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The War of Climate


Dr Gursharan Singh Kainth


Director


Guru Arjan Dev Institute of Development Studies,


14-PreetAvenue, Majitha Road,


PO Naushera, Amritsar 143 008



Thermometer measurements show that the earth has warmed by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit since the Industrial Revolution, when humans began pumping enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping
greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. For this January through July, average temperatures
were the warmest on record, the according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. The warming has moved in fits and starts, and the cumulative
increase may sound modest. But it is an average over the entire planet,
representing an immense amount of added heat, and is only the beginning of a
trend that most experts believe will worsen substantially, depending on the
amount of heat-trapping gases we emit globally.”


By 2050, with midrange emissions, the currently experienced hot days only once every 20 years would occur every three years and by the end the century, such a day would occur every
other year, or more often. Because a warmer climate means more evaporation of
water from land and oceans, it also results in longer and more severe droughts
in some areas and more flooding in others. And because a warmer world means the
continued melting of glaciers and polar ice, it leads to rising sea levels —
which threaten places prone to flooding, as well as places vulnerable to sea
surges during hurricanes.


The hotter summers lead to a heavier reliance on air-conditioning, which leads to more stress on an already strained electrical grid. Global warming is also likely to affect the snowpack
in the Himalayas which is the “true basis of India’s water system,” just as it
is likely to lead to “hotter wildfires that are harder to control.” It is
vulnerable to the catastrophic failure of its canals and levees, whether from
an earthquake or the slowly rising sea level


Climate change will have serious geopolitical fallout too. Droughts and floods could result in more and more climate refugees, even as a growing scarcity of groundwater in northern India
could further exacerbate tensions between India and Pakistan. National security
experts, see climate change as a “threat multiplier,” leading to increased
tensions between rich and poor nations, and amplifying regional political
disputes over access to water and food in times of drought .Although there were
hopes that last year’s United Nations talks in Copenhagen would lead to an
important accord on climate change, the final document to come out of the
summit was a statement of intention, not a binding
pledge, to begin taking action on global warming. The disappointing outcome
stemmed partly from the failure of the United States Senate to pass legislation
intended to cap American emissions before the summit — which, in turn, meant
that China would not agree to an absolute reduction of its emissions.


“In their least guarded moments “the climate campaigners would tell you what they had always known in their bones: their work was necessary but not sufficient. Climate action was going to happen
sooner or later, but they couldn’t make it happen. It might be inevitable — the
true believers still believed it was — but it would only become real when
enough people demanded it and shouted down the lobbyists and the professional
deniers and demanded it again.


The floods battered New England, then Nashville, then Arkansas, then Oklahoma — and were followed by a deluge in Pakistan, cloudburst in Leh and again floods in Pakistan that has
upended the lives of millions of people.
The summer’s heat waves baked the eastern United States, parts of Africa and
eastern Asia, and above all Russia, which lost millions of acres of wheat and
thousands of lives in a drought worse than any other in the historical record.
Seemingly disconnected, these far-flung disasters are reviving the question of
whether global warming is causing more weather extremes. The collective answer
of the scientific community can be boiled down to a single word: probably.


“The climate is changing. Extreme events are occurring with greater frequency and in many cases with greater intensity. Scientists described excessive heat, in particular, as consistent with our understanding
of how the climate responds to increasing greenhouse gases. Theory suggests
that a world warming up because of those gases will feature heavier rainstorms
in summer, bigger snowstorms in winter, more intense droughts in at least some
places and more record-breaking heat waves. Statistical evidence shows that
much of this is starting to happen.


But the averages do not necessarily make it easier to link specific weather events, like a given flood or hurricane or heat wave, to climate change. Most climate scientists are reluctant to go that far, noting
that weather was characterized by remarkable variability long before humans
began burning fossil fuels and releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.


Everyone is talking about climate change now. Unfortunately, what is happening now is evidence of this global climate change, because we have never in our history
faced such weather conditions as in the past. If the earth were not warming,
random variations in the weather should cause about the same number of
record-breaking high temperatures and record-breaking low temperatures over a
given period. But climatologists have long theorized that in a warming world,
the added heat would cause more record highs and fewer record lows. The
statistics suggest that is exactly what is happening.


Climate-change skeptics dispute such statistical arguments, contending that climatologists do not know enough about long-range patterns to draw definitive links between global warming and weather extremes
and there is nothing new. There were indeed dire heat waves, contributing to
the Dust Bowl, which dislocated millions of population structure. But most
researchers trained in climate analysis, while acknowledging that weather data
in parts of the world are not as good as they would like, offer evidence to
show that weather extremes are getting worse.


The recent decades, has been experiencing more unusually hot days and nights, fewer unusually cold days and nights, and fewer frost days. Heavy downpours have become more frequent and intense.”The
statistics suggest getting wetter as the arid West dries out further. Places
that depend on the runoff from spring snow melt appear particularly vulnerable
to climate change, because higher temperatures are making the snow melt
earlier, leaving the ground parched by midsummer. That can worsen any drought
that develops.


“Global warming, ironically, can actually increase the amount of snow, but it also means the snow season is shorter.” In general, the research suggests that global warming will worsen climate extremes across
much of the planet. Wet areas will get wetter, while dry areas get drier. But
the patterns are not uniform; changes in wind and ocean circulation could cause
unexpected effects, with some areas even cooling down in a warmer world. And
long-established weather patterns, like the periodic variations in the Pacific
Ocean known as El Niño, will still contribute to unusual events, like heavy rains
and cool temperatures in normally arid parts. Scientists say they expect
stronger storms, in winter and summer, largely because of the physical
principle that warmer air can hold more water vapor.


Typically, a storm of the sort dumping as much as 19 inches of rain over two days draws moisture from an area much larger than the storm itself. With temperatures rising and more water vapor in the air, such
storms can pull in more moisture and thus rain or snow more heavily than storms
of old. These were caused or worsened by an unusual kink in the jet stream, the
high-altitude flow of air that helps determine weather patterns, though that
itself might be linked to climate change. Certain recent weather events were so
extreme that a few scientists are shedding their traditional reluctance to
ascribe specific disasters to global warming. “It’s not the right question to ask if this
storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability.
Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.

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