Warming of the climate system is unequivocal as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and rising global sea level. Most of the observed increase in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHGs) concentration. In this background, this book is a unique compilation of discourses by world’s most influential policy-makers and thinkers. The book carries 22 chapters on the most critical issues that define our era, i.e. environment, climate change, and the need for sustainable development, and lays emphasis on finding innovative solutions to make the world a better place to live in. The projections is that global warming this century is likely to trigger serious consequence for mankind and other life forms, including a rise in sea levels between 18 and 59 cm, which will endanger coastal areas and small islands, and lead to greater frequency and severity of extreme weather events. With this increase in the sea level, several small island states like Maldives and low-lying coastal nations like Bangladesh—with land surface barely a metre or two above sea level—face an extremely serious danger to life and property. In fact, any part of the ice sheets in western Antarctica and Greenland were to collapse, it may cause a sea-level rise of several metres. This would not only devastate large coastal area across the globe and submerge several island states, but also turn hundreds of millions of people into climate refugees. All of this could lead to conflict and threaten peace in the world.
In one article, Dr RK Pachauri, chairman, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, highlights our record of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, which in very simple terms is less than satisfactory, if not alarming. Between 1970 and 2004, the increase in GHGs globally amounted to “70 per cent, and in the case of carbon dioxide, emissions grew by 80 per cent for the same period”. At the same time, “we are aware that anthropogenic warming could lead to some impacts that are abrupt or irreversible, depending on the rate and magnitude of climate change”. In another chapter, Al Gore, former Vice President of USA, warns that climate change is already impacting the lives of people across the world in the form of a change in the distribution and spread of precipitation. “The incidence and frequency of natural disasters such as hurricanes and cyclones is also causing a concern.”
To overcome the problem of global warming, climate change, etc, the book suggests promoting sustainable development. “There has to be an ethical, spiritual, and a much wider dimension added to human action, which can lead to sustainable development, and climate change is right at the core of what we have over a period of time created as an unsustainable path of development.” Therefore, the time has come for us to correct what we have done in the past, and with the technological and economic capabilities and capacity that the world has today, this is something that is feasible, and we should set about it as early as possible. It is hoped that the information provided in the book will galvanise the people to take resolve to address the ramifications of climate change.
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By Ashok Kumar