Global Warming: Myth or Reality

Shahidullah Shahid

Global warming is simply defined as an increase in the average global temperatures. Though, it is an environmental problem, it has serious implications on the global economics, geopolitics, society, hum-anity and all living beings. Global warming is one of the most controversial scientific issues of the 21st century, challenging the very structure of our glo-bal society. Though, there has been controversies b-etween two schools of scientific thought, one calling it is a myth and the ot-her considering it is a r-eality, there is sufficient e-vidence to support the later.

Anthropogenic activities, causing increased emissions of green house gases, are the main reasons behind the global warming. It has been established, that, if not addressed properly and immediately, it would have catastrophic impacts. Global warming means earth is becoming warmer gradually. There is increase in average global temperatures of air and oceans, accompanied by widespread melting of glaciers and rising of sea level.

“The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its ‘Synthesis Report on Climate Change’, states that there is clear evidence for a 0.6 0C rise in global temperatures and 20cm rise in sea level during the 20th century. It predicts that “global temperatures could rise by 1.4 to 5.8 0C and sea level could rise by 20 to 88cm by the year 2100.”

Majority of the scientists and research organizations, including IPCC have reached on consensus that global warming is caused by massive increase of green house gases such as Carbon dioxide (Co2) in atmosphere resulting from burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. The scientists’ community is largely persuaded that not only is earth’s climate warming, but rate of warming is also accelerating due to substantial human activity. The main evidences of global warming are three basic indicators- temperature, precipitation and sea level.

Now, all the countries, particularly developed countries have to share responsibility to cut the emissions for the purpose of humanity otherwise we are going to suffer the possible implications. Global warming is going to divest communities that are already the most marginalized in world. A report by a US National Academy of Science (NAS) said, “Available evidence suggests that abrupt climate changes are not only possible but likely in the future, potentially with large impacts on ecosystem and societies”. Moreover, there is a point of no return- “threshold”, after which warming may become unstoppable.

The earth’s climate can change abruptly when the responsible factors reach the thresholds. Most scientists think that the point lies not far beyond 20C hotter. It is the point at which anthropogenic warming can trigger huge release of Carbon dioxide from warming oceans or similar releases of both CO2 and CH4 from melting permafrost, or both. To limit warming to 20C we must stabilize concentration of green house gases in the atmosphere at a specific ‘stabilization level’.

Knowing the dangerous consequences of inaction, the world needs to act to check the global warming. As the global warming is caused by anthropogenic emissions, the most logical approach to this problem would be to cut emissions significantly. This, however, has a major implication for the world economy- the energy of which is mainly based on fossil fuel burning. Several efforts have been spearheaded in the past but consensus has not been reached due to conte-ntious position of some mo-st industrialized countries.

From the Kyoto Protocol 1997 to the Paris Climate Agreement 2016, the world leaders have been unable to agree on substantial cuts in emissions and adequate funding for adoption. Though, there has been some progress in foundation work along with commitments from the world leaders to tackle this danger to planet earth, there is a long way to go for effective action. Being the developed countries these are well equipped, technologically, to cut the emission by transforming their economies from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable resource energy. The solar energy available is the most abundant form of energy available to humans. Wind energy is another plenty source of energy. Nuclear source is also a non pollutant source of energy. The developed countries should not only explode this source but they should also support/help the underdeveloped countries to generate electricity from this source.

We need to comprehend that we have to switch over to these sources of energy as the fossil fuels are bound to be finished by the increasing levels of consumption; so why late, why not now? Furthermore, the effort at the international level is not the only way to control global warming; all the people can play their individual role as well. After all, we are the end users of all that is produced in the industries and energy sector.

Individuals can help in reducing the green house gases’ emission and tackling climate change by many ways like: tree plantation, mass awareness campaign, making biochar, driving less, improving vehicles’ fuel efficiency, consuming less electricity, energy efficiency at work and home and by reducing waste products.

These acts would serve the purpose of emission reduction in two ways: One; the less- consumption would result less production and subsequently less burning of fuels. Two; it will generate a moral pressure on the industries and governments to realize the dilemma and agree to the emission reduction policy. There is a feasible counter balance to reduce CO2 from atmosphere by growing forests on land and vegetation in sea but it will not do much. Ultimately, a combination of improved energy efficiency and alternative energy resources is the way to mitigate global warming. Though it will cost us but ‘the earlier effective action is taken, the less costly it will be”, said Sir Nicholas Stern, the Chief Economist at World Bank. We need to act now, we need to act before it’s too late, and as the major threat from global warming is its unpredictability.

The global warming has become the real test of the foundations of our modern society, civilization and democracy. Its anthropogenic causes are amply proved. Its implications have started hitting humanity, which are too harmful to be ignored. The solutions are at hand. Therefore, the world leaders have obligations to respond to it effectively for the cause of humanity – our future generation. “Climate change, and what we do about it, will define us, our era, and ultimately the global legacy we leave for future generations”, asserted Ban Ki Moon.

The writer is an Assistant Commissioner (UT) serving in Government of KP. Twitter: @Shahidullahpms