Climate Change: A Self- Created Misery

Let me begin by quoting Nicolas Stern, former chief economist of the World Bank, “The inability to forecast climate change has been the worst market failure which the world shall witness with a potential to shrink global economy by 20%.”


When you hear words like these from some of the more tepid organisations like the World Bank, in this case one can safely assume that the rot is deeper than one can imagine.


The inability to act effectively on the issue stems from the fact that climate change is still seen through the lens of an environmental problem but its time that it is seen as part of a broader development and economic agenda.


I know we all have been reading a lot of statistics on the issue and all of them make the writer appear as a doomsday prophet but that sadly is going to be reality if we decide not to act and act fast.


The level of carbon has been climbing at a rapid rate on this planet and the current levels have not been seen in the last 650,000 years of the planet’s existence according to the science journal nature.


Carbon levels are expected not to cross the 400 ppm barrier, that in a way is the lethal limit of carbotoxication, but the irony is that we are already at 380ppm and are adding 2 ppm every year. Now why I say so is that if and when the 400ppm gets breached then a staggering 4 degree rise in global temperature shall result and that would also result in the Amazon rain forests drying off, in other words the impact shall be cataclysmic.


Now speaking about two countries that always compete with each other and end up on the wrong side…for instance Indian and Chinese emissions are growing at 3 times the global average and shall alone surpass the critical 400ppm barrier in a matter of 20 years


Some time back there was an article in the HINDU stating that the rising temperature has already started taking a toll on mountain frogs and already 70 species of frogs have gone extinct as the mountain top was simply too hot for them to survive.


The biggest trouble is being forecasted for cold dependent species like penguins and polar bears that are already fast coming under the category of critically endangered species if the IUCN red list is to be kept in account.


The upper 1500 meters of the ocean from West Europe to east United States has already warmed up by 0.015 degrees, it may appear miniscule but it is not because the latent heat of vaporisation of water is the highest and hence in atmospheric terms is equal to a nine degree rise.


In 2002, the Larsen B shelf in Antarctica that had been stable for the last 12,000 years broke off and started melting. This has been a reason for concern because the shelf is one of the biggest spread across 3,250 square km.


Corals are said to be the best indicators of ocean temperature so when 80% of the coral reefs along Seychelles, 90% near Indonesia and 70% in the Indian Ocean were found to be bleached and dead…..don’t you think that there is something to be worried about… There are other bigger factors in play as well especially with countries not honouring their Kyoto Protocol commitments, for example Canada has failed to honour its 6 % emission cut and in fact emissions are up by 29%


Also the seriousness of the developed world in cutting emissions has been questioned extensively as it was expected of them to come with something concrete after the UNFCC inaugural summit at Rio De Janerio but nothing resulted, in fact Brazilian newspapers carried the headline “RIO= ZERO”


Kyoto had set individual cuts of 5% for the developed world but from 1990-2004 only 3% cuts have been seen and that too from economies in transition of Eastern Europe,


15 European Union countries have to cut emissions by 8% by 2008-2012 but current cuts operate in the range of 0.9% until 2004


Further another issue of extensive criticism of the Kyoto protocol is the fact that cuts of 5% are demanded over 1990 levels. So effectively speaking there has been little to speak of and a lot to experience.


‘What can I do’ is the oft raised question and often that ends up in frustration at not being able to do enough. We however have a special responsibility in setting an example in front of our kid brothers and sisters by preserving energy as far as possible and even teaching them the little things they can do.


Till then please try and reduce carbon emissions at your individual levels….choose the rare tree shade for your evenings, a walk instead of a ride on your bike, open your windows to let the fresh air in and close your fans….


No longer are we simply nationalities, we are all part of a world system….Be an international citizen to feel the problems across barriers to understand the enormity staring at us….These are efforts that are miniscule but not irrelevant….because today Mother Nature needs her children to act and act fast….

Sainath Sunil

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