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_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Global Warming
                         Global Warming in 21st Century

Blackcurrant is a species of Ribes berry native to central and northern Europe and northern Asia. Its fruit is rich in vitamin C
which makes it a popular drink in many countries. One such brand is ‘Ribena’ from the pharmaceuticals giant GlaxoSmithKline
(GSK) which buys 95% of the British blackcurrant crop. The company has recently created a new variety of the berry – the Ben
Vane – which is more likely to thrive in warmer, more variable weather conditions. The giant is approaching further with more
new varieties that will be resistant to new kinds of pests and weeds (Harding, 2007). The footprint of global warming has
already started to appear in everyday life.

In a general sense,
global warming means a continuous rise of Earth’s average surface temperature mainly due to increased
concentration of greenhouse gases
like carbon di oxide (CO2), methane (CH4), ozone(O3) and nitrous oxide (N2O) since the
industrial revolution in 1750. The introduction of steam power (fuelled primarily by coal) could be attributed to first human-
induced CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.

Global warming is in fact the consequence of ‘
Greenhouse effect’ which is the trapping of heat by greenhouse gases that
makes Earth’s surface warmer. Both naturally occurring gases and those generated by humans contribute to this effect. If there
were no greenhouse gases at all, the Earth’s surface would be some 30°C colder than it is today (AGO, 2002). Greenhouse
effect is a natural phenomenon that makes life inhabitable on this planet, but the question that arises now is how much
humans are contributing to this phenomenon other than the nature herself?

The global average air temperature near the Earth’s surface rose to 0.74 ± 0.18°C over the last 100 years. The atmospheric
concentration of carbon dioxide and methane have increased by 31% and 149% respectively above pre-industrial levels since
1750 which are higher than at any time during the last 650,000 years (IPCC, 2007).

According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC, 2007)

                                            
Global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has increased from a pre-industrial value of  
                                            about 280 ppm (parts per million) to 379 ppm in 2005. The average annual growth rate during
                                            the last 10 years from 1995 to 2005 is 1.9 ppm.

                                            Global atmospheric methane concentration has increased from a pre-industrial value of about
                                            715 ppb (parts per billion) to 1732 ppb in the early 1990s, and is 1774 ppb in 2005.

                                            Global atmospheric nitrous oxide concentration increased from a pre-industrial value of about
                                            270 ppb to 319 ppb in 2005.

Emissions and steady rise of greenhouse gases are becoming a future concern in balancing the annual budget of China. The
Economics Times (2007) report that global warming is set to cut China’s annual grain harvest by up to 10% by 2030, a key
date when China’s population is expected to peak at 1.5 billion requiring an extra 100 million tons of food to feed them. A 5 to
10% fall will equal to 30 – 50 million tons of food.
Warmer weather will shorten the growth period of some crops and seeds
will not have enough time to ripen.

Global warming has yet to let the greatest catastrophe happen on Earth – “The Rise of Sea Level”. The 2007 IPCC in its Fourth
Assessment Report on Climatic Change states that, global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 mm per year over
1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003 with an average of 3.1 mm per year. The mechanisms behind sea level
rise are melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of sea water due to continuous rise of temperatures.

It will have grave effects on some areas. Increased coastal erosion, flooding on island nations, submergence of low-lying
coastal areas, and salt-water intrusion will threaten many thousands years old cultures to disappear from human history very
quickly, sometimes may be unknowingly. Most vulnerable countries and island to sea level rise are Bangladesh, China, Egypt,
Viet Nam, Philippines, and Indonesia. Island nations like Maldives could face extinction within this century if rates of sea level
rise accelerate.

The
Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions world wide,
entered into force on 16 February 2005. The treaty was negotiated in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, opened for signature on
March 16, 1998 and closed on March 15, 1999.
Under the agreement, industrialized countries will reduce their collective
emissions of greenhouse gases by 5% below 1990 levels by 2008 – 2012.

All the measures and concerns are to curb the excess rate of greenhouse gases emission in order to ensure and secure the
future of life in the coming centuries. Environmental refugees, other than refugees from war-torn lands, will make a new
balance of the geo-eco-system that will be extremely hard and delicate to apprehend and manage. Time is still on the yard to
act and to awaken communities globally to move forward together to face this new challenging phenomenon before it
becomes a catastrophe!!


                                                                                                                                                                   Khaled Mahmud Shams
                                                                                                                                                                          Salzburg, Austria



References:

Harding, James (2007): Problem of Global Warming is at Heart of Currant Affairs (
http://business.timesonline.co.
uk/tol/business/columnists/article2317479.ece)

Australian Greenhouse Office (AGO, 2002): Living with Climate Change – An Overview of Potential Climate Change Impacts on
Australia (http://
www.greenhouse.gov.au/impacts/overview/pubs/overview4.pdf).

Intergovernmental Panel on Climatic Change (IPCC, 2007): Climatic Change 2007: Tha Physical Science Basis (http://
www.
ipcc.ch/SPM2feb07.pdf).

The Economic Times (2007): Global Warming to Decimate China’s Harvests (http://
economictimes.indiatimes.
com/News/Economy/Global_warming_to_decimate_Chinas_harvests/articleshow/2302779.cms).

Kyoto Protocol : http://
unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php
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