Warming The Biggest Problem
By G. Venkataramani
20 March, 2004
warming is the biggest and most serious problem faced by us in this
century. Climate change is happening and its effects are real. If we
do not take seriously, it will have serious consequences that will affect
the generations to come," said Sir David Anthony King, Chief Scientific
Adviser to the U.K. Government.
Delivering the 16th
Millennium Lecture organised by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation
(MSSRF) and sponsored by The Hindu Media Resource Centre for Ecotechnology
and Sustainable Development in Chennai, Sir David presented a graphic
account of the emission of greenhouse gases and the consequent global
warming. In his lecture "Global Warming: A threat to our shores",
Sir David said the carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere had been
rising at alarming levels in the last 60,000 years.
If the carbon-dioxide
level doubles, the ambient temperature will go up by 5 degrees Celsius.
It would lead to melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea level, and as
a consequence there would be dramatic changes in the map of the world.
"Global temperature has risen since 1861 till now, a period for
which accurate measurements are available. Global warming has been experienced
all over the world. More than 160,000 people die worldwide every year
due to the side effects of climate change. The frequencies of rapid
precipitation, floods and protracted droughts will increase as global
warming increases," Sir David said .
Hotter and drier
summers, reduced soil moisture, reduced snowfall, increased flooding,
coastal erosion and disrupted energy demand patterns will be the result
of global warming and it will have serious bearing on agriculture and
tourism industry as well. Scientists have predicted that if the emissions
are unmitigated the carbon-dioxide level in the atmosphere can reach
1000 ppm (parts per million) by 2080. However, by taking prompt and
concerted actions to mitigate carbon-dioxide emissions, it could be
kept at 550-ppm level, according to him.
Referring to the
global energy demand, Sir David stressed the need for alternative sources
of energy, which are cleaner and safer for the environment.
Fusion power plants
and hydrogen fuelled transport systems would prove to be safer options
for the future generation. Solar energy and tidal energy are the other
potential energy sources in the years to come.
He said the British
Government was committed to reducing the emission. It had resolved to
reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050.
The country has
programmes to meet 10 per cent of its energy demand from alternative
sources of energy by 2010, and it would derive 20 per cent of its energy
needs by 2020. He called for increased investments to reduce emissions.
"We need to
take actions quickly to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases and
to adapt to significant changes ahead and manage the risks. We need
new international agreements with acceptable targets for each countries
to adopt," he said.
Many countries were
responding to the change. The problem could not be solved in isolation,
and nations needed to work together. He also stressed the need for North-South
exchange of science and technology to address the problem in a collective
Prof. M. S. Swaminathan,
UNESCO Chair in Ecotechnology and Chairman, MSSRF, in his presidential
address said that it was always the poor in the poor countries who were
seriously affected by the consequences of climate change because of
limited coping mechanisms.
The ecological and
economic damage arising out of global warming would be disastrous to
agriculture, which was the mainstay of the country.
is also good economics in the long term. The anticipatory research on
sea level rise and protection of the livelihoods in the vast coastlines
of India will prove to be rewarding in the long run," he said.