an Inconvenient Truth

In today’s world, we have achieved the impossible. After years of vociferous advancements, we are finally on the verge of immense success or fatal catastrophe.

We have farms, we have factories. We have cars, trains and ships. Heck, we can even travel to the moon if we wanted to. Man has conquered the seas, reshaped mountains and even bought life to the deserts. Obviously, we have touched the pinnacle of development and still, we are marching forward at a haphazard rate.

But this uncontrolled scientific development means that life on earth also faces a new kind of danger. A threat of unprecedented scale and impact. This is about an inconvenient truth: a global warming.

Global warming is caused by the build-up of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, which is capping in more heat than that would normally escape the atmosphere.

We do not yet fully know how radical climate change will affect our way of life, but we do know that the effects of growing carbon dioxide emissions already occurring are staggering: the eleven years ranging between 1995 and 2006 rank among the twelve warmest years recorded since 1850.

Leading scientists assert that a rise of two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial temperatures would leave hundreds of millions of people around the world “exposed to increased water stress,” decrease air quality in cities, increase ocean acidification leading to the destruction of calcifying marine life (including coral and dependent species), negatively impact farmers and fishers, increase the likelihood and severity of wildfires, and dramatically escalate mortality rates resulting from drought, floods, and heat waves. Few ecosystems could adapt to such a dramatic temperature change, potentially resulting in the extinction of 30% of species and the loss of 30% of coastal wetlands.

And now the details:

In the north, the arctic ice cap receives continual sunlight for half a year. The ice sheets reflect a considerable amount of sunlight back to space. This prevents surplus heating of the oceans. But due to the rise in global temperatures, the ice caps are melting, fast. And at this rate, by 2020, there would be no arctic.

Here’s a statement from Alain Hubert, co-founder, and director of the International Polar Foundation, “Fifteen years ago, it was possible to go on an expedition during the springtime and early summer. But today, this would be absolutely impossible; theres too much open water.”

The impact would be felt worldwide and there are so acute, that scientists are unable to predict the aftermath.

Even in Antarctica global warming has left its mark. As polar ice melts, more and more polar bears are dying. The increase in oceanic pollution has also affected the various endemic populations of the region.

About a third of all man-made carbon dioxide emissions have ended up in the Earth’s oceans, which are, along with rainforests, the most important carbon sink on the planet. But this service has a price: the more CO2 the oceans take up, the more acidic they become.

And by the end of the century, ocean acidification would further increase by 150 percent. This would tremendously damage the calcifying marine life, primarily the coral ecosystems, the rainforest of the seas.

Talking of rainforests brings us to deforestation- sawing off the branch of sitting on. About a fifth of all greenhouse emissions are from deforestation. The damage is two-fold: the world’s capacity to absorb CO2 is reduced, while large amounts of stored carbon are released into the atmosphere.

Since 2000, 7.3 million hectares of trees are cut down every year which is roughly the size of entire nations of Panama and Sierra Leone.

And another problem is the water cycle, changing gear. If rising temperatures create a more arid climate, less water will run off because more of it will be evaporated. And this means more drying rivers.

The Global Warming Partnership suggests that this reduction in runoff could be the most serious impact of global warming on the water environment. In sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean region, South Asia, and Australia stream flows are expected to decline by more than 50 percent.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that around 150,000 people already die annually from factors related to climate change.

So what do you do? Despite the US being the largest polluter, we are not so innocent too. India is also one of the largest contributors of CO2 with 4.1 percent of the world total. This means we are releasing 1200 million metric tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year.

We belong to a great nation, a nation of a billion people. India should lead the fight against this crisis. India has the highest capacity in the world to harvest solar energy. Also, with a wide coastline and so many extensive river systems, India proves to be one of the finest grounds to produce hydroelectricity.

Here are some simple steps that we can take. Never waste power don’t use lights during the day or leave appliances on a necessary. But don’t think that the small task would make any difference. If we convert half of all the light bulbs into a compact fluorescent we could reduce carbon emissions from lighting by 36% or 42.4 million metric tons per year. Even more, if we turned off home PCs when not in use, we would cut the CO2 impact by 50%.

And water is life while climate change agrees with the current water crisis, the basic problem is not the lack of water, but rather mismanagement.

While most western towns and cities had loss rates of 15-25%, in most African cities, over 50 percent of the water supply is wasted or unaccounted for. Phnom-Penh, the Cambodian capital is an interesting example. In 1993, a staggering 80 percent of all water transported was lost through leaks and corroded pipes.

So never waste water. Close the taps tightly and replace the faulty ones. Remember that 1 billion people lack access to clean drinking water worldwide.

In our universe, there is the Milky Way, among millions of galaxies, and in it there’s a tiny dot, our solar system and in it, there is still tinier infinitesimal pixel. That is earth, our only planet, the only place we have.

So let’s all do something for this crisis to save us, to save Earth, the one planet.


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