Global warming: Causes and Consequences

Green house gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane and nitrous oxide trap the heat from the infra red radiations of the sun and heat up the earth’s atmosphere. This has caused a rise in mean temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, causing global warming. Even though burning of fossil fuels in thermal power plants is the main source of producing green house gases, air pollution caused due to soot and diesel exhaust from road vehicles and industries is a greater contributor to global warming. It has been pointed out globally that China and India are the major culprits, as they rely on burning of wood and cow dung in household cooking and use coal for heating their homes. Together, they account for between 25 to 35 percent of black carbon emissions.


It has therefore become important to mitigate the release of black carbon, which would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also prevent health hazards.


The Kyoto protocol was developed under the UNFCCC – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to ensure that the ratifying countries collectively work towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


The chief concept behind the Kyoto Protocol is that if the countries that have ratified this international agreement fail to control their emissions till below targets, then they are required to engage in emissions trading. Emission trading is basically when a country buys “credits” from other less developed countries that are able to exceed their reduction targets.


India and China, have ratified the Kyoto protocol, but currently are not seen as countries which have to urgently reduce greenhouse gas production. However, the Kyoto Protocol has a major loophole. Even though China is contributing to global warming at a rate almost as much as the USA, it is currently not being held accountable. The reason for this is two fold. Firstly, China is vastly populated as compared to the USA and thus has resulted in a large amount of industrialization in the past few years. Secondly, most of the production and industrial development in China and other such developing countries is due to the demand by the West and the outsourcing of functions.


Thus, even though outsourcing of work to countries like India and China are seen as a good thing, the carbon emissions come with it. USA has refused to ratify the Protocol and economic powerhouses like China show no signs of reducing emission rates.


Closer to home, it is surprising and shocking that Indians remain blinded by private interests and industrial profit. A recent example was seen when the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had organized a campaign against diesel cars, with the purpose of controlling harmful carbon emissions. The result, sadly, was a Rs. 100 crore lawsuit by TELCO (Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company Ltd.), a well known automobile company against environmental researchers of CSE.


Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are rising at a frightening rate with no sign of slowing. Global temperatures are continuing to rise.


The most unnerving part is that recent studies show that even the limits which were earlier thought to be ’permissible’ are now falling into the danger zone and are feared of having a greater adversarial impact than envisioned.


Smita Rajmohan

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