- By Khin Maung Myint
I had written over a dozen or so articles related to climate change. In those articles, I had persistently pointed out what the causes are behind the climate change, the imminent threats and dangers that our Earth, human beings and all living things could be subjected to. At one time, I thought there was nothing more to write about it, which I even mentioned in one of my articles. However, I was totally wrong, because almost nearly every day new findings and discoveries about the effects of climate change are emerging.
Today, there are still many who are totally unaware of what causes climate change. The worst are those people, including some authoritative persons, who deny there is a climate change plaguing the world or who deny it was caused by humans. As for that second group of people, their denial must be based on political or economic reasons, but surely they are not ignorant, so I don’t intend my articles to make them change their stances. However, as for the first group, who are unaware, should be educated about the causes and the consequences of the climate change that is progressing at an alarming rate and how human beings are causing them.
Before proceeding to write about those new findings and discoveries, I would like to recall some salient points about climate change, which I had mentioned time and again in my articles. I am doing it for the benefit of those who are not yet familiar or are unaware of them. These points are necessary to be known by every human being, so that they may be able to contribute towards countering climate change.
Salient points on climate change from my articles
Since the time of the Industrial Revolution that begun in the 18th century, when steam-powered engines that burn wood or coal to heat the boilers came into existence, our planet was exposed to the excess of greenhouse gases —carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and a few other gases. These are called the greenhouse gases, because they envelope the earth and act like a greenhouse. They prevent the sun’s radiations from being reflected back into space, causing temperatures to rise, which is the main cause of the global warming. This global warming, in turn, affects the climate phenomena that has been going on naturally to deteriorate. That is a brief description of how climate change happens. With the invention of internal combustion engines which use diesel, kerosene or petrol, global warming worsened as more and more greenhouse gases were emitted.
The consequences of climate change are in a variety of ways. Extreme temperatures cause desertification, drying up of streams, creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes, severe droughts, depletion of grasslands and grazing grounds for animals, both domestic and wild, more frequent and severe wildfires depleting large swaths of forests, disappearance of wildlife habitats, more frequent and stronger storms, flooding, melting of icebergs from around the world causing ocean level rises, depleting habitable and arable lands, effecting agricultural and fishery industries and endless number of other adverse effects.
Few decades ago, the above-mentioned consequences of climate change were not as visible as today. People didn’t seem to be concerned with it, though some climatologists ardently tried to point out the consequences of the looming catastrophes of climate change all along. However, in the past few decades, the effects of climate change became more noticeable. The United Nations had to get involved in the fight against climate change. Starting from 1990 with the first United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) held for the first time in Berlin, the United Nations had held such conferences every year at different venues around the world. The Paris conference, called the COP21, must be credited as the most productive and managed to pass some resolutions in connection with the control of climate change. COP22, held in Marrakesh, Morocco, should also be credited for being able to ratify the resolution that was laid down in Paris the previous year, to come into force.
According to the Paris Accord, the signatories to the ratification must endeavour to maintain the temperature rise at 1.5° Celsius or lower, above the average temperatures of the pre-Industrial Revolution period. To achieve that goal, the signatories must endeavour to reduce greenhouse gases, especially the carbon dioxide emissions, by substituting fossil fuels with renewable or green energy, such as hydro, solar and wind energy. Also, they must create carbon sinks to absorb the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by growing more trees and forest conservation. During the COP21 held in Paris, the tiny Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan was commended as the most forested country in the world, with over 80 per cent of the country covered with forests.
New findings and predictions
Due to relentless ongoing researches of scientists from around the world, we learn more and more about the effects and consequences of climate change. The latest findings and predictions for the future are emerging in the international medias almost every now and then. To cite one very interesting finding related to the effects of climate change on the civilizations, a group of scientists unanimously came to the conclusion that the Maya Civilization, that flourished between1800 B.C to A.D 250 in South America, came to an end due to severe droughts brought on by climate change. Also, their findings applied to the collapse of the Ancient Egyptian Civilization and those of some Mesopotamian civilizations. Their findings are quite tangible.
As for the predictions for the future, scientists had warned that if emission of the greenhouse gases cannot be reduced, and if temperatures cannot be maintained at 1.5° Celsius or lower, the climate change will worsen. Icebergs around the world are melting at an alarming rate even now. If the temperature rise cannot be brought down from the present level, the melting of ice will worsen. The consequences of which will be the rise in ocean levels, submerging the low lying areas causing tiny islands to disappear. The disappearance of tiny islands is already happening. Such situations will drive populations to move inland. Lands that are inhabitable and arable will become scarce and social unrests will follow. Even now there are exodus of migrations from affected areas, especially from Africa. The worst case scenarios will be armed conflicts breaking out everywhere.
The latest prediction is, if the climate change cannot be put under control, the world landscape will become unrecognizable in 100 years’ time from now. This could be true. Because even now, many landscapes are changing around the world due to desertification, ocean levels rising, tiny islands disappearing, coastlines receding, and many other minor changes around the world are already happening.
A ray of hope or disaster?
While many findings and predictions are pointing to a doomed world because of the temperature rise, one encouraging finding and a prediction based on it appeared out of the blues. Some scientists had found that for over a hundred days in the past year the sun was flawless, meaning there was no sign of solar activity, an indication that the sun is cooling down somewhat. The sun’s heat reaching the earth will be gradually reduced, if the sun enters a long period of inactivity. This phenomena could lead to a “mini ice age” or the “little ice age”, like the one that happened in around the 17th century. With the consequences of temperature rises looming, this may be a ray of hope, but may also be a disaster, because many lives perished during the last “little ice age”. Anyhow, in the beginning of that predicted “little ice age”, I hope there will be some reprieve for the warming globe for quite some time, before the adverse consequences of the cold climate hit us in full force. Some climatologists are of the opinion that the “little ice age” could be upon earth as early as 2030, but some are skeptical and shrugging off that idea as just a myth.
Having laid bare the facts, causes, consequences and the counter measures to be taken in the fight against climate change, it’s up to us, humans, to take more responsibility in shaping our destiny. At least, if people become aware of the climate change taking place and accept that human activities are the main causes, it will be quite helpful. Hopefully, it will be enough in helping to counter it. Also, it is to be hoped that some authoritative persons come to their senses and accept this fact and stop denying and participate in the fight against climate change by honouring the ratifications signed by their predecessors at the UNFCCC held in Marrakesh and successive agreements reached at the annual conventions.
Lately, to be more precise, from 4-9 September, there was a UNFCCC event being held in Bangkok, Thailand. From my point of view, the choice of Bangkok as a venue for such convention, though not an annual event, since it is scheduled to be held again from 2-14 Dec at Katowice, Poland (COP24), is very appropriate. Bangkok and its surroundings are inundated almost every year due to sea level rises, coastlines had receded noticeably and flooding in downtown areas, suburbs and countryside are becoming more severe. Bangkok is literally sinking. The choice of Bangkok as the venue for the convention at this time of the year must be to showcase what climate change is capable of doing. At the time of writing this article, the convention in Bangkok is still ongoing and no full report has emerged. However, let us hope that it will be able to produce some viable agreements that will be helpful in the fight against climate change.
1. The climate change is about to transform Earth into an unrecognizable, alien landscape (Newsweek).
2. United Nations Climate Change Conference (Wikipedia).
3. Impact of climate change on the lowland Maya civilization (Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Science).