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Scrutiny
  
Warming? Where?
Is the phenomenon of global warming really that serious? Does it even exist? Do we even care? We answer all those questions and more...
10/12/2009

Southern India: in the state of Andhra Pradesh, temperatures reached to as high as 120°F (48.9°C) resulting in the highest one-week death toll on record – the state has experienced a warming trend at the rate of 1°F (0.6°C) per century. Bangladesh: rising ocean levels have flooded about 18,500 acres of mangrove forests in Chokaria Sundarbans during the past three decades due to the global sea-level rise at 5.5 mm/year. China: in the Qinghai province, more than half of the 4,000 lakes have disappeared due to droughts. Siberia: large expanses of tundra permafrost are melting.

Horrifyingly, melting permafrost has already damaged 300 buildings in the cities of Norilsk and Yakutsk. The average temperature of the permanently frozen ground in Yakutsk has warmed by 2.7 °F (1.5°C) in the last three decades. Canada: the Athabasca Glacier has retreated about 0.5 km in six decades and has thinned dramatically since the 1950s. In British Columbia, the Wedgemont Glacier too has retreated hundreds of meters since 1979, as the climate has been warming at a rate of 2°F (1.1°C) per century, shockingly at twice the global average.

Does all this really point towards global warming to such an extent that we should start panicking? Well, the issue has gained popularity in the developed world (Europe specifically) but has not gone down so well in the third world as food and shelter are of greater importance than a 1.5°C rise in temperatures.

That is not to discard the factuality that certain environmental changes are becoming more severe with each day passing. Global temperatures are surely on the rise. Incidences like Arctic shrinkage, Arctic methane release, and release of terrestrial carbon from permafrost regions are being observed. The sea level is rising at 0.2 cm/year. From 1961 to 2003, the global ocean temperatures have risen by 0.1°C. The temperature of the Antarctic Southern Ocean rose by 0.17°C (0.31°F) between the 1950s and the 1980s.
More dangerous implications include transnational migration of epidemics like malaria, plague. In addition, economic costs can be easily gauged from the example of the 1926 Miami hurricane which cost a whopping $157 billion. What is more appalling is that around 25 million people are estimated to have been displaced in the 1990s due to environmental changes; shockingly, the number is estimated to reach 150 million by the end of 2050 (as per the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). WHO reports that as of date, around 150,000 individuals are dying every year due to climate change.

If climate change is a realistic possibility, then the current response in the form of UN-FCCC seems too luxurious. While a country like China today accounts for 19% global emissions, India is not far behind. Yet, none of these countries seems open to a legally enforceable regulation that ensures that emitters fall in line – the argument being that while the developed countries have already exploited the world in the past so many years (and so have become developed), the developing countries still have their share of exploitation left to do. If that is the argument, we are all lost. For a start, so is the UN. They don’t even have a separate body looking after climate control...

By:- Akram Hoque
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