Climate change accord
It is never easy to shepherd almost 200 countries towards a common goal. After all, political will also is a renewable resource. But, miraculously, a historic climate change deal was inked when politicians, scientists, regulators and lawyers debated over several days in December.
India was such a key player in these talks and most believed that the country can make or break a deal. In the end, India not only seems to have managed its immediate development-oriented interests but also adroitly worked on its PR that got a lot of praise.
The biggest agreements were on three fronts namely, Limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius; Better carbon mitigation level; and Climate Finance.
It is about time that more serious action is taken around global climate patterns. It has been a crazy year in 2015. In California, there is such a long-lasting drought that agricultural production has been severely affected, and residents have new restrictions on watering lawns and on the amount of water consumed per household. Closer home, Chennai saw the worst rains and floods it has seen in 100 years and the economic as well as societal damage is still being calculated. Indonesia and Singapore have to contend with smog and many ski slopes in Europe have had much less snowfall.
So, the climate for climate change has been good so far, but political posturing, growth demands and population needs shouldn’t compromise the solutions.
European Migration Crisis
2015 saw the worst human migration crisis since World War II. More than a million (four times as many as in 2014) migrants went to Europe alone. Sparked mostly by ISIS and the ensuing civil unrest in Syria, people have left behind everything and risked all to seek a better life elsewhere. European countries seemed to be the preferred destination – based on social support systems and quality of life.
Many have made the ultimate sacrifice. Since October, there have been more than 450 deaths at sea – an average of more than seven a day – from people trying to reach the shores of Europe in small, unsafe boats. Like with many crises, the best and the worst of humanity showed itself. Contrasting with images of a 3-year boy’s body washing ashore and some Mayors spewing vitriolic statements, were images of citizens providing food, clothing, shelter and a safe passage towards other destinations. The current perceptions and prejudices around Muslims and links to terror haven’t been helping easy assimilation.
Germany stood out not only for the scale of accommodation of migrants, but also, for the forceful moral leadership showed by Angela Merkel (TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year). Things seemed to have slowed down towards the end of the year, but unless there is a solution to the ISIS / Syria problem, 2016 will see a resurgence.
Sadly, terrorism was alive and well in 2015
Throughout 2015, there were several coordinated terrorist attacks all over the world. Terrorists carried out several attacks in Paris killing more than 130 people. This prompted global outpourings of outrage, sympathy and condemnation. The strikes highlighted a disturbing and dramatic increase in the number of large-scale terrorist attacks — and raised uncomfortable questions about why some deaths receive so little attention from media – especially in the West.
According to research from the University of Maryland in the US, the number of strikes killing more than 100 civilians averaged about 4.2 per year between 1978 and 2013. In 2014, that figure skyrocketed more than 500 per cent, to 26. In the first half of 2015 alone, there were 11 more. The majority of the attacks have taken place in Africa and the Middle East – although the attacks in California recently received more coverage.
All these have not only led to a heightened sense of alert around security, but also brought to the open both ignorance and prejudice against select groups – most notably Muslims. US Presidential candidate Donald Trump is even calling for a complete ban on Muslims entering the US. Just when the world started breathing a sigh of relief that Al Qaeda is on the wane, organisations like ISIS have taken the terrorism focus to completely new disturbing levels.