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November 1, 2007

The tragedy of climate change geopolitics

Why we can’t expect meaningful international co-operation on tackling climate change

Nitin Pai

If the prospects for meaningful international co-operation are bleak, is it all doom and gloom? The first ray of hope is unilateral domestic action: states may be compelled to adopt sustainable environmental policies driven by a largely domestic cost-benefit analysis.

The last time millions of Bangladeshi refugees began pouring into the country, India went to war. Even modest projections put the number of Bangladeshis displaced due to rising sea levels in the range of 17-20 million. A large number of them are likely to head for the higher ground in India. The impact of the migration will be dire not just in the North East, but in several Indian cities, throwing them into turmoil. It’s an alarming scenario, but unfortunately, within the realm of the likely. It is also one that calls for India to have a stake in an international effort to literally change the landscape in Bangladesh.

There is a strong case for India to extend the planning horizon of its strategic affairs establishment to model the long term implications of climate change.

But globally, will it be sufficient for countries to move at their “own time, own target”? It’s hard to say. But the answer is “no” if you were to ask the likes of Al Gore.

Another ray of hope is that the world will achieve multi-polar stability fast enough, and that the need to tackle climate change will hasten this outcome.


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