Global warming: Don’t wait till it’s too late - Editorial

16 April 2014 03:39 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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In the afterglow of a happy but the hottest ever National New Year we need to reflect deeply on the latest United Nations report which warns that just a few decades remain to halt global warming and head off its most catastrophic effects. The report according to the widely respected National Geography magazine offers a sweeping menu of climate change fixes that would require global cooperation to implement.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) mitigation report, released last Sunday in Berlin, explores some 1,200 scenarios to avert the worsening effects of global warming by 2100. The proposals range from planting more trees to relying much more on nuclear power.

“This report is a wake-up call about global economic opportunity we can seize today as we lead on climate change,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in a statement. “This report makes clear we face an issue of global willpower, not capacity.”

Sunday’s report was the third in a series of UN reports on climate change. These reports paint a picture of “virtually certain” climate change, driven by increasing emissions—80 per cent of them from the burning of fossil fuels—which are already melting the Arctic, acidifying oceans and harming crops.

The report urges global action before 2020. The alternative, it says, is paying more later, when temperatures rise to dangerous levels, and running more severe risks of climate change, which include rising seas, acidified oceans, longer heat waves, and severe crop failures.

“The longer we wait, the more costly things will be,” said Stanford University economist Charles Kolstad, a lead author of the IPCC report. “It is possible to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions - that’s clear. But it will be a challenge.”

Overall, global greenhouse gas emissions—largely caused by burning coal, oil and natural gas—need to be cut 40 to 70 per cent by mid-century, the report says, for humanity to face better than 50/50 odds of dodging the worst effects of global warming.

Sri Lanka being a small island could be among the danger zones of any global warming catastrophe. Environmentalists have warned that while our neighbouring Maldives and some South Pacific islands may just disappear, Sri Lanka may lose a large portion of its coastal belt if immediate and effective action is not taken.

During the past five years, after defeating the LTTE terrorists, the Government and its media keep on boasting about unprecedented development—a new international port and international airport, a multimillion dollar supercity in the sea,  huge coal power plants,super highways, flyovers and a grand if not grandiose beautification of Colombo, Hambantota other cities and urban areas. While these and other massive infrastructure development projects are useful, many independent analysts scoff at the claim of Sri Lanka becoming the miracle of Asia. If seen in terms of what we have done or not done regarding the latest UN warning on global warming, then Sri Lanka may be close to becoming one of the centres of this doomsday scenario. With thousends of new or reconditioned vehicles being imported and hundreds of politicians getting duty-free permits valued at millions, carbon dioxide emissions are known to be dangerously high. In addition, due to a decline in the use of hydro-electric power, more than 80 per cent of our electricity is known to be from thermal power generation which again involves high degrees of carbon dioxide emissions. Few if any effective measures have been taken to reduce environmental pollution by industrial factories. Adding to the crisis our forest cover is known to have been devastated by about 40 per cent and the trend is continuing.  

We urge Government leaders and experts to carefully study the latest UN report and take practical steps to save Sri Lanka by turning around from the path of self- destruction.
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