timemagazine1.jpg“20 years earlier a child asked for clay toys, dolls, and kitchen items; today, a child asked for Robots, Computer games and Sports Cars.”

This illustration itself underlines the changing dynamics of a world swept of its feet by globalization and commercialization. Man today is so completely engrossed in his personal well being and survival that the importance of the surroundings and social reality is being somewhat relegated. Though immortalized in literature and philosophy as “The Social Animal”, man’s present reality is inconsistent with this defining characteristic. In the materialistic world; we have scant regard for the well being of the eco-system which encompasses other human beings too. In the highly individualistic world of today; and in the race to satisfy our basic needs in an extravagant manner; we have naively isolated ourselves from our surrounding; our ‘environ’. We have reconciled ourselves to a myopic view of development. The manifold increase in the greed of human beings is well manifested in an internationally important issue- GLOBAL WARMING.

The earth acts as a giant green house whose atmosphere entraps the radiant heat from the sun; thereby keeping the temperature within in an optimum range. The importance of this effect can be understood when we consider the fact that without the protective atmosphere the average temperature on earth’s surface would be approximately -20 degree Celsius; hardly a condition for life to exist. But, tragically over the past few decades; the fulcrum of the balance is shifted; resulting in instability in the environment. Burning of fossil fuels; destruction and denudation of tropical forests and industrial and agricultural operations result in the release of large quantities of the green house gases(GHGs) eg; Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere. The sole stalwart amongst the gases, which accounts for a whooping 50% of the GHGs is CO2. The GHGs entrap the larger wavelengths emitted from the earth’s surface and lead to an increase in the temperature globally.

Since the pre-industrial era, concentration of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere increased by nearly 30%. Methane levels have also seen a persistently heavy annual increase of 1%. The cardinal cause for this alarming effect in the environment can be unambiguously attributed to the rapid and mammoth industrialization, globalization and the effect of the reckless ambitions of the Third World countries and the developed nations. The developing countries contribute to only 15% of the world GHGs (Green-house Gases); while ironically being the strongest nation of the world; US contributes the highest individual emission of 27% GHGs to the environment. Being blinded by the glistening lustre of the heavy money – jingles and income sources; we are losing the foresight of the mandatory; imperative and devastating after effects of this greed; manifest in the 21st Century and globalization in the ‘Third World’.

Amongst the major consequences of global warming; one massively pervading concern is the incessantly steady rise in the sea level by 1- 2 mm per year; resulting from the melting of glaciers in the poles of Arctic and Antarctic. The spring ice thaw in the northern hemisphere occurs 9 days earlier than it did 150 years ago and fall freeze now starts 10 days later. Sea ice loss is devastating for species with narrow adaptability range and adapted to alpine and polar environments, such as, polar bears, ringed seals and penguins. If CO2 emission rate continues as usual or is not modified suitably; mean sea level may increase up to 0.9 m over 1990 level; resulting in deleterious and detrimental impact on human settlements, biodiversity, agriculture and wetlands. The further insinuation to the effect is that the modern world will have scarcity of ‘fresh water’ due to melting of glaciers. An increase in surface temperature by even 1 degree Celsius; will cause a major shift in world food production. Wheat production will be shifted from Canada and Russia (more fertile regions) to poles (less fertile region); with the surplus growth of weeds and eruption of pests and cropped diseases. Increase in temperature (as in 1 degree Celsius over the past century) will cause spread of the present endemic tropical diseases like Malaria to comparatively cooler places where the anopheles mosquito cannot thrive presently because of cooler temperature. Given the predicted possible effects and present alarming reality; it is suggested that the earth will warm up by 1.4 degree Celsius to 5.8 degree Celsius from 1990 level by the year 2100 thereby causing widespread changes in the precipitation patterns equally. Frequency of natural disasters like floods, storms, intense hurricanes and strong storm surges could threaten coastal communities while heat waves, droughts and forest fires could also become more rampant and trite. As a testimony, the 1990s was the warmest decade since record keeping started in 1994, Europe and USA saw their coldest winter in the last 50 years. London had the driest summer in 300 years. Super cyclones, Tsunamis that caused havoc in the eastern coastal regions of Asia and India are also exemplars o the detrimental consequences.

This however is only one side of the picture even if it’s the dominant view; there is still a silver lining in the black cloud. Apparently; in spite of the major growing body of evidence; a section of experts believe that there is no strong, compelling and conclusive evidence for the natural imbalance to be stemming out of global warming and GHGs. In fact, we cannot completely ignore the positive impacts of modernization . A modest amount of global warming would be beneficial to the natural system and human existence. Heating costs would decline for those in colder climates; while vast marginal agricultural areas in northern latitudes might become viable. Warmer winters would mean longer growing seasons; beneficial to most flora and fauna. Therefore, to keep the scenario from turning completely nasty; remedial measures of disposing off emitted GHGs, by absorbing them back through chemical or biological processes are intelligent measures. Extensive afforestation and measures to increase vegetative cover; which would thus increase Carbon Dioxide consumption is also a novel idea. Substitution of fossil fuels with renewable alternative energy sources, such as, wind, hydel or biomass and even recycling of waste products are effective measures. Efforts are on to develop alternatives to CFCs and at an individual level to promote eco friendly practices and use of eco-friendly articles.

As Gandhiji rightly said

“There is enough space on earth for every one’s need but not for every one’s greed”.

The need of the hour is to “think globally and act globally too.”

Arpita Chakraborty