Mahatma Gandhi and Confucius

By Rajendra Shende, Chairman TERRE, and former director UNEP

‘Future depends on what we do today’- That’s the quote of Mahatma Gandhi displayed on Indian Pavilion at UN Climate Change Conference in Madrid known at COP 25.

It was clear to me, that what the world is doing today to our planet’s climate does not match with the future that we want. There is a total mismatch and misalliance. A quarter of the century has starkly and vividly displayed discrepancies in actions, disparities in targets and divergence in plans. The future is falling in cracks and gaps.

In 1994, the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force and since then during the 24 global conferences of Parties (countries that have ratified the Convention) to UNFCCC have negotiated relentlessly without moving towards the targets. The key target of the UNFCCC was to ‘”stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. That was when CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was around 350 ppm. Today it is 415 ppm, with no sign of stabilization. Clearly negotiations have failed.

In 2015 at COP 21 in Paris, the world leaders decided to act in unison to voluntarily declare their emission reduction targets, totally deviating from the earlier two decades of the practice of getting commitment to emission reduction only by the developed countries. The aim was to hold the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to ensure that efforts are pursued to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.

It was versioned that such collective action would make a difference. The fact is, since then the temperature along with CO2 concentration has continued to rise. The temperature increase now is touching 1 deg C. We are back in the jungle of negotiations and our climate-communication-cries have proved to be wailings in the jungle.

China in COP 25 invited me to speak in their pavilion on “Climate Communication and Public Participation’. I started my presentation by stating that our climate communication approaches and strategies have failed us

repeatedly and we need to reimagine the communication and disrupt the present practices. If not we certainly will be engaged in insane exercises.

One of my slides stated that ‘ Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different results’.

‘Climate Communication Revolution 1.0’ – was about informing the planetary dangers of the rise in temperature in terms of the qualitative probability, based on the IPCC report. Climate Communication 2.0 was about conveying the dangers of climate change, and the message that ‘climate change is already here’, with the quantitative probability, again based on the IPCC report. Climate Communication 3.0, the present scenario, is about quantifying the deaths, climate refugees, economic losses, extreme events, heat bombs and even risk of not meeting SDGs.

I emphatically made the point in my presentation that Climate Communication 4.0 will not be limited, as imagined by many, as ‘digital communication’. It would be about ‘ actionable communication.

Because, communication is not about what is conveyed, nor it is about what is heard. It is about what kind of actions the people take after the message was delivered.

I quoted Confucius, a Chinese ancient philosopher who famously said: ‘ I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand’. Let us make people understand by ‘doing’. The actions should form the waves of communications that would generate more actions which in turn would result in further communications. The script of communication would be alphabets of actions.

This exactly is the approach of Smart Campus Cloud Network -SCCN, a global network of University campuses where the mantra is ‘ Learning by doing and communication by actions’. See ‘’

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