Tallat Azim This week climate change commands attention of world leaders as they come together at the Copenhagen Climate Summit, being held from December 7 to 18, 2009. The conference in Copenhagen is the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) in the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The last meeting was held in December 2007 in Bali. The planet needs a simultaneous cry of "enough" from the leaders and an agreement that is acted upon jointly. If our societies have been able to banish smoking in restaurants and other public places, they can also decide to embrace a future carbon-free world. Global leaders have to think about the lack of certainty about life as we have known it on this planet for the past 10,000 years, if global warming is not halted at 2c. Climate, before the stability of the past 10,000 years, was often much more tempestuous. The climate system does not do gradual change. It does big jumps, based on tipping points. The fear is that beyond 2c or so, warming and rising sea levels may be impossible to halt - even if we cut our emissions to zero. The studies and concerns of the environmentalists suggest that the acceleration of melting ice in Greenland and Antarctica could soon destabilise their great ice sheets - causing sea levels to rise by several metres over a few decades. Other research shows that frozen methane (a potent greenhouse gas) may bubble up out of the melting Siberian permafrost in volumes, and that would raise global temperatures by several degrees. And that melting ice could interrupt the North Atlantic Ocean circulation, which would alter global weather patterns and ultimately switch off the Asian Monsoon season. As an aside, one cannot imagine life in the sub-continent minus the romance of the monsoons, which are such an integral part of its culture. Poets, who are around in that eventuality, would no longer know how to phrase any verses for our films if there was no song and dance done in monsoon rains. What is unnerving today is that the key element, the trigger for the sudden change, appears to have been carbon dioxide, the gas we are busy pumping into the air at the rate of 30bn tonnes a year, mostly by burning fossil fuels. The same fossil fuels that have powered our world through two centuries of unprecedented growth in both population and wealth and which now have to be largely phased out within the next half century. To quote Fred Pearce: "Kicking the carbon habit need not be expensive - small change compared to the price of bailing out banks. We are still in charge of our own destiny. We have the technology to end our dangerous dependence on carbon-based fuels. We can take our pick of alternative energy resources; wind and solar; geothermal; tides and waves; nuclear if we must. And we have the technology to use dramatically less energy too." When last reports came in, the Copenhagen delegates were still haggling over the pre-nuptial agreement, in terms of hitching themselves to a model of environmentally sustainable progress. The major issue is money. Everyone has to realise that the price of dealing with natural disasters is higher than that of cutting emissions today. The second major issue is politics. A global treaty is required to limit emissions which will mean submission of national governments to international authorities, possibly with inspections and sanctions of some kind. The United States has always been opposed to this and, without the US, a climate treaty is practically useless. To quote The Observer: "This is the last summit where binding treaty obligations are deferred. The scientific case for action is irrefutable. So is the economic case. That just leaves politics where courage is the deficient commodity." The pre-nuptial talks have gone on for too long already. The time has come to exchange necessary vows. Apart from the climate summit in Copenhagen, another Scandinavian country that has been in the news is Norway because of the annual ceremony for giving away the Nobel prizes to the most talented of the world. President Barack Hussein Obama was given the peace prize this year. It was ironical that the prestigious event was scheduled for just after his announcement of sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. As I have always enjoyed doing captions and copy in my career in advertising and communications for many years, the urge to come up with a slogan for this was irresistible. 'Warring for peace, is too jarring to appease' or 'A perilous prize for peace' etcetera, etcetera Postscript: All the fun has been taken out of being a provincial or federal minister in the Islamic Republic. In the bygone days every time a minister stepped out to go anywhere, weddings, funerals, meetings, whatever, his flag car would have a convoy of escorting vehicles, with outriders shooing off the unwashed public to the sides. People residing within a large radius of the road would come to know that a VIP was passing through, given the loud sirens that announced this important happening. This going to and fro, thus, was a decided high for the minister and made the seeking of votes well worthwhile. The security situation and the need to be low profile if you are a VIP is the unkindest cut for the present day Cabinet. We feel for you friends Just hang in there, I am sure the sirens and the pomp will all return after the war is won. There has been a small shuffle of sorts in the Cabinet with an exchange of portfolios. The Executive Director of PIMS has also voluntarily relinquished his charge until an investigation is carried out into the death of a PML-N MNA Faiz Muhammad Khan, who died due to alleged negligence. The ED has handed over charge to a lady doctor at PIMS. It has led me to play with the thought that, may be, all the men in this country should hand over charge to the women in their departments. They may just do a better job. We have tried men in uniforms and without. There is not much choice left any more The writer is a freelance columnist. Email: tallatazim@yahoo.com