“Two thousand scientists, in a hundred countries, engaged in the most elaborate, well organized scientific collaboration in the history of humankind, have produced long-since a consensus that we will face a string of terrible catastrophes unless we act to prepare ourselves and deal with the underlying causes of global warming.”
AL GORE, speech at National Sierra Club Convention, Sept. 9, 2005
Global warming, a direct consequence of deforestation, refers to the increase in the amount of carbon dioxide and other green house gases in the environment. Carbon dioxide and other gases such as oxides of nitrogen and methane trap the atmospheric heat, which increases the average temperature of the Earth’s surface. This increase in the average temperature of the Earth near the surface and oceans is termed as Global Warming.
According to the scientists, the average temperature of the air near the Earth’s surface over the last 100 years, ending in 2005, increased 0.74 ± 0.18°C, or 1.3 ± 0.32° Fahrenheit. This increase in the temperature has been responsible for forest fires, melting ice caps, increase in storms and floods and rise in sea levels, changing the amount and pattern of precipitation. The other effects of global warming include the extinction of species, glacier retreat, extreme weather phenomena, expansion of the sub tropical desert regions, modifications of trade routes and changes in agricultural yields.
U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, in a speech in 2006 also stated, “All across the world, in every kind of environment and region known to man, increasingly dangerous weather patterns and devastating storms are abruptly putting an end to the long-running debate over whether or not climate change is real. Not only is it real, it’s here, and its effects are giving rise to a frighteningly new global phenomenon: the man-made natural disaster.”
The causes of Global Warming have been linked to various human activities. The burning of fossil fuels for the purpose of electricity generation has increased carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. Industrialization and technological advancements have further aggravated the problem. Carbon dioxide emissions also result from the burning of gasoline in internal-combustion engines of cars and other vehicles. Vehicles with poor gas mileage contribute to global warming in a large way. Moreover, million gallons of gas is lost annually while we are stuck in traffic jams or wait at the lights. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that aviation causes 3.5 percent of global warming, and that the figure could rise to 15 percent by 2050. Deforestation accounts for about 20-25% of carbon emissions. The trees are responsible for the absorption of the carbon dioxide gas, but the burning and felling of trees has led to the destruction of tropical and temperate forests all over the world.
After carbon dioxide, methane is the second most dangerous greenhouse gas contributing to global warming. According to the IPCC, methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Methane is released into the atmosphere mainly through rice plants and the production of fossil fuels. After methane, water vapor holds about two-thirds of the heat trapped by all the other greenhouse gases. Another greenhouse gas is the nitrous oxide, which is produced due to nylon and nitric acid production.
Global warming has several negative effects on the Earth. The most prominent effect has been the climatic changes, which have also caused the glaciers to melt. The melting down of glaciers has flooded the ocean’s surface, which has, in turn, resulted in the loss of salinity and has disturbed the flow of nutrients. This has also translated into disaster for the colder climes in various parts of the world. Health concerns are also not immune to this environmental disaster. Air pollution, resulting from ground level ozone or smog, has caused a considerable increase in the Asthma cases. Malaria is also proving to be fatal in warm climates. Global warming can cause total obliteration of the world due to rise in sea levels.
India, in its efforts to counter the problem, has taken several steps. One such initiative has been by the Greenpeace activists, who have occupied prime real estate and set up a migrant colony of hutments, 35ft above the Delhi-Noida toll bridge. The main aim is to highlight the exigency of creating a National Climate Action Plan, that will focus on taking immediate action to prevent climatic changes. Social activist Medha Patkar, on behalf of NAPM (National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement), also suggested creation of decentralized energy options based on renewable energy in order to prevent climate changes.
Now it is for us to understand the gravity of the situation. Since the human race is majorly responsible for causing this environmental concern, the duty falls upon the shoulders of the mankind to take suitable measures to ameliorate it. Firstly, we must put in use the three R’s of environmental conservation namely: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. There must be a collective effort to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. We must try to switch to natural sources of energy, such as solar, nuclear and wind energy. This is the time to become environment friendly and save the Earth. The best way to do this is to undertake large scale afforestation. We must also use energy-efficient consumer appliances. These steps may look very simple, but if undertaken on a collective basis, we can go a long way towards preventing global warming.