When the UNFCCC was signed in 1992, to great fanfare, carbon concentrations in the atmosphere were approximately 359 parts per million. The aim at the time, crystalized by the Kyoto Accord in 1996, was to keep global warming to within 2°C of pre-Industrial levels in the 21st Century. That aim was made more ambitious by the Paris Agreement in 2016, which set a target of no more than 1.5°C warming by the end of the 21st Century.
It is 2020 and carbon concentrations in the atmosphere are over 410 parts per million - the highest in over 25 million years. Global temperatures have already risen just over 1°C compared to pre-Industrial levels. There are forest fires in the arctic releasing trapped methane and threatening a climate tipping point. Just this year, California in the US and the Amazon rainforest in Brazil witnessed some of the worst forest fires in recorded history. Oceans are acidifying, coral reefs dying. In Pakistan, a national emergency was declared due to a plague of locusts - their breeding spurned by climate-induced wet winters. The earth is currently experiencing a 6th Extinction Event.
Most experts agree that humans have emitted enough greenhouse gases to "lock-in" at least a 2°C temperature increase by mid-century. Global crop failures and societal collapse are expected beyond that. Some worst-case scenarios predict as much as 6-7°C temperature increases by the end of the 21st Century. The sheer devastation and destruction if that happens is impossible to imagine and inconceivable to describe.
This session will introduce the increasingly insurmountable challenges of the climate crisis. It will explain how the failure of the international community to take action will be borne by less resilient - that is, less affluent - countries and societies; and Pakistan in particular. It will dwell on the incoherent domestic climate policies and civil society responses to the climate crisis, both of the Global North and South. And it will provide a vocabulary to those who wish to argue and fight for the survival of human society and civilization.
Ahmad Rafay Alam (Yale World Fellow 2014) is partner at Saleem, Alam & Co., a law firm providing specialization in the water, energy, natural resources and urban infrastructure sectors. He currently serves as a member of the Pakistan Climate Change Council and Punjab Environmental Protection Council. He has served as Chairman of the Lahore Electric Supply Company and Lahore Waste Management Company and as Vice Chairman of the Government of Punjab Urban Unit. Mr Alam lectures business and environmental law at the Lahore University of Management Sciences and modules on water, environment and climate change at the National Institute of Management and Lahore School of Economics. He is the Lead Course Instructor on Water Law at the Punjwani Hisaar Water Institute at the NED University. Mr Alam also serves as an Advisor to Air Quality Asia, a Member of the Hisaar Foundation Think Tank on the Rational Use of Water and is a founding Member of the Lahore Biennale Foundation and Critical Mass Lahore. Last September, Mr Alam helped coordinate the Climate Strikes organized by Climate ActionPK in over 40 cities in Pakistan.
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