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The Financial Express

Planet Earth in turmoil or death throes!


Planet Earth in turmoil or death throes!

The past week's rainfalls had all the making of a monsoon although this year's monsoon proper was, reportedly, the driest ever. In fact, for the past seven years now the rainy season has remained drier than before. Intriguingly, the autumn and the monsoon appear to have conspired to interchange their roles and positions. Well, it is not quite uncharacteristic of the month of Bhadra or Aswin to have loads of rains triggered by lows and sweeping gales in the Bay. But what is particularly remarkable about the past few days' rains is their cent per cent monsoon-like characteristic with light drizzles coming from nowhere and vanishing in no time only to return back and these continued like a game of hide and seek.

So far, it has not come as a threat to the major parts of Bangladesh. But the coastal areas in the south have been bearing the brunt, showing how vulnerable they are to the turbulent and rising sea. Coastal protection dams have given in at several points ---and not for the first time this year ---to allow onrushing waters inundate village after village and their croplands. It presents a typical image of the cataclysmic loss of vast coastal areas to the rising sea in the future. The threat now looks real and awfully ominous.

In this context, the multi-agency UN climate science report released on Tuesday last has set the alarm bell ringing. The report points accusing fingers at governments for not matching up their actions with the pledges they made at the Paris climate conference and by default inviting the climate catastrophe perhaps well before the time earlier anticipated. Studying several factors responsible for climate change such as CO2 emission, global temperature rises, climate predictions, 'tipping points', urban climate change, extreme weather impacts and early warning systems, researchers under the "Uniting in Science" coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) have concluded that the world is 'heading in the wrong direction'.

Far from doing the groundwork for achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement, the ultimate of which is to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5 degree Celsius above the pre-industrial levels, people across the world are generally doing exactly the opposite. Not quite unaware that they are running out of time to put their acts together for restoring the planet's health, they are all the same causing the gravest harm to the only place known for fostering lives.

Currently greenhouse gas concentration is piling up to record high and fossil fuel emissions are at levels higher than that of the pre-pandemic time. But hardly policymakers anywhere in the world have been assigned to seriously take forward the programmes for an early switchover to green or eco-friendly energy technology. Given the lapses and failure to comply with Paris Agreements, greenhouse gas reduction needs to be beefed up seven times higher, climate scientists now estimate. Clearly, the prospect of its materialisation looks bleak at a time when the world leaders are concerned with issues other than this one so vital for human race's survival.

One important issue not usually taken note of by many other than the scientists concerned is the ocean current that is responsible for shifting heat from the tropics to the northern hemisphere. Alarmingly, the ocean current is at its slowest in 1,000 years ---a fact decisive enough to disrupt the planet's weather pattern. This finding by the UN Environment Programme and the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction certainly brings a new dimension to climate change and may potentially indicate areas to be addressed for stemming the environmental deterioration.

When so much is at stake, scientists have done their ground work in order to alert the political leaderships but unless the latter respond to the emergency promptly, even the scientists will have no means to arrest the fast failing health of the planet. If the warning sounded by scientists is missed by political leaderships and policymakers in the world's capitals, the colossal changes taking place in the lifelines and vital natural resources should have brought them back to their senses. Unfortunately, no amount of environmental turmoil has prompted them to collectively go for something radical equal to the problem.

They fall short of reacting properly to a few unprecedented environmental developments of catastrophic proportion signalling the cataclysmic devastation waiting to unfold in the days to come. Right now Pakistan is struggling with an unprecedented flood and some European countries including Britain and France had to endure the test of never-before-experienced heat waves. Only a year before America's north and Canada lost more than 800 lives to what is called heat domes. Melting of polar ice cap and Himalayan glacier may be distant phenomena but when sources of rivers in their backyards run dry or lose streams, they cannot and should not turn a blind eye to the disastrous developments. Politics, unfortunately, has other priorities as demonstrated by the choice of the Conservative Party leadership in the UK.

Apart from curbing fossil fuel use significantly, where the world can gain most is in bringing about a radical change in the current style of prolific consumerism. This poses a direct threat to free market economy that thrives on spurring unnecessary and superfluous consumerism. Already there is a movement in the West that promotes the virtue of minimalism but it is still a marginal force yet to gather steam. Like it or not, the survivability of the human race largely depends on a radically scaled-down pattern of living standard and avoidance of excessive comfort and luxuries.

 

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