Is truth negotiable? No, for if it were, it would no longer be truth. Is science negotiable? Of course not, otherwise it won’t be science. But is justice negotiable? Very much indeed! The very process of arriving at justice is based on negotiation. Justice can be discussed, bargained for, modified or even reversed, depending upon how a case is fought or how mercy is sought.
Climate justice, like any other form of justice, is negotiable. Climate science, unlike other branches of science, is also negotiable. All put together, the issue of climate change has always been a subject of seemingly endless negotiations. The 21st Conference of Parties would continue with these negotiations at Paris in December 2015. The aim is to hammer out an agreement that would be acceptable to all parties.
In the meantime, individual countries including India have already released their plans and ideas about how they hope to achieve this. India’s climate change plan talks about climate justice.
The problem with climate justice is that the laws are non-existent, the evidence is hazy, there are no jurors, and the court consists of the litigants themselves, whose concept of justice is to extract as many pounds of flesh from each other as possible.
The talk of climate justice reminds me of a story about justice that is narrated in the Bible (John Chapter 8). The setting is the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, where Jesus is engaged in teaching people who have gathered to hear him. Suddenly, a group of religious scholars barges in along with a woman and they make her stand before him. They inform Jesus that she is guilty of adultery and under the prevailing law she should be stoned to death. Jesus remains calm and all that he says is, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” On hearing this, and being convicted by their own conscience, the people leave one by one. Jesus then asks the woman, “Where are all your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” She says, “No, Lord.” And Jesus says to her, “Neither do I condemn you, go, and sin no more.”
Climate justice lies in a promise by all countries to “sin no more”. But we do not see that happening. Most countries want many more years to continue with their climate sins before they can stop them. Some countries are willing to tone down the degree of their climate sins, like allowing the earth to warm by 2 deg instead of 4 deg over the next century.
Is there justice in nature? Not at all. God’s design of nature is based upon diversity and not on equity. Carbon dioxide is just 400 parts per million of the atmospheric volume, but it is driving the earth mad! Nitrogen is 80 per cent of the atmosphere, but it makes no difference. Yet nitrogen, oxygen, ozone, water vapour, carbon dioxide, all have a place in God’s scheme of things. Why should Cherrapunji receive 1100 cm of rain in a year and Jaisalmer only 20 cm? Is it fair? No, but we cannot introduce equity here. That is nature as God has given us.
For most people on earth, contributing to climate justice means planting a few trees or participating in a marathon on a cheerful holiday morning. For some governments, climate justice lies in making petrol cheaper and then enforcing a no-car day once in three months. This is not climate justice.
God allowed man to use his creation but man is misusing it. The “sin no more” command applies to the human misuse of God’s creation. If we do not heed that command or if we try to dilute it, or overlook it, God’s justice will be delivered in the fullness of time.