GLOBAL WARMING: ITS CAUSES AND EFFECTS

It is one of the biggest limitations of the human race that the most dangerous hazards often go unnoticed. The population of the species Homo sapiens has become so large that sleek dangers are often able to prey on us, having the advantage of surprise. Sounds like a man-eater right? Global warming is the potential increase in global average surface temperatures resulting from enhancement of the greenhouse effect by air pollution, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, anyway. In 2001 the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that by 2100 global average surface temperatures would increase by 2.5 to 10.4 °F (1.4 to 5.8 °C), depending on a range of scenarios for greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists predict that such an increase would cause polar ice caps and mountain glaciers to melt rapidly, significantly raising the levels of coastal waters, and would produce new patterns and extremes of drought and rainfall, seriously disrupting food production in certain regions. Other scientists maintain that such predictions are overstated. The 1992 Earth Summit and the 1997 conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change attempted to address the issue of global warming, but in both cases the cause was hindered by conflicting national economic agendas and disputes between rich and poor nations over the cost and consequences of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Now ignoring the accusation of Climategate put forward by conspiracy theorists who are accusing others to be conspiracy theorists, it looks as if the phenomenon of Global Warming and associated changes in the climate of the world are real. Now assuming that to be true, we have a very big problem. Even a slight change in the environment will have drastic effects for humans as a whole. The correct ramifications of this can be seen only by observing things from afar. Stepping back to take in a wider

perspective, we detect that too many coincidences have taken place to be close to comfort. We should accept that Global Warming is taking place. Even if it is not taking place, as some seemingly misguided souls still persist in believing, it will be better to take steps to prevent any such eventuality in future.

The single biggest cause of Global Warming is development. Now, we cannot say no to development. That is certain. What we have to say no to however, is development without limits. No to a growth that will probably swallow all of us in its grasp if we are not careful. We should follow the philosophy of the great Roman lyric poet, Horace. He followed ‘aurea mediocritas’ or the ‘golden mean’, which means the desirable middle between two extremes, one of excess and the other of deficiency. Global Warming is mainly because of one thing. That is the greenhouse effect. Visible light from the Sun heats the Earth's surface. Part of this energy is reradiated in the form of long-wave infrared radiation, much of which is absorbed by molecules of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere and reradiated back toward the surface as more heat. This process is analogous to the glass panes of a greenhouse that transmit sunlight but hold in heat. The trapping of infrared radiation causes the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere to warm more than they otherwise would, making the surface habitable. The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by widespread combustion of fossil fuels may intensify the greenhouse effect and cause long-term climatic changes. An increase in atmospheric concentrations of other trace gases such as chlorofluorocarbons, nitrous oxide, and methane may also aggravate greenhouse conditions. It is estimated that since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 30%, while the amount of methane has doubled. Now this is quite frightening because carbon dioxide and methane are both greenhouse gases, or those gases that can and do contribute to the Greenhouse effect.

While travelling in the streets of Bangalore, we become aware of the sheer number of vehicles that are clogging the roads of India. It seems an impossible job to calculate the number of vehicles in India, forget the world. And another sight that is quite familiar in Indian roads is the billowing black smoke, coming out in huge quantities from

the exhaust pipes of vehicles. With the weight of sheer numbers behind it, it is no wonder that pollution levels are increasing. There are several auxiliary, indirect causes also for it. These include the lax regulations that have been in force and the long time for which this has been happening unchecked. A sad state of affairs indeed! Sans any changes done quickly, the situation may become even worse and plummet to plunging, unforeseen nadirs.

Industries are another major perpetrator. Who amongst us have not seen pictures or other media of factories spewing out unknown amounts of poisonous, dangerous gases into the atmosphere? Another cause that is exacerbating the effects of the aforementioned culprits is deforestation. Carbon dioxide which is the main greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is absorbed by green plants. With the decrease of number of trees, the pressure on water bodies to absorb carbon dioxide increases and too much will be too much to be sure.

The effects of Global Warming are becoming easer and easier to see with the passage of that most dangerous of quantities, time. The recent floods that devastated most of Pakistan, the floods in China, the heat wave in Russia are all natural disasters that have been linked to Global Warming and climate change. These events cannot all be coincidences, right? Now, these events are instantaneous events, or rather those events which have resulted in a huge amount of damage and suffering all at once. There are also other events that have been happening that take place over a period of time. These include the melting of the Arctic ice. Scientists now dear that all the Arctic ice may melt before 2030. This may result in the inundation of a large amount of low-lying regions.

In nature everything is connected. A slight change here may result in a huge change somewhere else. Nature is subtle. We cannot comprehend the things that may happen. We cannot even logically eliminate possibilities. Humans have been trying to predict the weather for years. However, there is still a running joke that whatever the meteorology department says, the opposite will happen! And this is with such improvement in technology and the usage of supercomputers for these purposes. So, the

moral of this quaint story is this: we just cannot predict what may happen because of Global Warming. Anything can happen, or maybe even nothing. However, we cannot take chances because, we cannot play with lives. Russian roulette is one of the most dangerous games in the world. It is played by seven people, who take turns one by one to point a revolver loaded in one of its seven chambers at their heads, and pull the trigger. This goes on for six rounds until the person left in the end wins. Well, I admit I am not a scientist, but I believe taking chances with Global Warming will have comparable rates of survival.
PRATHEEK PRAVEEN KUMAR

prytheek@yahoo.com