Friday, November 13, 2009

Need to halt global warming

Climate change is not an abstract threat. Glaciers in the Himalayas and the Alps are retreating by two metres every year. Ice caps are melting, raising the sea level.

The melting glaciers cause flooding in the low lying countries while rising sea level threatens to submerge the Maldives and other low-lying coastal areas. This is the result of hundreds of years of carbon emissions, which is cooking the earth. So much so that north of England will soon be producing red wine, after almost 600 years, thanks to warm autumn that the region is experiencing now.

It is very much likely that the low fertile land today might turn into unproductive barren wasteland. The farming pattern may also drastically change. The climate change will also adversely affect the natural habitats of both humans and animals.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum, which recently ended in Male, Maldives, called on world leaders to reach a binding agreement at next month's Copenhagen conference on the issue of global warming. The issue of global warming had been a matter of concern for developing countries. But then, the developing countries can do nothing about it on its own.

It is the developed and industrialised countries that have to cut down its carbon emissions that are heating up the planet. US had never agreed to either the Montreal or Kyoto Protocols. Neither did the emerging Asian industrial giants like China and India.

The industrial giants flood the markets of the climate vulnerable nations that also have to suffer the adverse effect of global warming as a direct consequence of massive industrial activities, with their mass-produced goods.

The decision of the ‘V-11’ countries, of which Bhutan is a member, to “green” their economy is a step in the right direction towards achieving “carbon neutrality.” Scientists say rich countries must cut carbon emissions by 25-40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent Earth's temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius above its average temperature before the industrial revolution. The rise of temperature by 2 degree Celsius means the Maldives will be submerged completely.

But so far, reduction pledges only total 11-15 per cent.

One may think that it is a moral, financial, social and human rights issue. But such issues pale in comparison when it is a matter of trade in the stock exchange. The ‘V-11’ nations want the developed nations to provide public money amounting to at least 1.5% of their gross domestic product annually by 2015, to assist developing countries make their transition to a climate resilient low-carbon economy.

The issue of funds from wealthy states, like Western European countries and the United States, to developing nations to fight climate change has proven a major sticking point in negotiations.

The developed nations also have to commit to maintain emission reduction targets consistent with limiting global average surface warming to well below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and long-term stabilisation of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at well below 350ppm.

The current level of carbon concentrations is 387 ppm. To reduce that to 350 ppm, the world would likely need to develop new technologies or strategies to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

To drive home the point that something serious has to be done about global warming, President Nasheed of the Maldives and his cabinet members, last month, donned the diving gear to hold the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting in a symbolic cry for help over rising sea level. Nepal is planning to hold its next cabinet meeting on Mount Everest.

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