Climate convulsion signals ominous prospect

Nilratan Halder     | Published: August 09, 2018 22:12:19

With Europe smarting under a heat wave -parts of it extending from Spain to arctic Sweden under the sway of record high temperature -it is clear that the planet is in convulsion. Bangladesh and its neighbours in South Asia have been experiencing tolerable temperature because the monsoon has been more generous this time unlike last year to send moderate to heavy rains. The United States of America has failed to contain one of the worst wildfires in California in its history. Extreme heat has forced more air-conditioning there leading to demand for more electricity than supplied. Under sweltering heat in Japan, 30 people were reported dead. Similar reports come from parts of China as well.

Yet all these have not been as bewildering as the 50 or so wildfires that broke out in Sweden on account of rising temperature. Lack of rains for months have turned its forests including those in arctic areas into tinderboxes. Withering heat has also caught Canada off guard as it took a heavy toll on its citizens in Montreal. Dozens of people died of extreme heat so much so that the bodies of the victims swamped the city's morgues and had to be stored elsewhere.

News from the traditional Earth's cauldron like the Sahara desert is not inspiring at all. A weather station in Algeria recorded the highest temperature, 51.30C, ever recorded. If Spain and Portugal are bracing for record high temperature (47-480 C), France and Germany also find themselves on the receiving end. France had to close down four nuclear reactors at three power plants and Sweden also followed suit by shutting down one of two reactors at a power plant. What about a reverse pattern of weather where traditional tropical areas like Asia become cooler and Europe and other cold areas hotter!

If the onslaught of heat waves in Sweden is not totally unprecedented, Stockholm records the highest ever temperature by 20  C in 261years. But in other parts of Europe also, there is a precedent of a similar unusual temperature rise. Yet this latest temperature disruption is more or less global in nature rather than region-specific. What is becoming most alarming is that the temperature rise is not remaining confined to land areas but it is wreaking havoc with seas. Last year the Great Barrier Reef was severely affected by a similar sea warming. Also due to such warming vital ingredients like methane deposit in the ocean bed, scientists warns, can be disrupted triggering more and more hurricane and tsunamis.

The world in all likelihood is going to court disasters on account of man's own follies that are responsible for convoluting the planet. A recent study holds that keeping the global temperature below the agreed 20 C more than the pre-industrial level is no guarantee that the erratic pattern of temperature will not set in. The impact of the present level of temperature -supposing it does not increase any further due to emission of carbon dioxide -on many related areas such as ocean beds and what is called jet streams caused in isolated pockets may have domino effects.

This was not in the calculation of climate experts when the Paris climate deal was signed. Now here is a rude reality confronting the human civilisation. Political leaders like Donald Trump are yet to recognise the threat -no matter even if hurricanes, floods and wildfires with greater frequencies continue to destroy and damage lives and property in his own backyard. The negative influence the US President exerts on others harms the cause even more because the latter take cue from him and stop contributing to the climate fund. Ratifying the climate treaty is not enough, it has to be followed by genuine actions. It is quite heartening to know that the two most populous nations have shifted their focus from the fossil fuel to renewable energy. India has remarkably increased its investment in the alternative energy sources with the result that for the first time the allocation tips the balance in favour of clean energy.

Right at this moment, humanity finds itself at the crossroads of scientific and technological progress. There is no way of turning its back to science and technology. But how such wisdom has to be employed for securing the humanity's future is the most important question. Along with a paradigm shift in living standard which for some is unnecessary luxury that only stokes the fire of consumerism, there is a need for channelling resources for research and exploration of ways of and means to obtaining energy from renewable sources.

Common citizens the world over are not in favour of conflict and violence and dominance of other people; it is the political leaders who play war games and acquire deadly weapons. Armaments cost the largest proportion of resources and diverted these could be enough to transform the lives and livelihoods of people everywhere. Even if this sounds utopian, at least some portion of the weaponry expenditure could be diverted to find cheaper ways of generation of renewable energy. This would have done a great service to the mankind. But irrational political calculations stand in the way of making the world safe for the mankind.              


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