The climate change has now political connotations as well. The political parties across the world, mostly in developed countries which have moved beyond the demands of Roti, Kapda and Makan are promising a quality environment to the people if voted to power. So combating the climate change and providing quality environment has become important election plank.. For few centuries, the degradation of the environment in the name of economic development had been the election plank for the political parties. Now the tables have turned. Rightly so. People now talk of sustainable development, not just economic development. Sustainable development is the development which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable development takes into account the economic development, social development and prevention of degradation of the environment. Climate change has been discussed world over on different platforms, which awared people about its consequences. The awareness of the people towards climate change is very important step in the direction of combating of climate change. As without sensitising people, it would be impossible to win the war over climate change. The climate change is global phenomenon; it needs co-operation of the world leaders to arrest or combat climate change. But the steps for combating global climate change are taken at local level. It is the responsibility of the people to help in reversing the climate change. The climate change is happening right now as suggested by the scientific studies. It would have very determinal affects on the man-kind.
Ice and snow melting in the Arctic: Studies say that parts of the Arctic are warming two to three times faster than rest of the earth. Over past 30 years, snow cover in the Arctic has reduced by 10%, mountain glaciers are melting and retreating, permafrost is begining to thaw in some areas. Which reduces the reflective surfaces of snow and ice, exposing water and land which are much darker surfaces. Hence increasing absorption of solar energy and accelerate global warming. In the Arctic summers, the ice floats over the surface of the water. These floating ice masses reflect solar radiations from its surface which doesn’t let the temperature get warmer. Scientists predict that due to climate change, the Arctic summers would be free of floating ice, which would mean more absorption of solar energy. Hence temperature would increase. Mountaintop glaciers are getting less snowfall during winters than it is melting during summers due to climate change. The result is glaciers are receding. These glaciers are source of drinking water and irrigation for millions of people in the catchment areas of the rivers originating from these glaciers. Receding glaciers are a threat to the food security of these regions.
Rise in sea levels: The climate change is increasing the sea levels in two ways. One is by expansion of sea water due to increase in the average temperature, second is by melting of ice and snow which is land based, leading to increase in sea level by addition of more water. As per the IPCC 2007 report, the average sea level is likely to increase by 0.6 to 1.9 feet during this century. The increase beyond this level can’t be eliminated though. The rise in sea level would lead to:
* Flooding in the low-lying coastal areas, some island nations would be completely submerged.
* Submergence of the one third of the coastal estuaries, wetlands and coral reefs.
* Invasion of fresh water aquifers with salt water.
* Flooding of agricultural lowlands and deltas in coastal areas where much of the world’s rice is grown.
* Creation of climate change refugees.
Melting of permafrost: The large amount of carbon is locked up in the permafrost soils as methane. The climate change is likely to melt these permafrosts which would release large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere enhancing the global warming further. The melting of permafrost is already happening on a small scale in parts of North America and Asia, as the earth gets Warmer it would accelerate.
Change in occean currents: Ocean currents are distributing Carbon dioxide and heat between the surface and the deep sea. They are transferring hot and cold water between the tropics and the poles. Scientists believe that due to huge addition of water in the occeans, these currents would be disrupted which would drastically alter the climate of different regions. This threat is being seen as Major threat in the near future.
Extreme weather events : Global warming would cause lot of energy being transferred to occeans which results in excessive evaporation of the water, resulting in massive precipitation in some areas. Besides the hot ocean water is a prerequisite for the formation of different oceanic storms which would become frequent. As per IPCC, global warming would increase the incidence of extreme weather events such as prolonged, intense heat waves and droughts, which can kill large number of people and would see increase in the deserts. At the same time, Increased precipitation would cause flooding in some areas.
Threat to biodiversity : According to IPCC 2007 report, changes in climate are affecting physical and biological systems on every continent. A warmer climate would expand ranges and populations of some plant and animal species that can adapt to warmer climates, including certain weeds, pests and pathogens. Changes in structure and location of wildlife habitats would lead to premature extinction. The ecosystems most likely to suffer disruption and species loss are coral reefs, polar seas, coastal wetlands, Arctic and alpine tundra, and high elevation mountain tops. Forest fires would increase too. Shifts in regional climate would lead to elimination of many species.
Reduction in food production: The world’s most productive areas have the fertile lands and the favourable climate, which results in bumper crops. The climate change would lead to mis-match between the two-fertile land and favourable climate, which would result in less food production. The fertile bread baskets of the world would have unfavorable climate for the food production. Besides, the flooding of the fertile river deltas would lead to food crop and fish production.
Threat to the health of the people : The heat waves would become more frequent resulting in the death of the people. The people most affected are the elderly and the poor people having no access to air conditioning. Due to Warmer temperature, death of many people from cold would be prevented. But it is estimated that death due to hear waves would be more than the deaths prevented from cold due to warmer temperatures there. Many tropical infectious diseases like dengue and malaria would increase their range reaching to the temperate climates resulting in more mortality. A 2005 WHO study estimates that each year climate change is already killing 160,000 people and this number could double by 2030. It also says that climate change causes 5 million sicknesses each year. So the climate change is too risky to be over-looked. Steps have to be taken right now to arrest the climate change. The perils of climate change would out-weigh some benefits it would provide.
( The author is Lecturer (EVS) at Govt Degree College Kupwara. Views are his own)