Has a dirge been written for the earth? This is not a question arising out of the romantic imagination of a poet. But a finding of close scientific enquiry. Science says the flood is nearby. But there is no certainty that Noah’s ark will be coming.
It may be an exaggeration. But do not forget that it has a scientific base.
Scientific predictions rarely go wrong. Scientists have warned in advance what the changes in climate will be due to increase in the atmospheric temperature. Now the adverse impact of the changes, as predicted, have started showing in Antartica. This is indeed a matter for concern.
A huge chunk of the Antarctic Ice shelf has started to collapse. This ice shelf measuring 3,250 sq km in area and 220 metres in depth broke away, becoming huge floating icebergs. This phenomenon has started in 2002. This is for the first time in about 10,000 years that such a thing is happening.
The reason for such a change is the undesirable rise in global warming. Scientists have estimated that during the 21st century the temperature of the earth may go up by 4. 5 degree Celsius. This is because of what has been widely discussed as the greenhouse effect. It is natural that the earth’s temperature goes up when sunlight falls on it. But the heat is deflected back to the atmosphere. But some of the gases in the atmosphere obstruct this and send the heat back to the earth. This is akin to what happens in a greenhouse in the garden. What are its repercussions? The earth’s temperature rises. Evaporation of water in the sea, lakes and rivers increases. This water vapour obstructs the heat, leading to further increase in temperatures.
About 40 gases constitute what is described as green house gases. Carbon di-oxide makes up 50 per cent of the green house gases. Every year we emit a staggering 5,000 million tonnes of carbon di-oxide into the atmosphere. This is due to the unbridled growth of industries. About 25 per cent of the world emission of carbon di-oxide is from America. This is also due to widespread destruction of forests. Every year we destroy about 100,000 sq km of tropical forests. There can be no estimate of the carbon di-oxide we produce when we burn here is no destroy about 100,000 sq km of tropical forests.When we burn trees in the name of agriculture and other reasons i trees in the name of agriculture and other reasons. During the 18th century the measure of carbon di-oxide in the atmosphere was only 256 ppm (parts per million). In 1958 it rose to 315 while later estimates put it at 350. What it means in brief is that we are fast going forward to annihilation.
Another dangerous gas is methane, emitted to the atmosphere by marshy lands and animals. Paddy fields account for 30 per cent of the methane. As the cattle population increases, the level of methane also increases. Railway engines emitting smoke and electrical generation equipment are the sources of emission of nitrous oxide. There are many other villainous gases enhancing the earth’s temperatures like chlorofluro carbon that causes fissures in the ozone cover and nitrogen oxide.
We are yet to experience the full impact of such emissions. The list of possible dangers to come includes floods, storms, coastal erosion and major climate changes.
As the temperatures go up snow mountains and ice shelfs begin to melt, increasing the level and extent of the seas. According to scientific estimates this will lead to serious erosion of coastal regions and cause a rise in the sea level ranging from eight inches to 20 feet. If the sea level increases by just three feet, at least five million people will be rendered homeless. In Egypt about 4,500 sq km of farmlands will be submerged. Also much of Bangladesh. If the sea level rose by 20 feet, many of the world cities like New York, London, Beijing and Sydney will be under water. What will happen to the ice caps of the poles? As high as 95 per cent of the earth’s water resources are in these ice caps. If they melt, sea level will rise to a staggering 165 feet.
America which leads in the emission of carbon di-oxide is mostly responsible for the increase in global warming. As though by way of expiation, it also leads in making serious efforts at scientific studies into these issues. It was when Jimmy Carter was President that the U S government started to give special attention to this problem. Carter appointed a nine member committee headed by the famous climatologist Jules Charni to study these problems. Their report was an eye-opener. If the carbon di-oxide emission continued as at present, it was certain that there would be climate change. The committee’s assessment was that this could no longer be ignored.
They made another revelation. When the calamity strikes there will not be any warning. America from then on took a more active role in this regard. The expectation was that there would be positive steps to counter this problem when George Bush became President in 2000. He had made an election pledge that if he came to power the emission of carbon di-oxide into the atmosphere would be effectively controlled.
Christine Todd Whitman, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U S, had assured a conference of ministers of industrialised nations that the Bush administration would soon take up effective measures to check global warming which she described as the biggest challenge faced by the environment. But after ten days America shifted its stance. It withdrew from the global meet on this issue at Kyoto. The President asserted that there was no need for any stringent control measures in respect of carbon dioxide. His justification was that there was no scientific proof yet that increase in temperatures was due to carbon di-oxide Former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neil later disclosed that it was Vice President Dick Cheney who was responsible for the presidential volte face. But nature does not change the way politicians change their stance.
Where does India stand in this crisis. Rajiv Nigam, a scientist in the Geological Oceanography Centre in Goa is of the opinion that if the global warming went on at the present rate, by 2020 major cities of India like Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, would be under water. This would be the outcome of a rise in sea level by half a metre to one metre. But there is no dearth of scientists who say that time has not yet come for writing a dirge for the earth. Dr R R Kelkar, Director General of Indian Meteorological Department, has said: ‘Heat and rains and storms are common here. But there is not enough evidence to persuade us to believe that the changes will be of fundamental character. ’ Afsal Abbas, scientist at the Bhubaneswar Institute of Physics, says ‘man can be deceived, but nature cannot be. ’ We may not be able to do much at the global level. But we can certainly do something to set our house in order. Since the destruction of nature begins in human mind its defence against it also should begin in the human mind. In a nutshell it means that an attitudinal change is necessary to bring about a change in the environment. Man should change so that climate does not change.