It is not the time to be complacent or apathetic. What we need to do is to act positively and constructively. There are disaster and devastation looming. We should not shy away from the truth, however ‘inconvenient the truth’ may be. It is the time we put our shoulders to the wheel and focused on all our concentration. Because global warming is coming to swallow us up. And if we waste too much time, it will really engulf us. Then there will be only blackness around. We will be beset by the greatest catastrophe imaginable, something that we have only talked about and seen enacted in exciting cinemas until now, in reality. If global warming spreads its tentacles over us, you will not be able to read this article anymore. Because mankind will be extinct!
Understanding Global Warming
Global warming is a phenomenon that has been taking place for quite some time. Our blue planet is getting hotter due to an increase in the volume of carbon dioxide in it. Tons and tons of carbon dioxide have been produced due to the burning of fossil fuels and non-renewable resources such as coal, natural gas, petroleum, crude oil, oil shale, etc. The use of fossil fuels on a widespread basis started from the 16th century during the advent of the Industrial Revolution in Great Britain and in the colonies of Great Britain. The Industrial Revolution witnessed the discovery of the steam engine, which was operated with the help of fossil fuels. But over the centuries, scientists gradually discovered that burning fossil fuels leads to a high degree of air pollution. The combustion of fossil fuels results in a high proportion of noxious gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, etc. to be emanated into the atmosphere. These poisonous gases have an adverse impact on the climate and the ecology of our planet. They also affect our health negatively.
Oxides of sulfur and nitrogen when dissolved in water form corrosive acids, which are capable of wreaking irreparable damage on mausoleums and historical edifices that are made of marble.
Sulfur dioxide plus water gives sulfuric acid (highly corrosive acid)
Nitrogen dioxide plus water gives nitric acid (highly corrosive acid)
Hence, when such toxic gases dissolve in and form a mixture of rainwater, the inevitable outcome is an acidic kind of rain popularly called acid rain. This acid rain can eat away the surfaces of architectural splendours as has been mentioned above. A refinery near the Taj Mahal of Agra, India had been releasing such deadly gases into the air above the mausoleum. These gases led to the formation of acid rain that had an atrophying effect on the spotless white marble surfaces of the Taj. The destruction was so alarming that the management of the refinery had to be hauled up by the Government of India and by environmental activists. The refinery was told to lower its emissions by using high-end manufacturing techniques and to shut down some of its operations to prevent the fabulous monument and tomb of Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal (after whom the monument is named) from crumbling totally into dust. The refinery did its best by modernizing some of its manufacturing methods, by planting myriad trees, by developing an ecological park that is currently the habitat of many migratory and rare species of birds. Such a sincere response from the refinery to protect one of the seven modern wonders of the world from decay placated the government and the activists. However, environmental watchdogs must not sleep. There are hundreds of industries across the world, which violate environmental laws and norms, every day. Steps towards safeguarding the environment must be executed on a long-term basis. Short-term environmental projects and sudden forays into ‘environmental protection schemes’ for the sake of publicity and image-boosting are neither desirable nor useful. Sustainable development and environmental conservation are the only weapons that we have to fight global warming.
The temperature of our planet is rising due to the greenhouse effect. The burning of fossil fuels leads to the emission of greenhouses gases. Carbon dioxide, water vapour and methane are some well-known greenhouse gases. These greenhouse gases absorb and give out infrared radiation. Greenhouse gases have a tendency to trap heat and elevate the temperature of our planet. Hence, it is due to these greenhouse gases, that our planet is getting heated up to a tremendous extent and global warming is setting in. This continuous rise in temperature can have cataclysmic and far-reaching consequences for our planet and on our lives. The hot air causes glaciers to melt and snow-capped mountain peaks to that. If the heat is very intense, ice and snow of most massifs around the world will melt very fast. The melted ice and snow will flow in streams into rivers and finally into seas thus causing an unprecedented rise in sea levels. Rivers will swell and seas will overflow onto and inundate the land. Coastlines will disappear, submerging entire countries. Besides a global deluge, extreme weather patterns, such as heat waves and cold waves, floods and droughts, and violent storms, are other upshots of global warming.
Deforestation is another aspect that precipitates global warming as it causes an unusual increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Global warming has already set in on our planet. However, when global warming will set in, in full swing, it will uproot all existing forests of our planet and cause the complete annihilation of marine life. So, deforestation triggers global warming and global warming, in its turn, causes forests to dwindle. What a vicious circle!
The ozone layer that shields our planet from the direct and unforgiving ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun is getting depleted gradually. Certain gases better known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or freons and bromofluorocarbons or halons that are produced by our manufacturing industries are eating into the ozone layer. Aerosols manufactured by various industries are causing the ozone layer to wear away too. This eating away of the ozone layer is creating a hole or a depression in the ozone layer, commonly called the ozone hole. As the ozone hole is increasing in area, it is permitting more UV rays to penetrate into the Earth’s atmosphere. The increased concentration of UV light in the Earth’s atmosphere is rendering our planet uninhabitable. Excessive exposure to UV light causes skin cancer and cataracts in humans. Excessive exposure to UV light also causes irrevocable harm to various species of animals and plants. The fallout of this is an irremediable problem in the food chain. The depletion of the ozone layer is a very controversial issue as it has pros as well as cons. The irony of the ‘(w)hole’ matter is that ozone is a greenhouse gas. Too much of it will give rise to global warming while too little of it will result in a human population that is rife with skin cancer.
This meltdown is different from the economic meltdown that we recently experienced. While we have proved repeatedly that we can bounce back from a recessionary meltdown, we still haven’t proved to ourselves or to anybody that we can remain unfazed or unaffected if all the ice caps and glaciers of the world melt and if we are consumed by this all-encompassing and horrifying phenomenon of global warming.
Are We Prepared…?
Sadly, we are not in the least prepared to tackle a disaster of such a great magnitude. We are divided amongst ourselves about which nations should cut down emissions and by what extent. In various meetings and summit conferences, we only bicker about figures, levels and percentages while the Earth’s biological clock keeps ominously ticking away. There is no unity whatsoever between the developed, the developing and the underdeveloped nations on the score of global warming. All agree that global warming is a threat that spells universal disaster and devastation. But the main bone of contention is which country is responsible and which country should take the initiative to curtail emissions drastically. Blame games and passing the buck are rampant, and pointing accusatory fingers, putting the onus, and making recriminations and counter-recriminations seem to be the order of the day, while global warming steadily continues to rend our planet. Developed nations invariably endeavour to pressurize and bully the less developed nations while the less developed nations cry hoarse to rally support in order to pin down developed nations. The mercury shows no signs of abating. It keeps shooting up at a frightening pace while politics, one-upmanship, heated debates, power and orations reign.
The Real Enemy
What on earth are we all doing, all of us? Time will never wait. Arise, awake, all of you from your slumbers and quit this wrangling and infighting. Do we want another calamity like the one that happened 65 million years ago and obliterated all the dinosaurs from the planet? No. We certainly do not want to be wiped out. Then what is stopping us from uniting against a common cause? What is stopping us from leaving our individual cares aside? After all, in truth, we have all been created by the same Creator. Instead of highlighting this fact, why are we choosing to forget it and concentrate on our various disparities, the various walls that we have built that separate nation from nation, state from state, race from race and human from a human? Is there a greater enemy than global warming? An enemy that lies within us?
The choice is ours. Either we join hands and make a concerted effort to defeat global warming or let the enemy within us create more factions amongst us and defeat us all. If we cannot keep the enemy within us at bay, it will ultimately conquer us all. And, if we, humans of the 21st century who reside on this beautiful Earth are mean and vile enough to prefer to protect power and politics, vested interests, and racism, instead of our endangered planet, we should be vanquished by global warming. Because our real adversary, it seems, is not global warming but we ourselves.