Sunday, September 1, 2013

It’s getting hot in here ! Sweating Change.

During the past Month or two Sri Lankans experienced what was probably some of the hottest days in our lifetimes.  Of course, this cannot be totally accounted for effects of global warming caused as an effect of Climate Change. The Meteorological Department issuing a statement explained that the sun has been rotating very close to the island nation and its rays are hanging directly over us. The change of weather patterns and climatic conditions are of course natural: over millions of years the earth’s climate has fluctuated from ice ages to much warmer periods. But what is not natural is that in the last century, the planets temperature has risen unusually fast.  (Earth's mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C, with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980.) But the reality is that you don’t need statistics to prove the climate is changing. Within our lifetime, the temperature levels have seen a noticeable increase. Scientists have reasoned that it is human activity that is causing these changes: carbon emissions caused by burning of fossil fuels for industrialization, increasing travel and energy consumption intensified by deforestation etc.. Researchers predict that temperatures will increase 2 to 10 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. 

1998 was the warmest year in recorded history with 2005 coming in second. These almost punishing weather events makes one feel like, not without reason, Mother Nature is seeking vengeance for the global failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The heat is causing arctic sea ice to melt causing sea levels to rise, flooding coastal areas. Weather patterns could change: making disasters such as droughts and hurricanes more frequent. More children are getting asthma and allergies, people are losing jobs. Species unable to adapt to changing conditions would face extinction.  Global warming could do more than just melt polar ice. It could change our maps, and displace people from cities and tropical islands.

Without rain farmers are unable to continue their cultivations. Last year, in Sri Lanka’s South Eastern regions over six months of drought were followed by unending incessant rains that kept falling for over three months that destroyed crops. With no harvest, livelihoods of farmers are directly affected, furthermore, this leads to abject food insecurity: this causes food prices to go up, and the cost of living to further increase: the cycle of stark poverty continues.  Droughts have also extended power cuts in different parts of the island.

Simple things count. Turning lights off. Switching to CFL, travelling less, cycling whenever possible etc.. But it is also important for the Government to campaign for Climate Change policy in International fora. After all, unlike in most Human Rights issues where the general attitude is that it is ‘white man’s burden’ to preach human rights values etc… In the case of climate change the ball is in the hands of the developed and the industrialized world to commit. When one fifth of the world population causes almost 62% of all global carbon emissions, it is only fair that the rest of the world demands for Common but Differentiated Responsibility, commonly referred to as CBDR (the direct responsibility of developed countries in global climate change as well as the ‘special needs and special circumstances of developing countries’).

This isn't a science-fiction, end-of-the-world phenomenon, Climate Change has impacted how and where we live, work and play. But governments around the world continue to emit greenhouse gases, and are still reluctant to commit themselves to reduce these emissions. It is high time the government of Sri Lanka became an advocate for green growth internationally. The first step of course, is leading by example ! 

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