Climate Change and Leadership


Are humans any smarter than frogs in a pot? If you put a frog in a pot and slowly turn up the heat, it won’t jump out. Instead, it will enjoy the nice warm bath until it is cooked to death. We humans seem to be doing pretty much the same thing.

Jeff Goodell, American author

Dear Reader, I wish you a lovely 2016 full of good health and cheer.
Happy New Year 2

Driving home from office the other day, I was drawn to an interesting talk show with an astronaut who has been to the International Space station (ISS) three times. As he spoke of his experiences, some of the things he said resonated with me.

The astronaut spoke of a huge perspective shift that occurred for him as he watched Earth below him. Even though the ISS, moving at a speed of 28000 Km. per hour, circles the mother planet once in one and a half hours, he never tired of seeing the ever-changing hues of blue of the oceans, green of the land and the brown of the desert and mountains on the daylight side and the twinkling lights of human habitation on the night side. But what he really saw was the connectedness of everything – the water, the land and the atmosphere. What he also saw was how human activity was creating pollution and shrinking the natural habitats. In that moment he saw the sheer artificiality and futility of borders, nations and differing ethnicities.

Earth from space

***

The Paris Climate deal is being hailed as a major leap for Mankind. What is it that differentiated this Paris negotiation from the earlier failed one in Copenhagen six years back? To me this success has been all about leadership.

In the words of Stern, a participating climate economist, “Openness and mutual respect were the hallmark of the Paris talks. Great care was taken to ensure that every country, however small or poor was an equal knight on the climate deal round table, was listened to and consulted.”

Paris also saw some very innovative processes being employed.

The Confessionals – As the name suggests, these were confidential spaces, assuring complete privacy, where delegates could speak from the heart with nothing held back.
The Informal-informals – These were small group huddles in the corridors or even on the floor in which delegates were tasked to discuss and remove the “square brackets” of disagreements in the agreement text being drafted.
The Indabas – A Zulu tradition in which large groups of senior delegates, sometimes eighty in number, would gather to thrash out the final remaining disagreements.
The Coalition of high ambition – With the deadline drawing near and the final agreement not yet in sight, the key figure of Tony De Brum of Marshall islands became an unexpected rallying point of more than one hundred nations including the US, EU, Canada and Australia.

As I said earlier, the success of the Paris Climate deal was really about Leadership.

A Leadership of listening to the concerns of every stake-holder nation, big or small, rich or poor. The Confessionals and the Informal-informals allowed this very well.

A Leadership about envisioning and realizing a future that wasn’t going to happen anyway. A future which would restrict the global temperature rise to below 2 deg. C above pre-industrial levels. An alignment of the actions of 200 nations which would steer the world away from a default future of a 5 deg. C temperature rise based on current carbon emission trends. A default future of catastrophic droughts, floods, heat waves and sea level rises rendering large parts of the globe uninhabitable. The Indabas and the Coalition of high ambition supported this aspect.

Climate change 1

CC 2

As President Barack Obama said in a statement post the agreement.

“………………………….A few hours ago, we succeeded. We came together around the strong agreement the world needed. We met the moment.

Because no nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone. And no country, no matter how small, can sit on the sidelines. All of us had to solve it together.

The targets we’ve set are bold. And by empowering businesses, scientists, engineers, workers, and the private sector — investors — to work together, this agreement represents the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got.

I imagine taking my grandkids to the park someday, and holding their hands, and hearing their laughter, and watching a quiet sunset, all the while knowing that our work today prevented an alternate future that could have been grim; that our work, here and now, gave future generations cleaner air, and cleaner water, and a more sustainable planet. And what could be more important than that?………………………….”

***

Using the example of the Paris meet, can the world shift away from the power politics of the G7, the G 20 and the OPEC to a more inclusive forum where all the 200 odd nations have a say and agreements become more consensual?

And like that astronaut in the ISS, can each one of us too seize this moment and rise above our unexamined beliefs and perceptions of Humanity’s divisiveness that has created borders, nations and differing ethnicities over all these centuries and millennia?

In Learning……… Shakti Ghosal

Advertisements

21 thoughts on “Climate Change and Leadership

  1. Perspective is a big word that how I wish many particularly politicians and leaders can understand deeply with a heart because just like my country who is suffering calamities all through out the year badly needed changes in terms of so many things. Happy 2016 Shakti, and God Bless.

  2. Like humans are being charged these days with the crime of climate change and poisoning the atmosphere, there were these inhabitants of Earth who nearly 600 million years ago did something similar. First they multiplied geometrically and covered all land masses and ocean / sea surfaces. Yes Sir, sex came long before molecular Oxygen even existed on Earth. That was the Cambrian Explosion; changing the Earth’s atmosphere of one with traces of molecular Oxygen to a gaseous mix where molecular Oxygen became as much as 29%. The Earth was a dark greyish planet as seen from the space those days, unlike the bluish hue created due to light dispersal by molecular Oxygen now (let us not debate about PAX6 gene and interpretation of colours for now, which by the way, you’d know, is the missing link of our evolution theory. “And let there be LIGHT”, didn’t GOD say it somewhere (?) and we all could see!).
    The over-populated autotrophs of that era perished, to say the least. By life flourished in other forms, surely as it would be after the humans are long gone. Difficult to defeat nature, I’d say, even for the human race. Thus the important takeaway here is the central tenet of ever increasing human population, much beyond the subsistence level pegged at 2 billion.

  3. Indeed, interconnectedness is very important and species can only survive till a proper ecosystem exists .Each individual has to be aware of the consequences of their actions.Oh I deleted my further remarks Shakti Ghoshal da.My head is spinning .I am disturbed by what I see happening so close.Period.
    But as a little fish in this vast ocean,let me just do my part.Even if it is a Little Bit.and yes,I thank world leaders and I thank You.and that astronaught..for highlighting the ‘ big picture’. Of interconnectedness.Of taking responsibility.Of being concerned.Cheers!

    • Dear Elizabeth,

      Thank you. I remain positive that Humanity does possess the consciousness and the wherewithal to take the needed steps to save the only home it has.

      Appreciate your comment.

      Shakti

  4. “. . . this agreement represents the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got.” – Very true Shakti, and I must thank you for this insightful, cogent and optimistic article. Nonetheless, it must be said that the agreement is full of holes and has been met with a deluge of criticism from those without political reputations to protect and legacies to preserve – others can be blamed should it be proven to have failed in decades to come. My fear, and that of the agreement’s critics, is that it is yet another example of today’s politicians making obligations for others to keep in the distant future, and even then, the obligations and language in which they are couched is wooly at best, and dependent upon technology not yet invented. All that said, it is an encouraging sign that nations’ leaders can work together, if only at this stage in terms of paying lip service. Whilst the United Nations has been a spectacular failure in terms of being a proto from of world governance, we can only hope that our species is moving towards just that – collective governance – in centuries to come, if indeed they are to come for our species.

    See: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/james-hansen-climate-change-paris-talks-fraud

    • Dear Hariod,

      As always, I need to convey my deep appreciation of the very perceptive comment you have brought into this space. It made me think just like it would make other readers to do the same.

      Indeed the Paris Climate deal is far from perfect and, as you have said, contains significant gaps allowing for non-compliance by countries. But to me the deal occurs as Humanity’s first step towards recognising a problem and aligning to live into a common created future of a better world. That is why I believe it is a significant step. I also believe that the very effort by all concerned to live into such a future would shift the focus from ‘policing’ to determine the deal breakers to supporting such non-compliance incidents in a bid to determine the underlying concerns and taking unified steps to sort those out. This I believe is the essence of empowered leadership which would allow Humanity to overcome the challenge of Climate change. My post thus has not focussed on the merits of the climate deal per se but rather on the underlying aspects of Leadership which holds out the best promise of success.

      Shakti

  5. Hi Shakti,

    Thank you for New Year wishes. I wish you too a wonderful 2016.
    I love that quote…human beings seem to be going the same way not because they enjoy it but because they are too self-centered and apathetic.

    Environmental issues concern each one of us and therefore call for the involvement of each and every individual; at whatever miniscule level we can contribute. Leadership does make a huge difference if the leader possesses the strength and the inclination to rise above petty interests.

    You have very subtly pointed out how innovative ideas can bring about realistic changes. I appreciate the holistic view your musings have unfolded and yes, perceptions make all the difference.
    -Balroop

    • Hi Balroop,

      I agree. Leadership in such situations is all about ‘being Cause in the matter’ and ‘being committed to something bigger than oneself’. As you say, rising above petty interests shows up in the space of these two foundational aspects of Leadership.

      Thank you for your kind acknowledgement of the post. I truly appreciate.

      Shakti

  6. Happy new year to you. I’m about to teach about climate change again, the girls are amazed at what we humans have done or do to our planet, some ask why? I normally say that one person is sensible, however people are stupid, they make the wrong choices ( for many different reasons). Some don’t care about climate change I think that’s the scariest. I try to make them think about it & think about what small things they can do.
    Thanks for your musings they make me think about things too.

    • Hi LucyAnn,

      I am so delighted to know that you have ‘joined the cause’ and would be teaching about climate change. Bravo! I wish you great success.

      I suppose the issue boils down to a general lack of awareness relating to the immediacy of the impact of climate change on our lives. This aspect needs to be worked on through teaching (like what you are planning) and media exposure.

      Shakti

      • The problem is my hands are a little tied, in what I teach, with everything that’s going on a the moment in the news , they will hopefully see more of s link this year. We are looking at temperature rises due to reflection & radiation in the atmosphere & earths surface.

  7. Perspective is such a huge word! Somehow we have to get a safe middle ground where we can all meet. Nobody sees things the same way. I remember a quote I saw a while ago: “I stopped explaining myself when I realized people only understand from their level of perception”. I get frustrated with the tv when I see politicians act like they are brain dead and yet are they not just acting at the level of their perception? Scary…Makes you wonder what kind of world they live in in their heads. Unless we are taught how to understand the meaning of perception how can we possibly know there are other ways of viewing life? I am beginning to think poor education plays a major part in where we are today and sadly that is connected to ones economic status. So if we look at those two things and look for the common ground that connects them we can finally get to the core called EQUALITY. Until we demand equality for all on every single level around the world, nothing much will change. Just to complicate things, I guess you could go deeper still and arrive at EGO…The endless fall down the rabbit hole…Lots of work to be done still…Gentle peace to you Shakti and may you have an enlightened new year ahead! VK 🙂

    • Hi VK,

      As always you have brought in some wonderful thoughts and perspectives. Thank you for that.

      Indeed ‘Perspective’ is a huge word. It really is all about our occurring world.As we look at situations and events, it is how they show up in our occurring world which leads to what thoughts come up, what is it we perceive, and how we act and behave. So really there is no judgment of Right and Wrong that we need to make here; on the other hand we need to hold the awareness that when people do not agree or accept our contention about something, it is because the situation occurs for them differently. This awareness in itself can create space in our interactions and allow us to find the best way to get an alignment of different stakeholders. I believe the success of the Paris climate deal was to a large part due to many leaders holding such a raised awareness of what I am speaking of.

      So yes, there is a lot of work that needs to be done and yes, it is important for us to keep the EGO out of the way if we are to remain non-judgmental about what is right and wrong.

      Dear VK, once again I truly appreciate your presence in this space.

      Shakti

    • Hi Bikramjit,

      Thank you for the comment.

      At times, we humans become so self obsessed that we do start taking everything else for granted. And we also somehow continue to hold a belief that whatever is happening out there, would not affect us. So indeed, each one of us need to work on the aspect of good sense prevailing.

      Shakti

    • Hi Robin,

      I hope so too. And I remain confident that the Homo Sapiens species would once gain rise to the occasion, just as it has done so, so many times in the past.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.

      Shakti

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s