If any more evidence was needed for burning climate change issues to be given priority in the socio-economic development policies of all countries, it came from world weather experts this week.
Last year 2015 was Earth’s hottest year on record and it appears the planet is still getting hotter. Barely three weeks into the New Year, are climate researchers from National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) already predicting that the average surface temperature around the planet is likely to be higher this year than it was last year. That would mark the first time the average global temperature reached record-breaking heights for three consecutive years. “It’s not unprecedented to have two years in a row of record-breaking temperatures, but in our records, we’ve never had three years in a row,” climatologist Gavin Schmidt, Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, said on Wednesday. “If 2016 turns out to be as warm as we anticipate, that would be unprecedented in our record book.”
One reason scientists expect 2016 to be even warmer than 2015 is that the lingering effects of the El Niño weather pattern should push temperatures skyward through the first half of the year, the Los Angeles Times reported. El Niño is partially responsible for the extremely high temperatures recorded around the globe in October, November and December, the NASA and NOAA researchers said. Still, even before the effects of El Niño were felt, the planet was experiencing considerable temperature anomalies.
In Sri Lanka the National Government has repeatedly said it is giving incentives for our scientist to discover sources of renewable energy including small and large scale solar and wind energy projects. Plans are also being worked out for a more efficient public transport service so that more people would be encouraged to use public transport instead of private transport and thereby reduce their carbon footprints. In addition all civic minded citizens need to cooperate in the mission to save planet Earth by saving fresh water and electricity. These need to be seen as undiluted and powerful acts of patriotism.
Another important area is to stop the pollution or poisoning of Mother Earth. For about forty years, Sri Lanka has been importing and using dangerously excessive quantities of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and weedicides so much so that much of our soil is losing its fertility while the toxic agro-chemicals have also gone deep down to pollute our ground water. This is believed to be the main cause of the kidney disease epidemic mainly in the North Central Province where tens of thousands of farmers and their families have been crippled or are undergoing painful dialysis.
It is in the midst of such a crisis that we heard the shocking news this week that at least 6 Sri Lankan doctors working in four private hospitals were allegedly involved in kidney transplant rackets involving hundreds of millions of rupees. The South Indian Telungana State Police have filed Court action against these doctors and the connivers involved in this racket. Among the suspects is a prominent figure in a medical trade union.
The Health Ministry said yesterday it had appointed a three member committee to probe this alleged racket and a report was expected within a week. Health Minister Rajitha Senarathne said that if substantial evidence was found of illegal or unethical practices, the Sri Lanka Medical Council could take action against the doctors and hospitals involved in this.
Getting back from kidney rackets to agro-chemicals, Rural Economic Affairs Minister P. Harrison said this week the National Government would gradually switch from imported agro-chemicals to different varieties of locally-made organic fertilizer including cattle dung. In the 2016 budget no provision was made to provide imported chemical fertilizer to farmers at subsidized rates. Instead the government is giving a substantial sum of money to farmers, hoping they would use their creative skills to make their own organic fertilizer.
While agriculture has been part of our culture and civilization for centuries, we now need to blend these values with the marvels of modern digital technology to bring about sustainable, eco-friendly and largely village-based development in Sri Lanka.