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The Menace of Climate Change

“The Earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for everyone’s greed.”—Mahatma Gandhi

“Climate Change is happening, humans are causing it and I think this is perhaps the most serious environmental issue facing us.”—Bill Nye

Nature and humankind are two complementary elements on Mother Earth. Their well-being and sustenance depend on each other. But, man thinking himself the only superpower on Earth, has moulded and controlled the nature, over the years, for his every need and deed; forgetting that with the rounding of the clock Nature can give its answer back. Now, the challenge is before us–the climate change—which we have to face and to tackle in our every breath.

Climate (from Ancient Greek Klima meaning inclination) is commonly defined as the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.

Climate Change is a change in the space and time distribution of weather patterns or conditions or properties of a region or some regions or the entire earth.

Many natural scientists have found in their researches that there are internal and external forcing mechanisms for climate change—internal forcing mechanisms are natural processes within the climate system (like biotic processes, variation in Earth’s orbit, variation in reflexivity of oceans and continents, continental drift and mountain-building etc.) while external forcing mechanisms may be either natural (e.g., changes in solar output) or anthropogenic (human activities like deforestation, burning of waste materials, use of fossil fuel and high energy consumption through electronic gadgets, leading to more emission of green house gases.).

So the term climate change is very comprehensive and includes global warming as well as other changes in weather patterns/ conditions due to both human activities and natural processes.

Now, while discussing the menace of climate change, we should first focus on Global Warming, one of the major phenomena of climate change. “There is an air of unreality in debating these arcane points when the world is changing in such dramatic ways right in front of our eyes because of global warming”…… Al Gore.

In normal course, the heat gained by earth gets dissipated to the atmosphere, maintaining the general balance. But increasing concentration of greenhouse gases (GHG) [like carbon dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4), Chlorofluro Carbon (CFC) etc.] in the stratosphere act as a barrier to this dissipation, thereby resulting in warming of earth. As per National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). “… Earth has warmed since 1880. Most of this warming has occurred since the 1970s, with the 20 warmest years having occurred since 1981 and with all 10 of the warmest years occurring in the past 12 years ……… the year 2014 ranks as the warmest on record.”

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its recent studies on observable and likely impacts of climate change assessed that climate change poses risks for regions across the world, though the intensity of danger varies from area to area.

The adverse consequences are likely to be higher in future for those communities and ecosystems, which are already vulnerable. These include the poor, whose livelihoods are natural resource dependent such as in rural areas, and fragile ecosystems and species, which are already under threat. Three key risks identified for Asia, include increased flood damage to infrastructure, livelihoods and settlements, heat related human mortality, and increased drought related food and water shortage (IPCC AR5 2014).

        Climate Change has posed a major threat to developmental pace firstly due to increased frequency and intensity of hydrometeorological hazards such as floods, drought, heat waves, cyclones, storm surges etc. and secondly, due to degradation or alteration of ecosystems (structure, extent and services), decreased food production, reduced availability of water and negative impacts on livelihoods etc. thereby increasing peoples’ vulnerability to the impacts of natural and human induced disasters. The challenge is particularly more serious in the developing countries like India, where agriculture and other natural resources serve as primary resource for livelihood and economic development.

Tough talks about the implications of climate change started with the devastating urban flooding in Mumbai followed by many other Asian cities, for example, Dhaka, Islamabad, Kolkata, recently Chennai etc. Increasing frequency and intensity of cyclonic disasters affecting Indian coastal and sub-coastal states, other nations and islands in the region, Phailin and Hudhud for example; devastating flooding in Uttarakhand and Kashmir; intense heat wave in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, spreading coverage of drought regions year by year, have long impending impacts on community and public welfare. Ancillary effects of Nepal’s Gorkha earthquake 2015 and aftershocks, triggered landslides in the hill slopes with risk aggravated by impact of climate change and ecological degradation.

Next, in this pollution ridden environment, our focus falls on public health, which is at serious risk due to the toxic air pollutants and warming gases. Though studies are dominated mainly by the respiratory problems such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthama, lung cancer and acute lower respiratory tract infection, in recent years they’ve begun to include more diverse health issues—cardiac cases, cancer, mutagenic foetus etc. Global studies have made more robust linkages with a wide range of other diseases—diabetes, heat stroke, hypertension, effects on brain, effects on foetus etc.

The speed with which urban air pollution is growing across India is alarming. Close to half of cities are reeling under severe particulate pollution while newer pollutants like nitrogen oxides, ozone and air-toxics are worsening the public health challenge. As many as 95% of Indians across the country breath air quality that is worse than the WHO’s recommended standards.

Climate change affects bio-diversity as well. Biodiversity is defined as the sum variation of all living organisms (animal, plant, fungal and microbial) on Earth, including their genetic diversity, species diversity and the diversity in the ecosystems they help, build and regulate. The presence of this bio-diversity is extremely important to human welfare in the sense that it is the basic foundation of the food chain, where every organism is dependent on the other.

But rapid climate change affects ecosystems and species, in ability to adapt, so biodiversity loss increases. According to the Millennium Eco-system Assessment, climate change is likely to become one of the most significant drivers of bio-diversity loss by the end of the century. Climate change is already forcing bio-diversity to adapt either through shifting habitat, changing life-cycle, or the development of new physical traits.

Besides these above mentioned hazards of climate change there are countless others due to which our planet has been changing dis-astrously.

Before concluding, I, as a responsible citizen of this Earth, would like to focus in short, upon the adaptation, mitigation and stabilization process of the climate change to save the deteriorating health of our planet.

“The mould is broken; we must remould in larger outlines and with a richer content.”                  —Sri Aurobindo

 The need of the hour is to think of sustainable solutions, which are not just temporary but also take into account the needs of future generations. It must be recognized that natural resources are not unlimited and hence their consumption must be rationed and planned so as to ensure sustainable development. Nature friendly alternatives like wind farms, hydro-electricity, solar power, geo-thermal and bio-mass for the generation of power need to be explored and adequately implemented into the system.

        It is the responsibility of not any one nation but the entire world to work in the direction of saving humanity from the effects of climate change. Formalisation of United Nations Framework Convention (UNFCCC) in 1992 at Rio marked the beginning of serious global efforts in this direction. Then, on December 12, 2015, at the 21st session of the United Nations. Climate Change Conference at Paris, the participating 195 countries agreed, by consensus, to the final global pact, the Paris Agreement, to reduce emissions as part of the method for reducing greenhouse gases. The member countries agreed to reduce their carbon output ‘as soon as possible’ and to do their best to keep global warming “to well below 2 degrees ∞C”.

With the entire world coming together to secure the future and pass on the legacy of the earth to our forthcoming generations we can hope to create resources to satisfy everyone’s needs.

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