10 OCTOBER 2018
Time is running out to keep global warming below 1.5°C since pre-industrial era levels
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has come out with a clear scientific consensus that calls for a reversal of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, to prevent severe harm to humanity in the decades ahead. World leaders have been looking for greater clarity on the impact of accumulating emissions on climate. The IPCC’s special report on global warming of 1.5°C, prepared as a follow-up to the UN Paris Agreement on Climate Change, provides the scientific basis for them to act. There is now greater confidence in time-bound projections on the impacts of climate change on agriculture, health, water security and extreme weather. With sound policies, the world can still pull back, although major progress must be achieved by 2030. Governments should achieve net zero CO2 addition to the atmosphere, balancing man-made emissions through removal of CO2. There is public support for this and governments must go even beyond what they have committed to. The Paris Agreement aims to keep global temperature rise in this century well below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the increase even further, to 1.5°C. The IPCC makes it clear that the human and economic costs of a 2°C rise are far greater than for 1.5°C, and the need for action is urgent. Human activity has warmed the world by 1°C over the pre-industrial level and with another half-degree rise, many regions will have warmer extreme temperatures, raising the frequency, intensity and amount of rain or severity of drought. Risks to food security and water, heat exposure, drought and coastal submergence all increase significantly even for a 1.5°C rise.
India, Pakistan and China are already suffering moderate effects of warming in areas such as water availability, food production and land degradation, and these will worsen, as the report says. Closer to a 2°C increase, these impacts are expected to spread to sub-Saharan Africa, and West and East Asia. The prognosis for India, of annual heatwaves by mid-century in a scenario of temperature increase in the 1.5°C to 2°C range, is particularly worrying. There is evidence to show it is among the regions that would experience the largest reductions in economic growth in a 2°C scenario. These are clear pointers, and the sensible course for national policy would be to fast-track the emissions reduction pledges made for the Paris Agreement. The commitment to generate 100 GW of solar energy by 2022 should lead to a quick scale-up from the 24 GW installed, and cutting down of coal use. Agriculture needs to be strengthened with policies that improve water conservation, and afforestation should help create a large carbon sink. There is a crucial role for all the States, since their decisions will have a lock-in effect.
Arrest the exodus
Gujarat must rethink the proposal to limit jobs for migrant workers
Following the horrific rape of a toddler, allegedly by a migrant worker, in Sabarkantha district on September 28, there has been an exodus out of northern Gujarat of Hindi-speaking migrant workers. There have been incidents of “revenge attacks” on them. But while the anger among residents on account of the incident might have been the trigger, there could be much more at play. As in other States, Gujarat is seeing increasing discontent over the lack of adequate jobs for young people. This is reflected in multiple surveys, including a recent Ipsos-Gates Foundation survey which found that Indians were most worried about unemployment (48%), among the countries covered. The CMIE’s unemployment rate monthly time series shows that 4.6% of those surveyed and actively looking for work in Gujarat were not employed in September 2018. This is less than the national average (6.8%), but there has been a relative increase in this number since the previous year in Gujarat. Disquiet over lack of job opportunities has bubbled up in the demand for limiting jobs for migrants and in resentment against ‘outsiders’. The Gujarat government, under pressure from the Opposition, has promised to make it mandatory for manufacturing and service sector companies to hire 80% of their workforce from the State’s domiciles and to reserve 25% of hires for residents from the location.
Based on data since 2011, the Economic Survey in 2016-17 pointed out that Gujarat is among the States, including Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and West Bengal, with the highest net in-migration of workers. The study also found that States that were relatively better developed than the rest of the country were also host to more migrants. It stands to reason that migrants have played a vital role in greasing the wheels of growth in States like Gujarat by providing cheap labour in the many small and medium enterprises in the manufacturing and construction sectors. The fact that industry and commerce associations in Gujarat have complained about the flight of migrants, with the festival season looming, reflects the importance of migrant labour in Gujarat. The State must follow a more holistic policy of creating incentives for firms leading to greater employment, instead of merely dictating higher recruitment of locals. Gujarat is no exception. Nativist arguments against migrants have been too easily used by political forces in various States, from more developed ones such as Maharashtra to smaller States such as Meghalaya, to address resentment over the paucity of jobs. This neither serves the interest of the State concerned, considering the economic role of migrant labour, nor addresses the issue of ensuring job-oriented growth. Apart from steps to arrest the violence against the migrants and stop the exodus, the Gujarat government must commit itself to a facilitating role for job-creation.