The second volume of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report presents specific impacts of global warming on each continent. The key findings of the report are shocking.
About 75-250 million people across Africa would face water shortages by 2020; crop yields decrease by up to 30% in Central and South Asia; agriculture fed by rainfall in India could drop significantly; 20% to 30% of plant and animal species are at the increased risk of extinction; declining glaciers and snow cover would reduce water availability in countries supplied by melt water while melting polar ice worsens floods and droughts and causes devastating storms. The threat to human health by water- and vector-borne diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue would increase and some estimates suggest that by the 2080s, breeding mosquitoes would increase 10% more in all Indian states.
Ironically, the poor would suffer a lot, in spite of the fact that the global warming was caused mainly by the rich countries. "It's the poorest of the poor in the world, and this includes poor people even in prosperous societies, who are going to be the worst hit," said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC.
Obviously, President Bush is the person least concerned about this global disaster. He reiterated that the solution could be found only when the major developing nations like China and India "come up with an effective strategy that ... leads to a real reduction." During the annual US-EU summit at the White House, Bush drove home his "great ethical principle" that "each country needs to recognize that we must reduce our greenhouse gases ..."!
He is just echoing the voice of the system which he represents -- the corporate system that never bothered about keeping ecological balance but bothers only about squeezing more and more profits at the peril of destruction of our planet.
Corporate disinformation campaigns deceive the public. The report of the Union of Concerned Scientists, "Smoke, Mirrors and Hot Air" explains how ExxonMobil Corporation manufactured uncertainty by raising doubts about scientific evidences, did information laundering through some "independent" organizations to spread its desired messages, promoted their own scientific spokespeople to misrepresent scientific findings and to prove that there is still serious debate among scientists whether burning fossil fuels has contributed to global warming. Also it is well documented that such corporations use their access to the Bush administration and try their best to block federal policies on global warming.
As a leading world power, the US has the responsibility to reach accord mobilizing all nations including China to reduce emissions. Now,there is no time to play the blame game since the IPCC warned that greenhouse gas emissions would raise the global temperatures by 1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years. Sadly, the world players, including the US, unwilling to bear a disproportionate share of the burden, play "a multidimensional chess game with the planet's future in the balance."
The main responsibility to bear the burden should rest on the US since it was the largest emitter both per head and in absolute. Its carbon dioxide emissions have increased to more than 15% above 1990 levels.
Compared to an average US citizen, the energy consumption of a Chinese is only 10-15%. It's true that China's total emissions would increase much faster as its economy is developing at high speed. During the late 1990s, the Chinese tried to reduce emissions through the increased efficiency and slower economic growth. They are aware that climate change could devastate their society.
China is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, but as a developing nation it was exempt from mandatory limits for the emission of greenhouse gases. However, its continuing economic boom and its becoming the second-largest emitter requires more control on its part. Otherwise,any global attempts to moderate global warming will be meaningless.
The '90s witnessed the unprecedented heat, floods in China and India. Last year heavy rain in Mumbai and in other parts of India caused worst ever damages and losses of human lives. India is the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. According to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, India is not obliged to reduce emissions since it's a developing country. But the situation has come that India has to undertake some initiatives without undermining its development efforts that would uplift its poor.
The corporate driven neo-liberal policies pursued by the developing countries like India produced enormous profits for the monopoly and multinational companies at the cost of the healthy environment. Such policies created the huge opportunities for the sizable section of upper middle classes to enter into the new life styles that also endanger the environment.
So the relation between the global warming and the corporate-based socio-political order in the advanced and developing nations should not be overlooked.The global working people have to strive for the overthrow of corporate-based system while pressuring the ruling elites for the immediate measures to save the planet.
N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.
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