Interview of Mr George Grinson, CMFRI: Impact of climate change on fisheries (Text)

Dr. Grinson George Fisheries scientist of Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute in an email interview with Malini Shankar, Digital Discourse Foundation

1. What has been the average annual fish landing in India state-wise for the last 1.5 decades … say from the year 2000? In 9 maritime states and 2 UTs: On an average for India we are producing nearly 3.5 million metric tonnes.

2. Do you see a change in fish landing in these years? We do see changes in marine fish landing pattern. This change is observed since we started collecting the data and inferred based on the historical time series. It is termed as inter annual fluctuation in fish landing. Our Institute ICAR-CMFRI was established in 1947. Within a decade we standardised the procedure for collecting fish landing data from all nine mainland maritime states and two UTs (Daman and Diu and Puducherry). The methodology developed is vetted by the FAO of the UN. If we look into the fish landing data, since 1950s onwards we can see this inter-annual fluctuation occurring in marine fisheries. This is a natural phenomenon … some species increase and some others may decrease. On an average there is an increasing trend since 1950.

3. To what do you attribute the decreasing fish landing year wise in the past few years? Not true. The decrease in fish landing is only relevant data after 2012 for a short period of three years recently. During 2013, 2014 and 2015 there was a decreasing trend in national landing data, but again in 2016 there is a slight recovery. Despite El Nino, during 2015 fish landing data at national level was 3.4 million metric tonnes. In 2012 when the maximum production was reported we produced 3.94 MMT.

4. How did El Nino of 2015 affect fisheries in South Asia? Please give me detailed data state-wise for India, country wise for SAARC countries and a generic perspective on the Indian Ocean fisheries. If we see the data for 2016 it’s a 6.6% increase compared to 2015. The fall in landing in 2015 was mainly because of the decrease in landing of Indian Oil Sardines a pelagic fish species dominant in Indian marine fisheries. We don’t have data for SAARC countries country wise.

5. Why has fish landing in Gujarat increased while that in Kerala has receded to the 4th place in the last 5 years? Is the delta ecosystem of the Indus a factor in increasing fish yield on the coasts of Gujarat? Or could it be that fish are migrating north to escape the warmer seas near the equator? Gujarat tends to be a dominant fish catching state in India always. But during some years Kerala got the top slot because of bumper catch of Indian Oil Sardines which is the dominant fishery in Kerala waters. Gujarat fishers led on account of catch of demersal species such as Croakers and Sciaenid.

Press Releases:

  • 6 June 2017




Secretary-General: Nations must overcome resource, territorial interests or watch ocean health deteriorate further

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ “Turning the Tide” opening remarks to the Ocean Conference in New York on 5 June:

I thank the Governments of Fiji and Sweden for co-hosting this Conference, and I thank everybody who was involved in its preparation. But a special word of gratitude to the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, for his determination and leadership all the way through that led to this Conference.

We are here today to take decisive action to nurture and protect the lifeblood of our planet. Oceans and seas cover two thirds of our home. Maybe we should change its name from “Planet Earth” to “Planet Water.”

Oceans provide food, energy, water, jobs and economic benefits for people in every country -- even those that are landlocked. They are a crucial buffer against climate change and a massive resource for sustainable development. The health of our oceans and seas is inextricably linked with the health of our planet and all life on earth.

Many nationalities, including mine, have a special relationship with the sea. The truth is, the sea has a special relationship with all of us. It keeps us alive. But that relationship is now under threat as never before. Pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change are severely damaging the health of our oceans. According to one recent study, plastic could outweigh fish – if nothing happens - in our seas by 2050.

Rising sea levels threaten entire countries. Oceans are warming and becoming more acidic, causing coral bleaching and reducing biodiversity. Changing currents will have a serious impact on weather patterns; we must prepare for more frequent storms and droughts.

Fisheries in some places are collapsing. Dead zones -- underwater deserts where life cannot survive because of a lack of oxygen -- are growing rapidly in extent and number. Many species could be extinct within decades. Conflicting demands from industry, fishing, shipping, mining and tourism are creating unsustainable levels of stress on coastal ecosystems.

Numerous reports, global commissions and scientific assessments have described the serious damage to our most vital life support system -- but the situation is getting worse. Governments are not making full use of the tools available to them, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea, and UN Oceans.

We are here today to turn the tide. We created these problems. With decisive, coordinated global action, we can solve them. Sustainable Development Goal 14, the Goal of the Oceans, must be our road map to clean, healthy oceans.

The essential first step is ending the artificial dichotomy between economic demands and the health of our seas. The conservation and sustainable use of marine resources are two sides of the same coin.

Second, we need to promote strong political leadership and new partnerships, based on the existing legal framework. I commend all the signatories of the Call for Action that will be formally adopted this week. Now we need concrete steps, from expanding marine protected areas, to the management of fisheries; from reducing pollution, to cleaning up plastic waste. I call for a step change, from local and national initiatives to an urgent, coordinated international effort. The ongoing work with a view to a legal framework on conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction is particularly important to the future of the oceans and their biodiversity.

Third, we must translate the political will of the 2030 Agenda, the Paris Agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda into funding commitments.

Fourth, we must deepen our knowledge base with better data, information and analysis. We can’t improve what we don’t measure.

Finally, we must share best practices and experiences. Most solutions are local, but many have broader relevance.

The United Nations has a critical role to play. We are committed to providing integrated, coordinated support for the implementation of all the historic agreements of the past year, including the Sustainable Development Goal on the Oceans. I am determined to break down barriers between United Nations agencies and programmes, to improve performance and accountability.

We are already building partnerships with Governments, the private sector, civil society and others, and working with international financial institutions on innovative financing to release more funds. We are harnessing the power of big data to improve the basis for decision-making and accountability. And UN Oceans and the entire United Nations system will continue to play a convening role as a forum for information-sharing, advocacy and the development of international law.

The Portuguese writer Vergílio Ferreira once said: “Da minha língua vê-se o mar (from my language, you can see the sea).” So it is appropriate that my first major United Nations conference as Secretary-General concerns the ocean -- a precious resource for so many countries.

The Swedes were sailing around the Baltic Sea and as far as present-day Istanbul some 1,300 years ago. Fijians were sailing canoes at record speeds and for record distances around the Pacific well before that. A Japanese creation myth tells of how the archipelago was formed from sea water. An Inuit creation myth is centred on Sedna, the Goddess of the Sea.

The sea indeed, belongs to all of us. Improving the health of our oceans is a test for multilateralism, and we cannot afford to fail. We must jointly address the problems of governance that have held us back.

I am aware that there are many obstacles to progress. But we need a new strategic vision. I call on all Member States to engage in the dialogue necessary to define a new model for the future governance of our oceans. Unless we overcome the territorial and resource interests that have blocked progress for far too long, the state of our oceans will continue to deteriorate. We must put aside short-term national gain to prevent long-term global catastrophe.

Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.

Thank you very much.


Media on Demand Documentaries

Secretary-General pledges higher bar on Climate Action, Energy Efficiency, stressing dire consequences of failure to embrace Green Economy

Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ statement, on “Climate Action: Mobilizing the World” at New York University, in New York on 30 May:

I would like to thank everyone at New York University, and especially the Stern School of Business, for your warm welcome and your role in making today’s gathering possible. Let me also thank all of you for being here to discuss the crucial challenge of climate change and how we must address it.

I can think of no better audience -- this wonderful mix of scholars and scientists, students and activists, investors and entrepreneurs -- the people who, together, are making climate action real. And I can think of no better place to have this conversation than here at New York University and the Stern School, where you are dedicated to cultivating solutions and a new generation of leaders.

This notion of intergenerational responsibility is very much on my mind. My grandfather was born in 1875. He could not have imagined the world we live in today. Now I have three granddaughters of my own -- the oldest is 8. I cannot imagine the world they will inhabit decades from now, when they will be my age. But not knowing is no excuse for not acting to ensure that we do not undermine their future.

I want my grandchildren to inherit a healthy world, free of conflict and suffering -- and a healthy planet, rooted in low-carbon sustainable solutions. That is my wish for everyone, everywhere. To get there, we have our work cut out for us.

Allow me to be blunt. The world is in a mess. Countries and communities everywhere are facing pressures that are being exacerbated by megatrends, like population growth, rapid and many times chaotic urbanization, food insecurity, water scarcity, massive movements of population and migration… the list can go on and on.

But one overriding megatrend is far and away at the top of that list -- climate change. Climate change is a direct threat in itself and a multiplier of many other threats, from poverty to displacement to conflict. The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world. They are dangerous and they are accelerating.

And so my argument today is that it is absolutely essential that the world implements the Paris Agreement – and that we fulfil that duty with increased ambition. The reason is three-fold: Climate change is undeniable. Climate action is unstoppable. And climate solutions provide opportunities that are unmatchable.

Let’s start with the reality of climate change today. The science is beyond doubt. The world’s top scientists have been shouting it from the rooftops. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has put it and I quote: “Human influence on the climate system is clear. The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”

If anything, that disruption is happening even faster than expected. Last year was once again the hottest on record. The past decade has also been the hottest on record. Every geophysical system on which we depend is being affected, from mountains to oceans, from icecaps to forests, and across all the arable lands that provide our food.

Sea ice is at a historic low; sea levels are at a historic high, threatening the existence of low-lying island nations and cities. The seas are also being affected by warmer temperatures, rapid acidification and coral bleaching, endangering the marine food chain on which so many livelihoods and economies depend.

On land, glaciers are retreating almost everywhere -- a risk to the breadbaskets of the world as rivers fed by glaciers run dry. Soon the famous snows of Kilimanjaro will exist only in stories. Here in the United States, only 26 of Glacier National Park’s glaciers remain. When it was made a Park in 1910, there were around 150. I hope you will never have to rename it “no-Glacier National Park”!

Further north, we see an unfolding crisis of epic proportions. The ice caps in the Arctic Ocean are shrinking dramatically. Some even predict that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free by the summer of 2020. That would be catastrophic for Arctic wildlife. It would be a death-blow to the ways of life of indigenous peoples. And it would be a disaster for the world.

Why? Because ice reflects sunlight. Dark water much less. That means warming will accelerate. Frozen tundra will thaw earlier and freeze later, releasing vast amounts of methane into the atmosphere. Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This will mean more ice melting from the Greenland ice cap. It could alter the Gulf Stream and affect food production, water security and weather patterns from Canada to India. We are already seeing massive floods, more extreme tornadoes, failed monsoons and fiercer hurricanes and typhoons.

But slow-motion disasters are also speeding up. Areas where drought once struck every decade are now seeing cycles of five or even two years between droughts. Moreover, dry spells are lasting longer, from California to the Sahel.

The moral imperative for action is clear. The people hit first and worst by climate change are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized. Women and girls will suffer as they are always the most disproportionately affected by disasters.

The nations that will face the most profound consequences are the least responsible for climate change and the least equipped to deal with it. Droughts and floods around the world mean poverty will worsen, famines will spread and people will die. As regions become unliveable, more and more people will be forced to move from degraded lands to cities and to other nations. We see this already across North Africa and the Middle East.

That is why there is also a compelling security case for climate action. Around the world, military strategists view climate change as a threat to global peace and security. We are all aware of the political turmoil and societal tensions that have been generated by the mass movement of refugees.

Imagine how many people are poised to become climate-displaced when their lands become unliveable. Last year, more than 24 million people in 118 countries and territories were displaced by natural disasters. That is three times as many as were displaced by conflict.

Climate change is also a menace to jobs, to property and to business. With wildfires, floods and other extreme weather events becoming more common, the economic costs are soaring. The insurance industry raised the alarm long ago. They have been joined by many others across the business community. They know that the time has come for transformation.

Climate action is gathering momentum not just because it is a necessity but also because it presents an opportunity -- to forge a peaceful and sustainable future on a healthy planet. This is why Governments adopted the Paris Agreement in 2015, with a pledge to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.

I applaud the immense efforts of my predecessor, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who brought the essential stakeholders to the table and helped forge this landmark Agreement.

It is worth taking a moment to step back and reflect on the unity that was forged in Paris. It was a remarkable moment in the history of humankind. The world came together for the first time to address this global challenge collectively. And it did so at a time of division in so many other areas. There has been nothing like it in terms of enabling the global community to work on an issue together that none of us can solve on our own.

Today, it is increasingly understood that implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development goes hand in hand with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience. As of today, 147 parties representing more than 82 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions have ratified the Paris Agreement. Every month, more countries are translating their Paris pledges into national climate action plans.

Yes, not everyone will move at the same pace or with equal vigour. But if any Government doubts the global will and need for this accord, that is reason for all others to unite even stronger and stay the course. It is reason to build ever broader coalitions -- with civil society and business, with cities and states, with academia and community leaders.

Indeed, all around the world, cities, regions, states and territories are setting their own ambitious targets. Thousands of private corporations, including major oil and gas companies, are taking their own action. They know that green business is good business. It is not just the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

Some may seek to portray the response to climate change as a fundamental threat to the economy. Yet what we are witnessing in these early years of a systemic response is the opposite. We are seeing new industries. New markets. Healthier environments. More jobs. Less dependency on global supply chains of fossil fuels.

The real danger is not the threat to one’s economy that comes from acting. It is, instead, the risk to one’s economy by failing to act. The message is simple: The sustainability train has left the station. Get on board or get left behind. Those who fail to bet on the green economy will be living in a grey future. On the other hand, those who embrace green technologies will set the gold standard for economic leadership in the twenty-first century.

Last year, solar power grew 50 per cent, with China and the United States in the lead. Around the world, over half of the new power generation capacity now comes from renewables. In Europe, the figure is more than 90 per cent.

The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. In the United States and China, new renewable energy jobs now outstrip those created in the oil and gas industries. China aims to increase its renewable energy by about 40 per cent by 2020. Major oil producers are also seeing the future and diversifying their economies. Even Saudi Arabia announced plans to install 700 megawatts of solar and wind power. And industry experts predict India’s solar capacity will double this year to 18 gigawatts.

Boosting energy efficiency is also crucial – for reducing climate risk and for increasing profits. The International Energy Agency has indicated that investing in energy efficiency could increase global economic output by $18 trillion -- more than the outputs of the United States, Canada and Mexico combined. Future spending on energy infrastructure alone could total some $37 trillion.

Now if that is the case, it is crucial for such massive investments to be sustainable and climate-friendly; otherwise, we will lock ourselves into bad practices for decades to come.

Given the facts about youth unemployment, air pollution and climate change, surely it is common sense to put our investments where they will generate the most savings, create the most jobs, deliver the biggest health dividends and have the most impact against global warming.

Surely that is why nearly two dozen of the world’s most successful business leaders, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists plan to invest in a fund called Breakthrough Energy Ventures, led by Bill Gates, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with clean energy technology.

It is why green bonds are starting to come in many different shades as the size of the market for securities designed to benefit the environment is on track to double again -- from $93 billion in 2016, to $206 [billion] this year. It is why 60 per cent of the world’s 500 largest asset owners are taking steps to recognize the financial risks associated with climate change.

And it is why more than 7,000 cities in the newly launched Global Covenant of Mayors have agreed to report their emissions and climate progress according to a standard set of tools that are more rigorous than those currently used by many countries. Here I want to salute my Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is showing great leadership in mobilizing mayors and cities to build the resilient and dynamic cities of the future.

Science is speaking to us very clearly about what is happening. Innovation is showing us very clearly what can be done. If we want to protect forests and life on land, safeguard our oceans, create massive economic opportunities, prevent even more massive losses and improve the health and well-being of people and the planet, we have one simple option staring us in the face: climate action.

Today, I call on all leaders of government, business and civil society to back the most ambitious action on climate change for the benefit of this generation and generations to come. [As] Secretary-General, I am committed to mobilize the world to meet this challenge. I will do so in at least five concrete ways.

First, I will intensify high-level political engagement to raise the bar on climate action. The Paris pledges are historic but still do not go nearly far enough to limit temperature rise to well below 2 degrees and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. Commitments so far could still see temperatures rise by 3 degrees or more. So we must do our utmost to increase ambition and action until we can bend the emissions curve and slow down global warming. Most immediately, I will also press for ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Next week’s Ocean Conference at United Nations Headquarters is yet another opportunity to build momentum.

Second, I will rally the full capacity of the United Nations development system behind climate action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially at the country level. Because that is where true change will be achieved. As we support Member States, I will continue to emphasize the urgency of empowering the world’s women and girls. There can be no successful response to a changing climate without also changing mind-sets about the key role of women in tackling climate change and building the future we want.

Third, I will use the convening power of the United Nations to work with Governments and all major actors, such as the coal, oil and gas industries, to accelerate the necessary energy transition. Eighty per cent of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels -- oil, gas and coal. We cannot phase out fossil fuels overnight. We have to engage the energy industry and Governments to use fossil fuels as cleanly, sparingly and responsibly as possible, while transforming our energy systems.

I will work with all actors to promote a global energy transition, the greening of investments in infrastructure and transport, and progress on carbon pricing. More and more politicians, policymakers and business actors are calling for a carbon price as the green economy’s missing link. Putting a price on carbon at a global scale could unleash innovation and provide the incentives that industries and consumers need to make sustainable choices.

Fourth, I will work with countries to mobilize national and international resources to support mitigation, adaptation, resilience and the implementation of their national climate action plans. And I will focus on strengthening resilience of the small island States against the existential threat that climate change poses to them. I will encourage developed countries to fulfil the pledges they have made to support developing countries -- including for the Green Climate Fund.

As a matter of global solidarity, the international community must also help developing countries increase their capacity to generate their own resources and to gain access to capital markets. The international financial institutions have a key role to play to help deliver innovative financing that matches the enormous needs.

And fifth, I will encourage new and strengthened partnerships for implementing the Paris Agreement through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation. We need to harness the enormous potential of these partnerships. In all these areas, I will use every possible opportunity to persuade, prod and push for progress. I will count on the vital forces of civil society to do the same.

Looking further ahead, I also intend to convene a dedicated climate summit in 2019 to make sure we reach the critical first review of Paris implementation with the strong wind of a green economy at our backs.

Let me also stress that my door is open to all who wish to discuss the way forward, even those who might hold divergent perspectives. The climate conversation should cease to be a shouting match.

There will continue to be strong differences about how to achieve our climate goals. Yet it is also clear that the journey from Paris is well under way. The support across all sectors of society is profound. The transition in the real economy is a fact. There will be bumps along the path; that is understandable in a family of over 190 nations. But with everyone’s participation, the world can bring the Paris Agreement fully to life. I look forward to continuing to engage all countries in forging a truly shared vision of the way ahead that leaves no one behind.

Let me conclude where I began -- with all of you and with the power of people to make a difference. Climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat. The arguments for action are clear. So are the immense opportunities for peace and prosperity if we act quickly and decisively.

All of us -- Governments, businesses, consumers -- will have to make changes. More than that, we will have to “be” the change. This may not be easy at times. But for the sake of today’s and future generations, it is the path we must pursue.

This is my message to all the world’s leaders. Students, scientists and others such as you across the world helped to put the climate challenge on the table. If we work together as a global community, we can emerge stronger, safer and more prosperous for our shared future and the future of all of our grandchildren like my three granddaughters.

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