(Written by Ajinkya Kawale)
Is there a relationship between wealth inequality and climate change? Can something be done to encourage more people, especially students, to take steps to stop harming the environment?
These were among the topics raised at the panel discussion ‘Climate Change and Inequalities’ at Pune’s second edition of the ‘Night of Ideas’, an annual event organised by the Alliance Française de Pune Thursday.
“Inequality is one of the drivers of climate change. As wealth increases, the affluent tend to recede into green bubbles by turning on air-conditioners or by buying air-purifiers while the marginalised suffer. We try to escape the problem instead of solving it,” said Dr Aseem Shrivastava, a Delhi-based writer and one of the panelists.
Dr Chirag Dhara, a scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, said inequal human interventions result in climate change and this affects everyone unequally. “Climate change and deterioration of environment are among the most crucial threats today. These problems intensify the inequalities between genders, economic classes, cities and hinterlands,” he added.
On the relationship between countries and rising temperatures, Shrivastava said cold countries benefit from global warming while tropical countries are affected. Sanskriti Menon, senior programme director, urban programmes at the Centre for Environment Education in Pune, said certain factors link inequality and geography in climate change. “The way climate change impacts people depends on where one lives or works. Earlier, people living close to Mutha river in the city had to vacate their homes during monsoon as floodwaters were released,” she said.
The youngest panelist at the discussion, Sanyogita Sarin, an 11th-grade student at Orbis School in the city, said there was little awareness about climate change in her peer group. “The Indian education system is the reason behind fewer students caring about the current situation. The system focuses on marks. It teaches us about global warming and depletion of the ozone layer in the context of marks,” Sarin said.
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