Without a doubt, climate change is the elephant in the room that no country is dealing with in a manner that reflects its dire consequences for humans and every other living creature on planet Earth. The oceans grow more acidic and warm, eventually to turn into lifeless and hypoxic dead zones. Tropical jungles continue to disappear under bulldozers to make way for monoculture industrial farming. Forests fall to invasions of beetles and burn from epic wildfires in a warming planet. Vast tracts of farmland are desiccated by relentless drought while the government continues its mandate of turning food into fuel for this country’s mammoth population of vehicles. The central banks continue to print money for the hedge funds and casino capitalists to speculate in “THE MARKET”. And the masses, bombarded with infotainment of carnival politics and Hollywood gossip, walk around in an entertained stupor, comforted in the belief that industrial civilization is infallible and exempt from the laws of physics and bankruptcy of an overexploited planet. Like an obsessive compulsive lunatic, growth is still the word that drips from the tongue of every mainstream economist, politician, and captain of industry. Global coal consumption continues its inexorable rise upward, with astronomical consumption predictions heralded for the distant future…
Intelligence, cooperation and foresight are of no use in a system which is intransigent to change. The final, calamitous destination over the cliff and down into the abyss seems clear to a few, but most still hang onto hope and miracles, the beliefs of desperate and delusional men. Scientists are astonished to see changes happening that just a few years ago were predicted only to become reality by the end of this century. A new study says that extreme scenarios are no longer unthinkable:
A new study to be published in the next issue of Current Science predicts up to 2 degrees rise in temperature in India as early as the 2030s. Climate change’s catastrophic effect, it seems, is here faster than anyone had expected.
A two degrees rise in the average global temperature is considered the danger line beyond which climate change will have intense impacts. Till now the general belief was that there is enough time to avert what scientists call ‘catastrophic’ climate change. Perhaps not any more…
…a large section of people find such extreme scenarios hard to believe. So how reliable are these projections? “Scientists are not speculating,”says R K Chaturvedi, the lead author of the study and a national environmental science fellow . “Our findings are based on robust climate models. In fact, for the first time, we have used an average of 18 climate models to arrive at a finding which will have a smaller margin of error. These models have managed to predict our past correctly. So if the temperature rise in the past has been predicted correctly and we have compared them with real data, why will it throw up incorrect projections for the future?”
Ravindranath reaffirms that the situation is serious. “Jammu and Kashmir and a few other parts of the Himalayan region will be the worst affected. The region is projected to experience the highest mean warming up to 8 degrees by 2080s. I’m not joking when I say there will be no snow in Kashmir. The only way to remember snow fall in Kashmir will be to watch the old Shammi Kapoor flick Junglee,” he says wryly.
Even scientists not connected with the study agree that a future doomsday scenario is possible. “The findings are quite reasonable,” says S K Dash, head of the department of Centre for Atmospheric Sciences at IIT Delhi. “Not many studies have been done based on so many climate models . Therefore, the results of this study are likely to be reliable. Our own studies have shown that India has experienced an average temperature rise of about 1.2 degrees in the past 100 years. So it’s not strange to assume a two degrees rise by 2030,” he says.
Many scientists feel that India, especially , would feel the heat of this projected change in temperature more than others. Sudhir Chella Rajan, professor at the department of humanities and social sciences at IIT Madras, who recently evaluated India’s National Climate Action Plan on Climate Change, says that India is more vulnerable because of a variety of reasons. “First, our vast size and geography has hot spots like the Himalayas and the coastal areas. Then there is poverty. The poor are not resilient enough to deal with intense impacts like very warm periods or even floods. That’s why it’s time we reacted faster to this impending disaster.
Scientists are recording the dying of the planet we once knew, but for all intents and purposes, their work is like that of a pathologist studying a body post-mortem. The process we have unleashed is now unstoppable. A team of scientists are now looking more closely at the disappearing forests:
…Until recently, however, ecologists hadn’t really focused on drought-induced die-offs as a discrete category of forest trauma. That began to change, Anderegg said, after a meeting in Austin, Texas, last year. “Several of us decided to sit down, put our heads together and begin to look at the possible effects.”
They looked at dozens of individual studies, and found plenty. The loss of a forest’s dominant tree species has a ripple effect on all the other species that live there, by changing the amount of sunlight that reaches the forest floor; changing the mix of nutrients that enter the soil as leaves or needles decompose; allowing soil to wash away, especially on steep slopes, and — in some cases, at least — encouraging more fires….
…Forests are not only affected by climate; they also affect it. A living tree absorbs carbon from the air; kill the tree, and the carbon stays in circulation to trap heat. Not only that, as the tree decays, the carbon locked inside is gradually released back into the atmosphere. “It’s a double whammy,” Anderegg said….
…Broadly speaking, there are huge gaps in what scientists know. “This whole area has been fairly under-studied until now,” Anderegg said. “We need more research with a really wide net.”
To try and coordinate it, he and several colleagues have created a collaborative website to share knowledge about drought and tree mortality. The urgency of such research is only underscored by the 2012 drought, the worst to hit the U.S. in more than 50 years.
“The droughts of the early 2000’s caught us by surprise,” Anderegg said. “This one is our chance to pay attention as it unfolds.
Desperate calls for geoengineering and a “binge” on nuclear plants to avoid runaway climate change are now surfacing in the headlines:
Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, said both potential solutions had inherent dangers but were now vital as time was running out.
“It is very, very depressing that politicians and the public are attuned to the threat of climate change even less than they were 20 years ago when Margaret Thatcher sounded the alarm. Co2 levels are rising at a faster than exponential rate, and yet politicians only want to take utterly trivial steps such as banning plastic bags and building a few windfarms,” he said.
“I am very suspicious of using technology to solve problems created by technology, given that we have messed up so much in the past but having done almost nothing for two decades we need to adopt more desperate measures such as considering geo-engineering techniques as well as conducting a major nuclear programme.”…
…Wadhams, who is also head of the polar ocean physics group at Cambridge and has just returned from a field trip to Greenland, was reacting to evidence that Arctic sea ice cover had reached a record low this summer.
This latest rate of loss is 50% higher than most scenarios outlined by other polar scientists and coincide with alarming new reports about a “vast reservoir” of the potent greenhouse gas, methane, that could be released in Antarctica if the ice melts equally quickly there. Greenpeace said last night that it agreed with the academic’s concerns but not with his solutions.
“Professor Wadhams is right that we’re in a big hole and the recent record sea ice low in the Arctic is a clear warning that we need to act. But it would be cheaper, safer and easier to stop digging and drilling for more fossil fuels,” said Ben Ayliffe, the group’s senior polar campaigner.
“We already have the technologies, from ultra-efficient vehicles to state-of-the-art clean energy generation, to make the deep cuts in greenhouse gases that are needed to stave off the worst effects of climate change. Unfortunately, we’re still lacking the political and business will to implement them,” he added.
Wadhams, who has done pioneering work on polar ice thinning using British naval submarines from 1976 onwards, said these latest satellite findings confirmed his own dire predictions.
And they feed into the alarming scenarios that the Arctic Methane Emergency Group have been warning about.
“What we are now seeing is a fast collapse of the sea ice that means we could see a complete loss during the summer by 2015 – rather than the 20 to 30 years talked about by the UK Meteorological Office. This would speed up ocean warming and Greenland ice cap melt and increase global ocean levels considerably as well as warming the seabed and releasing more methane.”
Asked whether the latest evidence made a ban on drilling for carbon-releasing oil and gas necessary as Greenpeace has contended, Wadhams said “philosophically” such exploration made little sense. “We have been conducting a global experiment with the burning of fossil fuels and the results are already disastrous and this would accelerate them,” he argued saying that there were also practical worries because of the enormous difficulty of dealing with any spillage or a blowout under moving ice where oil would get trapped inside the ice in a kind of inaccessible “oil sandwich’…