- By Khin Maung Myint
Year after year, the climatic conditions of our planet earth is getting worser. The temperatures are rising at alarming rates causing desertification, melting the glaciers profusely and the sea levels are continuously rising. Thus the low-lying coastal areas are being inundated, causing the land masses to shrink. Inhabitable spaces for humans are decreasing, the farmers are losing arable lands. So, also the farm animals are losing their grazing grounds, forests are being depleted and the wildlife habitats are disappearing. The fish populations in the streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, seas and oceans are dwindling and foods are getting scarce and people are starving. These are the ravages of the climate change. If they cannot be put under control, our world is surely headed for doom.
The greenhouse gases emitted from cars, trains, ships, planes and factories—the technologies that powered the growth of economy—came at an enormous cost to the planet’s health. Today, if we humans don’t change our behaviors, the average global temperature will rise as much as 4 degrees Celsius and the global sea levels will rise by up to 6 feet by the end of the century. These circumstances will radically change the weather patterns around the globe, leaving coastal communities and equatorial regions forever changed—and potentially uninhabitable.
Even now, we are already seeing the effects of dramatically changed weather patterns. The wildfire seasons are extending, the storm surges are worsening, droughts are more severe, desertification are happening at alarming rates in many parts of the world and flooding getting more devastating. It’s true that any individual weather anomaly is unlikely to be solely the result of industrial emissions, and maybe your particular part of the world has been spared so far, but these are really happening. If these are left unchecked and if the people don’t change their behaviours our world is surely headed for destruction.
So, how are all these disastrous climate conditions being created? To understand it we need to go all the way back to the beginning, which was the Industrial Revolution—from that point onwards, the climate scientists started to notice a global shift in temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. In the late 1700s, as coal-fired factories started producing steel and textiles, the United States and other developed nations began pumping out its destructive byproducts. As coal is a carbon-rich fuel and when it combust with oxygen, it produces heat along with another byproduct: the CO2. Other carbon-based fuels, like natural gas, do the same in different proportions.
When those emissions entered the atmosphere, they acted like an insulating blanket, preventing the sun’s heat from escaping into space. Over the course of history, atmospheric CO2 levels have varied significantly. We know for certain that extra greenhouse gas is caused by humans. The majority of the extra CO2 comes from fossil fuels utilized by humans to power their motor vehicles, trains, ships, planes and factories, etc. Also the humans and animals contribute to the increase of CO2 by their respirations. CO2 presence in the atmosphere is the major player in creating the greenhouse effects, which acts as the insulating blanket giving way to the global warning and lead to the climate change that is ravaging the world today. The most obvious solution to climate change woes is a dramatic shift away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energies: solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and even nuclear (considered to be relatively safe). Growing more trees would also contribute to the eradication of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Political controversy still continues, motivated by the financial incentives of the fossil fuel industry, the climate scientists’ consensus on data supporting the concept of human-caused climate change is being challenged. Climate change deniers, well-funded oil lobbyists, reticent politicians and a disinterested public, all reinforced that challenge. However, in 2015, the world’s leaders appeared to have accepted the scientists’ consensus, which is quite encouraging for the future of our planet, humankind and all living things alike. On December 12, after two weeks of deliberations at the 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Le Bourget, France, 195 countries agreed on the language in what’s known as the Paris Agreement, which officially came into force on November 4, 2016.
The goal is to keep average global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial levels, and as close to 1.5 degrees as possible. It required each country to submit a commitment to reduce emissions and collectively bear the economic burden of a shift from fossil fuels—while acknowledging that developing nations would lose some growth if they had to give up cheap energy.
The Earth’s average temperature has increased 1.1 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. As oceans absorb heat and polar ice sheets melt, hurricane seasons become more severe as warm water from the oceans kicks warm, moist air into the atmosphere. Sea levels rise—about 8 inches in the past century. Critically, the rate of these changes is increasing.
Sea-level rise is a major consequence of climate change that will continue long after emissions of greenhouse gases have stopped. The 2015 Paris Agreement aims at reducing climate-related risks by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero and limiting global-mean temperature increase. According to some estimates, median sea-level rise could be between 0.7 and 1.2 m, if net-zero greenhouse gas emissions are sustained until 2300. Temperature stabilization below 2 °C is insufficient to hold median sea-level rise until 2300 below 1.5 m.
Climate change is already starting to exacerbate famines, as temperature and precipitation patterns shift. Many experts worry that food production systems may struggle to adapt in coming decades. Even if problems caused by climate change turn out to be modest, global populations are expected to increase to 10 billion people by 2050, and the demand for food will likely go up by 50 percent or more as people in the developing world increase their income and consume foods that require more resources to produce.
Also the inhabitable and arable lands and animal breeding pastures are shrinking, due mainly to inundating of the low-lying areas along the coastal areas as the sea levels are gradually rising and severe droughts causing desertification. These dire conditions would eventually give way to mass migrations, which would become uncontrollable if the climate change becomes worse.
The worst case scenarios will be the social unrests and armed conflicts around the world, signs of which are starting to emerge even today. The hardest hit would be in most of the countries in Africa and South Asia, where there are shortages of food and liveable places due to droughts, desertification, flooding and uncontrollable increases in populations. Thus people from those parts are starving and thus will resort to migrate en-masse to more liveable and greener pastures and when those happen anything can take place.
According to a think tank research paper published by the Germanwatch organization, countries most affected in the period 1996–2015, Honduras, Myanmar and Haiti have been identified as the most affected countries in this 20-year period.They are followed by Nicaragua, the Philippines, and Bangladesh.
Myanmar was listed at second place, a fact, which I think was because they based their analysis on the data from the destructions caused by the cyclone Nargis. If that should be the case, our risks in th future couldn’t be as high as in other countries, where droughts and desertification, the consequences of the climate change had caused food shortages and starvations already and mass migrations are underway even now.
However, if we can make systematic preparations for the future to cope with any emergency situations, the devastations and the losses of lives and properties can be further minimized.Thus the departments concerned should make arrangements for the followings:-
1. Educate the people in devastation-prone areas how to evacuate and survive,
2. Carry out out drills and exercises periodically for organized evacuations,
3. Installing early warning systems for cyclones and tsunamis,
4. Building enough shelters in case of cyclones or floods.
5. Organizing and training of rapid response teams for rescue and relief operations.
Furthermore, we should fulfil our commitments made to the Paris Agreement, and reduce the CO2 emissions by substituting the fossilized fuels with green or renewable energy sources, such as: solar, wind and hydro. We should also grow more trees to absorb the CO2 we produce and while our depleted forests are undergoing reforestations, loggings should aso be restricted.
The good news is, the global community is pretty united on the risks of climate change. The science is getting good enough to link specific extreme events—abnormal hurricanes, extreme flooding events, extreme cases of droughts—directly to human-caused climate change, and that’s making it easier to build a case for dramatic action to stem the damage. But what should those actions be and will they be really effective? That’s for the scientists to come up with and let’s wait and hope for the best.
1. The wired Guide to Climate Change by Katie M. Palmer and Matt Simon.
2. Sea Level to Rise by 1.2 Metres by 2300 – So What? Guest essay by Andi Cockroft.