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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Life in a warmer world V safe & comfortable world

Global warming is warning the globe, solution is researched everyday for a safe comfortable world

THE AWARD of a Nobel Peace Prize last week to former United States Vice-President Al Gore, an honour he shares with the United Nations Inter-Governmental Panel On Climate Change, gives added interest to the problem of global warming.

In the words of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the recipients were awarded for their "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change".

Our own Dr Leonard Nurse, a lecturer in coastal management at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, was a member of that UN panel which also included Trinidadian life sciences lecturer, Dr John Agard, and Jamaica's retired physics professor, Dr Anthony Chen.

More than 170 countries have ratified the Kyoto Treaty which was crafted in Japan ten years ago, and commits industrialised nations to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, by about 5.2 per cent below their 1990 levels.

No Caribbean country is in the league of those that contribute significantly to such an extent of pollution; but all can be affected by it.

Just three days ago the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre reported on climate change on our shores, that were consistent with those reported elsewhere. These include rising sea levels caused by global warming that can negatively affect most countries in this region. In fact, much more so than on the larger continental land masses. The report echoes concern in the wider scientific community for the fate of small island states around the world.

It is largely irrelevant that these tiny countries contribute only minimally to global warming. Any significant lessening of the problem requires international commitment and effort, which is why so many have endorsed Kyoto, and why a large number are disappointed that the United States - whose industrial system belches out more carbon dioxide than any other - and Australia, have not adopted the protocol.

It is well-known that vegetation, especially large areas of trees, make a positive difference to air quality.

This is what inspires a growing number of environmentalists, including Greenpeace, to mobilise against projects that require destruction of rain forests whether to make way either for housing or for planting cash crops.

There is evidence that elevated temperatures are already melting the polar ice caps at an unprecedented rate and that distinct changes are occurring in weather patterns.

Even though Gore has many detractors, he is using his stature as a former United States vice-president to generate greater awareness of the phenomenon of global warming, and to promote a worldwide campaign aimed at sensitising governments and populations about potential peril arising from man-made environmental pollution.

Whatever the merits or otherwise of that activism, Caribbean people would do well to focus on ways in which they can help to tackle the problem. No single effort will ensure progress. It is the cumulative effect of all initiatives across the globe that matters.

Even so, some phenomena are outside the realm of human capability to prevent. Take tropical storms, for example. The Atlantic hurricane season isn't over yet. There are 40 days left, enough time for a likely catastrophic climatic event.

Admittedly, some of the data about rising global temperatures is disputed by Professor William Gray, a pioneer in the science of forecasting hurricanes and head of Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorological Project. Indeed, the scientific community is divided as to the causes or the degree of the influence of such causes on climate change. But global warming remains a major issue.

The use and price of oil must be a key factor. That energy source contributes massively to the worrying scale of emissions into the atmosphere, but technology has not yet reached a stage where "going green" can significantly diminish the world's heavy reliance on oil, although prices for the commodity are going through the roof.

It is clear that weather patterns around the world have changed. They may also be changing in Barbados. It is in our interest to do what little we can to reduce or eliminate reliance on any factors that might exacerbate that change.

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