WORLD CLIMATE SIMULATION HOSTED BY :CLIMATE INTERACTIVE, CLIMATE WEDNESDAY AND UNIVERSITY OF MOHAMMED IV POLYTECHNIC
To a majority of people, Climate Change is simply two words which begin with the letter ‘C’. In other words, Climate Change is an abstract phenomenon— Something akin to only developed nations. Perhaps this misconception exists because our major concern as a country is not Climate Change. People are dying of hunger, why should the emphasis be on abstract things, which may only happen during the apocalypse?
But a great percentage of the glacial ice on Mount Kilimanjaro has disappeared, rivers are either over flooding or drying up, deserts are waltzing into our farm lands and the sun is glaring more angrily that slathers of sunscreen cannot prevent the evident burns on the skin. The most dreadful reality is that these impacts are expected to intensify in the coming decades.That sounds pretty much like the dawn of the apocalypse!
Despite the fact that the African continent has contributed the least to anthropogenic factors causing climate change, Africa is the worst hit. If the earth is lost to climate change, there would be no place to gloat over our victory, when we eventually win the fight against poverty.
On the 20th of September 2016, during the World Climate Simulation held in Lagos, I was one of the delegates representing India.
To depict signs of global wealth, developed countries had better position in front, with well decorated tables, while the developing countries were relegated to a corner in the back of the room. Though it was role play, I could feel the weight of every decision we made on my slender shoulders. The citizens were looking up to us to make the right choices. We had to set our own fossil fuel emissions targets: In what year will emissions of heat-trapping gases in the country stop growing?, In what year will emissions begin to decline and at what rate? The target is to limit global temperature rise to 2°C.
It may sound simple but considering the social, geographical, economical and political dynamics of the country, it was very complex. Our main priority was overcoming poverty. This made me relate with leaders and the critical decisions they have to make within a specific time frame and negotiating with other intimidating countries could be demanding.
Using the C-ROADS computer model, when our pledges were inputed by Dr Travis Franck, the temperature outcome was still above 2°C.He went ahead to explain sea level rise, by draping participants with a blue tarp to show that countries will subsequently disappear one after the other if sea level continues to rise —scary.
It became overwhelming for my team members and I, at some point during the simulation.Thankfully, Dr. Grace Mwaura, who played the optimistic UN Secretary General was on hand to encourage and guide.
Her explanation of the bathtub analogy was very insightful. The planet is like a bathtub with a big faucet and a small drain. Due to the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere combined with the current gas emissions, the bathtub is almost full.
If it eventually overflows, reducing the rate of emissions wouldn’t help much, it will take a very long time before the drain empties. Therefore, reducing emissions of greenhouse gases now might help slow the pace of climate change. The longer we wait to reduce emissions, the harder it becomes to meet goals. World Climate was engaging and interactive. We were able to negotiate, calculate, strategize. We were able to vent our feelings, our frustrations, make mistakes, correct them and above all cultivate a sense of possibility and hope.
It was a good learning experience. Initially, when I filled the presurvey form, most of the questions were not relatable but at the end of the simulation, when I was given the post-survey form, I could confidently say that I wanted to reduce my carbon footprint. I knew more about the science, economics and politics as it relates to climate change and this information will be diffused to others who feel alien to this challenge.
It pleases me to say that there were more women than men in attendance. Lack of women in decision-making prevents us from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation. Business cannot continue as usual when we are the most hit during climate change related disasters. We can also encourage sustainable practices at the community, national and international levels.