When big scientific terms are flung about on the dangers to our planet, most lay people have simple questions: What are greenhouse gases, and how do they affect our lives? What do I care about a glacier melting in the Arctic circle? What is all this hoo-ha about climate change? Is it another bogeyman like Saddam Hussain to push a secret Western agenda? Is this a Wall Street-US politician scheme to make money?
Climate change is real. This is no sinister plot to scare us into submission. There is irrefutable science behind it, and importantly, there is consensus in the scientific community. A good 99.9 per cent of scientists agree on the reality of climate change. Between November 2012 and December 2013, 9,316 papers were published in peer-reviewed climate papers, agreeing that the problem is real and caused by human activity. Every national academy of science in the world confirms the dangers.
So what is it all about? We have the sun that pours down goodies in the form of solar radiation through the atmosphere. While some of the energy is radiated back into space in the form of infra-red waves, the remaining energy is absorbed by the earth, which thus gets warmer.
This natural phenomenon is what keeps the earth at a perfect temperature. It makes planet earth unique, habitable and sustainable for all the living life we see around us. Compared to the other planets, earth is like the mythical picture of perfection, like Shambala, with perfect temperature, breathable air, a variety of food, beautiful flowers, plants, birds, bees, animals. We also have graceful rivers with flowing water (unlike Mars), abundant oceans with fish, majestic snow-capped mountains, and roaring waterfalls.
Okay, but don’t get too carried away, as the bad news is coming. This perfection began to be disturbed around the 1930s and 40s, when industrial activity increased with the industrial revolution. As World War II ended, industrial activity picked up, taking advantage of the promise of a more peaceful world, and a stronger United Nations.
The emissions from industries have over time thickened the atmosphere, which was a thin and delicate layer. A lot more of the infra-red radiation is now being reflected back into the planet, warming it even more than we need. We see a direct co-relation between rising carbon dioxide levels and rising temperature levels: as CO2 increases, so does temperature. This is upsetting the delicate temperature balance of the planet. As the earth warms, its ability to maintain the delicate Shambala lifestyle of ours is beginning to fade away.
This is the phenomenon of global warming. Countries have made attempts to motivate, coerce, bully and encourage each other to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The time has now come for them formally to commit to the reductions.
Countries have been submitting their intended national determined contributions (INDC) targets. All this will be discussed in December in Paris. Let’s watch what the countries are going to do collectively for our planet.
The author is the founder Green Dreams for the Planet, an environmental NGO. He is a certified Climate Leader with the Climate Reality Corps. He can be reached at CBRamkumar@ GreenDreams.Vision
Climate change and You - Part 1
In December, representatives of many countries are meeting in Paris for a climate summit. They will make promises to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. How does it concern you? A Bengaluru eco-expert gives you the background.