Disasters, Climate Change And Our Options

kerala flood 1

The phenomenon of a random pattern of winds coalescing into a hurricane may not be caused by global warming, but warmer ocean temperatures powering it up is entirely possible.  Hawaii is experiencing one of the two worst hurricanes in its history, and last week Kerala in India, was flooded almost in its entirety by a record-breaking monsoon season leaving a million people homeless.

Not only is CO2 rising to levels not seen heretofore in several million years, but the human fingerprint is indelible and irrefutable.  The consistent delta 13C negation proves it through the absence of this carbon isotope in the fossil fuels used.  Magnifying the problem are the newly-observed increasing amplitudes of the tropospheric temperature cycle; here the researchers refer to the trigger of ‘external forcings’ implying a human hand.

Like Rip Van Winkle, Donald Trump is fast asleep, seemingly unaware of the window for action on climate change closing, while he recommends increased coal consumption — a preposterous throwback supported by Republicans in Congress.  What will it take to stir him from his sleep of childish vain glory?–  water balloons thrown at Mar-a-Lago by a 100,000 demonstrators strikes a suitably puerile note …

Our global temperatures are up 1.2 degrees Celsius changing weather patterns.  The dry spells are longer and worsened by high temperature records in numerous places including Portugal and Greece.  And the world seems to be burning up:  Wildfires in Greece, Australia, Central Africa, eastern China, Brazil and in the U.S.  According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, 71,449 wildfires occurred here in 2017 burning 10 million acres.

Each year over 300,000 people die as a consequence of wildfires, over half that number in Sub-Saharan Africa, the less-developed countries suffering disasters the worst.  Now that Trump has cut the budget for Regional Climate Centers, which generate the weather early warning information helping to control and prevent wildfires, the U.S. might be adding more to this macabre body count.

Extended dry spells are followed by rain, pouring down in the copious quantities carried by warmer air, and in weather-events once uncommon but now more frequent.  The refrain, ‘We have never experienced this before’ is repeated often — in Japan last month, in Kerala last week, and in Hawaii now …  Hawaii, which also had 50 inches of rain earlier this year.  Weather events supposed to occur once in a hundred years are destined to become more frequent.

Monsoon floods as in Kerala are an annual event on the Indian subcontinent but not in their present devastating form.  In 2010, the Indus in Pakistan flooded in biblical proportions:  20 million people were displaced, 2000 died, and one-fifth of Pakistan’s land area was affected.  The long-term problem, however, is scarcity as warming affects its source, the ice-melt in the Himalayas.

Climate change will force cooperating and understanding between countries or will lead to devastating wars.  Both India and Pakistan use the Indus and its tributaries.  The Mekong river is shared by six countries, and upstream China has built dams causing problems downstream.  The Nile was monopolized by Egypt but now  Ethiopia is building a dam upstream.

The world has to find a way to deal purposefully with climate change and in the peaceful sharing of resources.  Consequences otherwise are too unsettling to contemplate.

Dr Arshad M Khan (http://ofthisandthat.org/index.html) is a former Professor based in the U.S. whose comments over several decades have appeared in a wide-ranging array of print and internet media.  His work has been quoted in the U.S. Congress and published in the Congressional Record.


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