Another Piece Of Greenland Broke: How Global Warming Is Affecting All Of Us
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As floods leave millions stranded in Pakistan and wildfires rage in Russia causing heat related deaths, scientists have renewed their efforts to being global warming to our attention. This, accentuated by the calving off of a huge slab of ice from Greenland’s coast, adds even more urgency to the issue of climate change. Our planet is getting hotter as continued gas emissions and the greenhouse effect violently affect our climate causing unprecedented weather extremes. So, how exactly are we affected by any of this? Are world leaders doing enough to stop our planet’s spiralling plunge?
As torrents flood Pakistan displacing millions of people and destroying all crops in their wake, Russian wildfires create havoc as temperatures rise and an unprecedented heat wave washes over North America, it has become virtually impossible to ignore the cries of our planet. There is something very wrong and unfortunately, we don’t have to look too far to place responsibility-the mirror would suffice. We’re burning non-renewable fossil fuels to produce our energy, cutting trees to give way to land and buildings, polluting our rivers with industrial waste and slowly but surely suffocating our very own sustenance.
The result? Global warming. Our planet is heating up at an alarming rate due to green gas emissions adding to the “invisible blanket of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases” leading to dire consequences, of which weather extremes are only one manifestation. In the face of such unpredictability, it is time all of us, as citizens of nature, take up its liability and examine the affects of global warming on our ecosystems and lives. Be warned though, this is one introspection that is bound to be guilt inducing.
Scientists all over the world have renewed their urgent pleas for nations (and by extension their inhabitants) to do more to stop this catastrophic climate change after a huge slab of ice calved from the Petermann glacier off the north-west coast of Greenland this month. There are however, many of you who will probably wonder how you’ve played any part in that happening or why it even matters. Well, each one of us travels by car/bus burning fuel and releasing gases into the air, we all live in houses built on land cleared by cutting trees or on a smaller scale, use deodorants with CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and I could go on and on. As a result of the build up of these gases and less vegetation to absorb the carbon dioxide, the temperature of the earth is indelibly rising causing polar ice caps and glaciers to melt.
This in turn is leading to water levels increasing and flooding in many parts of the world. Moreover, warm air is known to carry and absorb more moisture thereby parching land and crops followed by intense rain such as the ongoing monsoons in Pakistan. In other words, “we are seeing hotter hots, wetter wets and drier dries. These extremes in turn are resulting in destructive wild fires, choking air pollution, ravaging floods, lost crops, lost homes and lost lives”, according to Jonathan Hoekstra (Director of the Climate Change Program at The Nature Conservancy).
Critics of global warming however believe that these extremes are not a consequence of climate change but rather are incidents of erratic weather and are fairly normal. The distinction being that the climate is an average trend whilst the weather varies from day to day and hence is unexpected and generally irregular. Therefore, there are several supporters of the view that these natural disasters can in no way be scientifically proven to be caused by human-driven warming and neither are they in any way prophetic signs of impending doom. Regardless of which camp you belong to or what explanations you may lean towards, there is no denying that the average temperature of the earth is slowly increasing with June 2010 being the hottest June since 1880.
Considering the urgency of the situation then one would expect world leaders to be scrambling to devise strategies to reduce greenhouse gases and promote environmentally friendly industrial policies- the cost of not doing so is simply too high, both in material and human terms. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
The Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 was expected to be a step forward after the Kyoto protocol failed to bring about any tangible results with the US Senate severely opposing the agreement. The summit sadly, ended similarly with no conclusions reached except a general consensus that more needs to be done. Why, you ask? The international debate regarding climate change largely centers around responsibility as leading manufacturing nations are blamed for excessive gas emissions and urged to cut down on them. Conversely, such countries including China and the US are hesitant to agree to such mandatory obligations lest their profits be affected especially during the current economic slowdown leading to somewhat of a practical stalemate. Poorer countries, on the other hand are seeking compensation for being made more vulnerable to climate change by these developed nations and their industries absolving themselves of responsibility. In my opinion though, while the global political community does without a doubt need to pull up its socks and get to work fixing what is a shared problem-so do we, ordinary citizens. This is the only home we have and unless we can respect it and do our part, the perils of climate change will indeed affect us all. So, next time whether you switch off your lights to save energy, plant more trees or turn off your car’s engine at a traffic light-remember you are doing Planet Earth a favour. You owe it.