Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Global Warming - A looming Danger

This summer is unusually hot in Mumbai. In my 6 years of living in Mumbai, I have never found it so hot. May be I am just getting older and I still don’t have an AC installed in my house. But even if I do install an AC, it can not run for 5 hours a day due to power cuts in Mumbai. And perhaps not installing an AC saves me from being guilty of contributing to next summer's more heat. In past few days whatever publications I have read from newspapers to magazines, I noticed reports on global warming, tucked somewhere, if not on front page. When I could convince myself that these reports were really not about extended April fools day, I found out that the sudden focus on global warming was due to the release of UN's IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report. The report accesses the likely outcomes of global warming, causes of which were examined in last report. In our daily banal lives, we hardly have time to think about abstract things like global warming, specially when you have deadline approaching at work, or when you have just broken off with your girlfriend or when you are struggling to decide where to buy your new house. Somehow we know that there is a problem with environment but we don’t have to worry about it just yet and that somebody else will take care of it.

The report says "unequivocally" that globe is indeed warming and that its cause is largely "man made". As per report, half of species on planet were already altering their behavior or changing their range in response to global warming by 2003 itself. Around 26% of coral reefs have already died as a result of warming waters and rest would disappear if water temperature rises by as little as another degree. How does matters, one might wonder, if coral reefs disappear just because they are bit sensitive to the water temperature! The thing is that these coral reefs support various kinds of fish and other ocean species and with coral reefs dead, these species would also be endangered. Global warming is a dangerous scenario since its affects, scientists say are non-linear. What it means is that even one degree of average rise in temperature has drastic affects. Around 25% of species might face extinction by year 2010. What is more worrisome is rise in minimum temperature of globe which is rising twice as high as average temperature. This is leading to faster climate change in poles where large deposit of ice stay. Many mountaineers have reported that some of ice bodies they have climbed have simply disappeared melted away in excessive heat. What do few degrees of temperature rise mean for human civilization? In few words, it means heading towards a catastrophe, an exaggerated version of which was shown in a Hollywood movie, The Day After Tomorrow. With minimum temperature rising, the winters are not cold enough to kill off different pests and diseases. Noxious species of ants and bees are migrating northwards; tropical highlands are witnessing an invasion of mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. The effect of warm climate would amplify on agriculture and forestry. The agriculture yield would fall as crop killing fungi would increase their range and breed faster and tree killing beetles would also not stay behind. This would lead to failure in crops creating a food deficit. Due to warm climate, glaciers would melt brinning floods to the plains destroying crops and endangering human life. Climate change would lead to unpredictable effects, with some places facing constant floods and some places suffering from draught.
(Source: IPCC and The Economist)

The purpose of the report is to jolt the governments of the world into taking a serious note of global warming and take policy decisions to reverse it. Whether it is going to happen is a debatable question. Most of poorer countries are already paying a price due to climate change which is largely caused by developed countries. Devloped countries have over the years invested money into fonding ways of greener tehcnologies which they dont share with other developing countries. It is a high time that developed countries start transferring green technologies to developing countries. It is for everybody’s benefit since climate does not know any man made boundaries and degraded environment would affect all of us, wheather if is America or Congo. There are evidences that the Ozone layer, which was ruptured due to excessive use if CFC gases, is slowly recovering after Montreal Protocol was adopted by countries to curb on use of CFC. Would governments of the world wake up to the grave danger facing our climate and our life due to global warming, remains to be seen.

What does Global warming mean to India? Well, since India is just about started to modernize, our consumption and production of goods would increase and in race of doing things faster, there is bound to be damage to the climate. The Great Himalayas would melt into dessert; Chinese would attack us without any protection from daunting snow clad mountains. The floods due to melting ice would destroy most of Gangetic plains, wiping out miseries of some of poorest people living there, along with settling the issue over temples and mosques forever. “Garibi hatao” slogan would eventually be fructified. Further south, the seasonal rivers would dry up as there would not be any monsoons and draught would kill many people living there. As for me, I will soon, like the other migrating species, would migrate to north and hole up in some place where there would still be some water and air and food. I think I can manage without the Air conditioner.
(Cartoon Courtsey: Monsing)

What Can an Individual Do About Global Warming
Individual Action about Global warming

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