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An Invisible Threat

Here come global warnings, I mean global warming. It is there in the televisions and in the newspapers. It is there in the discussions over coffee and in those in the Parliament. It is in the academics and especially in researches. It is in our lives. Can we avoid it? - that is the Big question. Should we avoid it? - and that is the bigger question. Efforts are on world over to ‘fight’ it. There are multiple hypotheses of global warming and resulting climate change putting blames from man to God (Lewis, 2007). The scientist fraternity has multiple poles of consensus (U. S. Senate Minority Report, 2009). The uncertainties are further catalyzed by the predictions of unprecedented events (NASA GISS, 2002). A layman has many choices to worry about. They are the effects of global warming which multiply such worries. It is accepted that as the world becomes warmer, the climate of the planet will change very fast. This can lead to mass flooding of the coasts, increased desertification and extreme weather conditions with intensified and frequented catastrophe that too cataclysmically, in general (Ackerman & Stanton, 2008). There is much more that is unknown what global warming can result into. Any such event is sure to have an effect on the lives of the people on the planet. Life on Earth will change forever (NASA GISS, 2006, 2007, 2008). Such invisible threats cast an effect on the process of development, today in advance. This warrants our action.

If the climate changes abruptly we (may) lose everything and if it doesn’t then still we need a guarantee which is not available. There can be gains such as extended crop season and there can be losses such as epidemics (Hart, 2005). Definitely, the process of climate change can do far more than what our limited understanding about it can figure out. Should we do something for it? The answer lies in the question that how much risk can we afford? Comparing the gains and losses of the things to come we can under-stand that we don’t have much choices to act upon. The question next is what can we do for it? If it’s be-cause of increased solar activity then we can practically do very little about it, except experiments (Scientific American, 2009). If it’s due to increased CO₂ levels we can cut the emissions and in fact do something (Global Humanitarian Forum, 2009). If we leave all that has to be done on the developed nations and they do nothing then the developing nations will be jeopardized more because their sovereignty will come under threat. Even if the developed nations do something today, they are more likely to claim the costs from the third world countries tomorrow. Given that the threat as well as the uncertainty keeps on multiplying simultaneously, it’s more rational to take action today and be answerable to our generations in future. It also has to be understood that we cannot buy time in taking decisions which can potentially influence the humanity. We stand at a place where from we have to either be a part for its solution or ignore the issue altogether. Hereby, the developing nations and the stakeholders in development are left with the alternatives to wait and watch; to participate in the uncertain experiments (Bala, 2009); or to take measures to reduce the CO₂ levels in the atmosphere. The third alternative to cut the emissions needs sacrifices on the part of the developing world as it asks them to earnestly cut upon their development activities. The same, in other words means for the poorer countries in the developing world as an end, if not a halt to their development dreams.

Development needs energy and the energy needs of the poor countries are met by cheap sources classified as fossil-fuels. Similarly, the industries also need cheap sources of energy. The threat is thus even more intensified for the developing world as it asks them to choose between development and environment, in a disguised manner however. If the developing countries out rightly reject the co-operation with the international fraternity on this issue, they can be a victim of the modern corrective imperialism by powerful states such as the US. If they accept the stricter emission norms and green energy sources, it will put pressure on their already volatile economies and in turn pressurize their industries. Thus, the strategy will defeat its own purpose as the industries will burn more fossil-fuels to get cheap energy to bolster the economy. The ways suggested by the developed world to combat climate change are thus not readily acceptable to the developing countries on several counts. One of them is that switching to the green energy sources like solar and wind energy are however very good alternatives, but attract heavy investments which can be used otherwise for the welfare of their population. For the developing world, the choice is not easy because it requires a total reconstruction of the economy. Yet, the benefits are expected to out-weigh the costs in the long run (Gelder et al., 2009). The use of green energy will help decrease the dependency on fossil-fuels and in turn the future generations will not need the sacrifices of others to meet their energy requirements. They will eventually be self-reliant and live a good life (Beavan, 2009).

By large, the decision is left to the international community of the developed nations to take corrective measures. One way can be to tax heavily those who are responsible for greater CO₂ emissions (Lewis, 2007) and use the money thus collected to fund measures such as plantations to check global warming, undifferentiated the national boundaries. This can help in two ways. First, it discourages CO₂ emissions and puts a premium to be paid on such environmental damages. Second, it collects revenue for the global warming control fund (fictitious) which can be used to protect the environment world-wide. It can also fund the experiments to better understand the issue and proceed toward more tangible solutions. In all these efforts, it is the cost, the political will and the economic concerns that keep the participation of the developing countries at bay. But, there are some measures which are not expensive and are particularly suited for the economies of the developing countries which are poor. For example, there is a popular ongoing campaign in UK to ban the standby buttons in all electrical appliances including televisions to save energy (CBBC Newsround, 2007). Such steps should be welcomed all over the world. Automated switching technology can also be of great help which can take care of switching-off and switching-on the lights as needed on public places. It is already being implemented by Indian Railways (Navago Electronics & Electricals, n.d.). Even simpler steps like painting the house exteriors white can help reduce the effects of global warming by reflecting the solar radiation back into the space (LiveScience, 2010). With respect to an agriculture dominated economy such as India, the promotion of large scale plantations and agriculture can be beneficial in multiple ways. Besides promising an inflated food bank it will ensure mass welfare coupled with large scale absorption of CO₂ and thus compensate for the emissions from industries. Other measures include emphasis on sustainable development. This will put a cap on the economic activities, thereby asking for sacrifices of the opportunities of economic growth. But, it also promises minimum resources for our present needs without compromising on our future requirements. Apart from promoting sustainable development in agriculture, we should also promote the same in mining and other industries. Contributing thus in the control of forecasted climate change due to global warming, the developing countries will be able to trod the middle path between development and environment, without damaging the either.

The thing which people from all the countries, whether developed or developing, have to understand is that – they have to adapt. While, most of the adaptations require just a shift in behavior, some of them might be expensive – but this expense will prove to be worth every penny. This adaptation can be a very small contribution like making more use of the public transport and mass transit systems. It can begin from an individual like us to ensure that all the lights are switched-off when we move out of our houses. The use of low energy consuming fluorescent bulbs should be encouraged. We can save more energy if we dress properly during summers and winters so that we can reduce the use of artificial cooling and warming. The leaves which can be easily buried should not be burnt. Use of environment-friendly items should be fostered. Above all, we can create awareness regarding the efficient use of energy, talk to people and tell them how they can reduce their energy usage and participate in the fight against an invisible but not necessarily an inevitable threat. With these efforts, we will not only be able to avert an expected catastrophe but also help build a better future for the world.


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