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Why Modi can’t ignore teen activist’s message on climate change

A sign showing support for Greta Thunberg’s climate change activism, pictured in Berlin.

A teen activist has a message for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on climate change.

Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old climate change activist from Sweden, has become a global youth icon in recent months with her small act of solidarity for climate change. skipping school to protest outside the Swedish Parliament – an act which became a global talking point. In just six months she has become an inspiration for children elsewhere in the world, who are holding similar demonstrations to raise the narrative for awareness over an impending calamity.

Greta Thunberg, pictured in 2013. Image credit: Jan Ainali [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
In December 2018, she had created quite a storm with her sharp words at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. In an address to the world leaders at the summit, she said, “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is. Even that burden you leave to us children. Our civilisation is being sacrificed for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making enormous amounts of money. You say you love your children above all else and yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes.”

“It is time for India to understand climate change is real and its disastrous consequence can’t be ignored”

Now Greta has put the onus on Prime Minister Modi to step up in the fight against climate change.

In a video message posted on Twitter by Brute India, Greta said, “Dear Mr Modi, you need to take action now against the climate crisis, not just talking about it because if you keep going on like this, doing business as usual, and just talking about and bragging about the little victories, you are going to fail. And if you fail, you are going to be seen as one of the worst villains in human history in the future. And you don’t want that.”

Greta’s message leaves a looming question: will the Prime Minister pay heed? Will her message bring her “school strike for climate” to India? Nonetheless, it is time for India to understand climate change is real and its disastrous consequences can’t be ignored.

“The fatal consequences of climate change have been witnessed in a number of natural disasters”

India ranks 14th in the Global Climate Risk Index, and the fatal consequences of climate change have been witnessed in a number of natural disasters, ranging from the ‘Himalayan Tsunami’ to last year’s Kerala floods to catastrophic heatwaves in 2015 and 2016 which affected millions and claimed thousands of lives.

Copyright: ajijchan / 123RF Stock Photo
Floodwaters in the Kuttanad region of Kerala. Disasters such as flooding are likely to increase unless India steps up in the fight against climate change.

Last year’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report shows India is on the brink of disaster if inaction continues. Should current trends continue, India may face disastrous consequences.

The report says that the impact of a 1.5-degree centigrade increase in global temperatures will “disproportionately affect disadvantaged and vulnerable populations (like India). It will not only impact sea level across its coastline, but the country’s northern areas will also bear the brunt of rising temperatures.”

The impact of climate change was further laid bare in the Economic Survey 2018. The report admitted that ’climate change might reduce farm incomes by up to 20-25 percent in the medium term’. In a nation that sees thousands of farmer suicides every year, it’s worrisome news. The survey added, “extreme temperature shocks reduce farmer incomes by 4.3 percent and 4.1 per cent during kharif and rabi respectively, whereas extreme rainfall shocks reduce incomes by 13.7 percent and 5.5 percent.”

In June last year, the World Bank warned that over 600 million Indians will be moderately or severely affected by climate change due to rising temperatures and erratic rainfalls. India’s GDP may fall by 2.4 percent, and livings standard for more than half the population will be lowered.

India is taking small measures to tackle the impending crisis. Its entry into the Paris Agreement is demonstrative of a commitment to tackling climate change. However, what has been done so far is likely not to be sufficient to avert the disasters experts have warned us about. A lot more is required, and it will be a combined responsibility of government officials at the state and central levels, the private sector and the common people to help save the country.


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