Monday, December 27, 2004

The tsunami, and a lesson for us

This is a big posting. Please read it. I feel it's worth your time.
As Asia recovers from the tsunami (why are some spellings so complicated? Why not just sunami?), I think, it's time for some contemplation.
I feel, this is just a trailer. The coastal areas of almost all countries are set to experience something thousand times worse in some 20 years.
Of course, it is not tsunami. Several coastal communities, including several countries, will be totally submerged because of the melting ice caps.
Twenty years is not a long time. In fact, if you are living in a coastal city, and if your house is in the vicinity of the coast, better start planning now.
Geoffrey Lean's report in The Independent says a report, by a German government body warns that "measures to fight global warming will have to be at least four times stronger than the Kyoto Protocol if they are to avoid the melting of the polar ice caps, inundating central London and many of the world's biggest cities."
The report says that even if it is fully implemented, the protocol will only have a "marginal attenuating effect" on the climate change.
Lean says the report concludes that the protocol must urgently be brought into force, but only as a first step, insisting that "catastrophic" climate change "can now only be prevented if climate protection targets are set at substantially higher levels than those agreed internationally until now".
Lean continues, "The report, written by eight leading German professors, says that "dangerous climatic changes" will become "highly probable" if the world's average temperature is allowed to increase to more than 2 degrees centigrade above what it was before the start of the Industrial Revolution.
"Beyond that level the West Antarctic ice sheet and the Greenland ice cap would begin gradually to melt away, eventually raising sea levels world wide by up to 30 feet, submerging vast areas of land and key cities worldwide. London, New York, Miami, Bombay, Calcutta, Sydney, Shanghai, Lagos and Tokyo would be among those largely submerged by such a rise."
May be we can add cities such as Chennai and countries such as Sri Lanka to this list.
"Above this mark too, other "devastating" and "irreversible" changes would be likely to take place. These include a cessation of the Indian monsoon and the ending of the Gulf Stream, which would dramatically worsen the climate in Britain and western Europe, even as the world warms. Another risk is the so-called "runaway greenhouse" where rising temperatures lead to the release of huge reservoirs methane stored in permafrost and the oceans, adding to global warming and starting a self-reinforcing cycle that would eventually make the earth uninhabitable."
"To avoid such catastrophe, the report says that industrialized countries will have to cut emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide by at least 20 per cent by 2020, and by up to 60 per cent by 2050. The Kyoto Protocol would at best cut them by 5 per cent by 2012, and probably less, even if it were brought into force and fully implemented.
In the meantime the world looks as if it will greatly exceed the targets. Writing in The Independent on Sunday today, Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, calculates that global emissions of greenhouse gases could increase by 75 per cent by 2020, "putting the world well on the way to doomsday"."
Not only the coastal cities, even the little towns and villages on the banks of villages will be wiped out. The Siachen Glacier has started melting faster. And after it melts fully, there won't be any water left. Add to it the "cessation" of the monsoon, the devastation will be complete.
Its time to dump Kyoto and other useless "protocols" which only helps countries blame each other and totally stop all activities contributing to global warming. There is no other way.
Says a report in "A glacier from which Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay set out to conquer Mount Everest nearly 50 years ago has retreated three miles up the mountain due to global warming. The head of the Nepal Mountaineering Association, Tashi Jangbu Sherpa, says " that Hillary and Tenzing would now have to walk two hours to find the edge of the glacier which was close to their original base camp."
Can we do something about this? Yes. Here's what says. (This is mainly written for Western audience. A few points may not be applicable to India)

Use compact fluorescent bulbs in our homes, stores and offices. Fluorescent bulbs last 10,000 hours longer than incandescent bulbs, keeping more than half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere over the course of their lifetime.

When replacing home appliances, use energy efficient models. For example, replacing an old refrigerator using 320 watts with a new one using 85 watts could make a big difference. When buying appliances, look for the EPA/Department of Energy’s new Energy Star label.

Use cars and light trucks that get good gas mileage. In fact tell your friends that driving a sports utility vehicle adds to global warming and pollution. SUVs emit 43% more global-warming pollutants (28 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon) and 47% more air pollution than the average car. An SUV is 4 times as likely to rollover in an accident.

If car manufacturers were to increase their fleets' average gas mileage about 3 miles per gallon, this country could save a million barrels of oil every day, while US drivers would save $25 billion in fuel costs annually.

Choose a company that offers for homes electricity generated by renewable energy sources.

If possible, ask employer if your work could be done at home. Even if some of the work could be completed at your residence, this would help relieve traffic congestion, which adds to ordinary car emissions.

Help promote community carpooling.

Promote the construction of bike lanes, especially bike lanes that have an outside curb separating auto traffic and bikes. Establish numerous bike routes into center of city, limiting auto speed on these routes to 10 miles per hour, during commuting hours only. Companies could provide showering facilities, together with bike stands to encourage biking employees.

Place an insulating cover around water heater.

Insulate walls and ceilings, and lower heating bills.

When replacing windows, choose those that are the best energy saving models, such as double pane windows.

A car needs only about 2 minutes to warm up. Taking more time only wastes fuel and contributes to global warming.

Keep the door shut to any room that is not being used, saving the energy to heat that room.

Take public transit whenever possible.