G7 meeting failed to read LeMay leaflets
Another missed occasion to launch war on GHG emissions
As the G7 leaders leave Japan today after a lot of self-congratulatory messages and statements, it is evident that despite being in Hiroshima for three days, they did not bother to read the LeMay leaflets about climate emergency that they have taken the world to and instead of rapidly launching a war on their own greenhouse gas emissions, they continue to mouth statements of commitments and promises which they never intend to keep.
Before the bombing of Hiroshima, under the orders of American General Curtis LeMay, millions of leaflets were dropped from American military planes warning the citizens of grave consequences of war weapons. The leaflets informed of urgent precautions like safe shelter or evacuation. That was in August 1945.
Come May 2023. Despite being in Hiroshima for three days, G7 leaders did not bother to read ‘LeMay leaflets’ dropped this time by World Meteorological Organisation-WMO. On 17th May 2023, just before G7 meeting, WMO released the crucial report giving loud, clear and life-threatening warning that climate atom bomb is ticking.
Instead of priority and rapid actions to launch a war on their own greenhouse gas emissions, G7 leaders continued to focus on territorial wars and to mouth the statements of commitments and empty promises on climate crisis that they never kept and now do not care to keep. They left Hiroshima after a lofty messages and statements, focussing on Ukraine-Russia war and ignoring the war of planetary scale on climate that in fact they had started and now likely to transform into World War III.
Understanding the tragic history and learning dire lessons of atomic bombing on Hiroshima and Nagasaki could have done an immensely good deed to the world, had the leaders of G7 grouping of world’s richest and most industrialised economies heeded them and applied it in context of climate emergency. Unfortunately, the war on climate change has so far been a vocal one, with little more than platitudes and appeals by these very economies and their leaders who are responsible for the climate crisis and its terrifying impact that the rest of the world, especially the poor countries and Small Island Developing States have been facing for years now.
G7 Summit at Hiroshima was a unique opportunity for the G7 leaders and 8 other invitees, including India and Indonesia, to take measures on war-footing by taking note of WMO’s report. The measures and actions are known for years now. They include cutting of the emissions by their own industry and provide finance and know-how to the developing world that they have been promising for years. Coming just before COP28, advance declaration of war against climate crisis would have been the last effort to save the planet.
Abrupt crises are becoming more frequent as seen in the geopolitics, digital technologies, and global economies. The way out of those crises are however not possible that abruptly. Pandemic of Covid-19 too came abruptly without any early warning and was initially dealt with tentative efforts, by wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping social distancing, till world finally acted by developing vaccines.
Climate crisis, however, does not fall under ‘abrupt’ category. It has been unfolding painfully slowly before the entire world for decades and to refresh the extremely short memories of the G7 leaders, on May 17, 2023, the World Meteorological Organisation gave yet another and the clearest warning that should shake world off its complacency, if any. It is about extreme climate change. Sadly, and surely, this climate-pandemic cannot be tackled by wearing masks, washing hands and not even by vaccine.
Turn the pages of history book back to August 6, 1945. The record shows that it was bright sunny and uncomfortably warm day in Hiroshima in Japan. The residents there were receiving millions of leaflets dropped from the American planes. Those leaflets were warning the citizens that dangerous bombs may be used in the ongoing war and hence they should evacuate the city.
Those leaflets were printed on the reverse side of the paper with the image of currency notes in the front. The leaflets were designed to get the attention of public on dangers of eminent attacks and to shake off their complacency. Interestingly, the leaflets were called as ‘LeMay Leaflets’. Designed by American General Curtis LeMay, they warned the citizens to evacuate the city.
The citizens of Hiroshima, though anxious, ignored the early warnings. They considered the leaflets as part of routine alarms during war period or as enemy’s tactics of scaremongering. There was also complacency that ‘governments are there to take care’. The citizens snoozed!
Then sky literally came falling, on that day, at 08:15. The city was levelled by a bomb dropped on city of Hiroshima from American fighter to create ‘brief reincarnations of distant suns’, as described by some. The uncomfortably warm day became inferno. The world for the first time came to know the meaning of ‘levelling a city to the ground’.
Don’t ignore the LeMay leaflets of 2023
WMO’s latest report is no different to the ‘LeMay’ leaflets of 1945. Contents of that report is the warning of the ticking climate bomb. The official title of the report is a rather banal and neutral Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update. It provides a synthesis of the global annual and decadal ( 5-10 years) predictions provided by the WMO’s several centres spread across the world. Interestingly, report does not suggest the evacuation, but it clearly signals that it is time to shake off complacency.
“There is a 66 pc likelihood that the annual global average temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year”, the report stated. It further adds that there exists 98 pc likelihood that at least one of the next five years, will be the warmest on record in the human history. it further observed. This is the first time that any UN organisation has warned the humanity with such definite prediction amidst chaotic atmospheric chemistry,’’ says the ‘leaflet’.
Other significant observations by WMO include that the El Niño, impact of which increases global temperatures in the year after it develops, would aggravate temperature in December to February 2023-24 and after that. It also warns that the Arctic temperature would be warming is disproportionately high relative to the 1991-2020 average and is predicted to be more than three times as large in the next five winters, in the northern hemisphere affecting Europe, Japan and North America. WOM has also said that the predicted precipitation patterns for 2023 relative to the 1991-2020 average would be extreme high and extreme low.
Unfortunately, there is no possibility of evacuation of citizens to ward them off against the ticking climate bomb. Fact is there is no Planet B where the climate-affected population from Planet A could be evacuated to. Even within planet A, our Earth, a number of governments are not willing to accept the current climate evacuees, in spite of the fact that those governments are the most responsible for the climate crisis. And those seeking refuge have contributed the least to the climate change. In such gross global injustice, perennial inaction till now is predicted to continue.
What should worry everyone after WMO’s latest ‘LeMay’ warning is the observation that global temperatures are likely to enter into uncharted territory. This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared, as noted by WMO’s Secretary General Petteri Talas.
The warning is not only coming with unusual certainty but there is clearer message that the world is failing in its pursuit to meet the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris Agreement calls all the countries to nearly halve the global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050 to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2°C while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5°C. If we fail to achieve this, the adverse and catastrophic impacts and related losses and damages would be beyond the worst imaginations.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has already stated in its special report that climate-related risks for global warming are more life threatening, particularly to small island countries and least development countries higher at 1.5 °C than 2 °C.
“This report does not mean that we will permanently exceed the 1.5°C level specified in the Paris Agreement which refers to long-term warming over many years. However, WMO is sounding the alarm that we will breach the 1.5°C level on a temporary basis with increasing frequency,” said Taalas, while releasing the report. The chance of temporarily exceeding 1.5°C has risen steadily since 2015, when it was close to zero. For the years between 2017 and 2021, there was a 10 pc chance of exceedance. “Global mean temperatures are predicted to continue increasing, moving us away further and further away from the climate we are used to,’’ WMO stated in its report.
From LeMay to Taalas: Leaflets are being Ignored
Unfortunately, through planetary scale climate crisis is knocking at our doors, we are continuing to ignore the ‘Taalas leaflets’, just like the poor citizens of Hiroshima did almost 80 years ago. Large parts of the global population seem set to consider those leaflets as routine alarms or scare-mongering. The complacency is likely to prevail thinking that ‘governments are there to take care’ and the citizens can continue to snooze.
Would the world take these ‘Taalas-leaflets’ seriously? Would the world now get its act together and deploy the mechanisms available to United Nations Security Council, General Assembly and the numerous regional blocks like APEC, G7, G20 and other alphabet soups to take the necessary action to avoid global catastrophe?
There are other leaflets falling down from sky. Fortunately, those leaflets have positive messages. Would world then take note of those advantage of steep fall of prices of renewable energy and accelerate the transformation by deploying digital technologies and AI? Would G20 that represents 85 pc of global GDP, 75 pc of international trade and two-thirds of the world’s population, 80 pc of global greenhouse emissions and 80 pc of world’s forest cover, go beyond ‘faction within faction’ approach, wash off the ceremonious colour to these meetings and start collective ‘evacuation of the inaction’ as response to ‘Taalas leaflets’?
‘How to manual’ to defuse the ticking climate bomb is needed
But did leaders of G 7 and other invitees even bother to read the ‘LeMay’ leaflets dropped by WMO that warned them of ticking climate atom bomb ? The leaflets were dropped just before G7 started. G7 economies are well placed to be first movers on driving down carbon dioxide emissions from their power-chimneys. They can set out a path for the Net Zero for the rest of the world. They can respond to ‘ Taalas Leaflet’ by defusing the ticking Climate atom-bomb , which Japan at that time could not do with LeMay leaflets in 1945.
The world urgently needs a ‘how to’ manual to defuse the ticking climate bomb. The upcoming G20 summit in New Delhi in September and the Cop28 in Dubai in November offer perhaps the last opportunities to start and end writing that manual and acting on it. Else, the whole world may come to resemble what Hiroshima and Nagasaki looked like after those fateful days in August of 1945.
By Rajendra Shende is a former Director UNEP, Former Director Green TERRE Foundation, coordinating lead author ,IPCC that won Nobel peace prize, IIT Alumnus