Act collectively

The latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a United Nation’s body, is the most comprehensive and definitive study of global warming and its consequences on life on earth.

It is the fifth in a series of reports starting from 1990 and has painstakingly studied the  phenomenon of rising temperatures and their relationship with the emission of carbon gases, the increasing signs of climate change like rise in sea levels and the depletion of the ice cap on mountains and in the poles. It also examines the likely consequences of the changes in the medium and longer term. Hundreds of scientists, experts and government officials have contributed to the study whose conclusions are based on every piece of information that is now available in every field which has a bearing on climate. These conclusions confirm the worst fears about climate change and project worse scenarios for the future than thought of in the past.

The report has convincingly answered the questions of some climate change sceptics who have felt that the absence of the rise in average global temperatures in the last 15 years  shows that the threat of global warming is not real. Rather, it has shown that the threat is now more real than at any time in the past and that the main reason is human activity. It has a different reading of the relative contribution of different kinds of emissions but the overall impact of the emissions on the atmosphere remains the same. Frequent changes in weather patterns, more natural disasters and rise in sea levels are bound to be the results and they will have a profound impact on life on land and in the sea, agriculture, industry, habitations and the shape of the world as it is now.  Present plans, on which there is no agreement, aim to contain the warming within 2 degrees Celsius but there is also a possibility of it going up by 4 degrees.

All these are fresh reminders that the lack of coordinated international efforts to deal with the problem will prove costly in the future. The UN-sponsored conferences on climate change have failed to produce results because of the differences between developed and developing countries. The rich countries have refused to accept their greater responsibility and even the existing elementary international agreement, the Kyoto protocol, may soon lapse. Many countries, including India, are taking mitigating steps but they cannot be a substitute for collective action.

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