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Quo Vadis

I am surprised that climate change issue is still debatable. Over the past few years, we have witnessed many effects of climate change first hand. This year has been one of the hottest here at Gurgaon, with mercury hovering at 46 °C during summer. It is the end of September and still the average temperature is around 38 °C. There has been a huge shortfall of rain across the country. Many states have been declared drought hit. Open any newspaper or turn on the TV and we are overwhlemed with news of diasters across the globe, many of which are related to climate change.

Until recently, we shrugged off climate change as mere scientific speculation. Temperature rise, rise in sea levels, sea acidification, melting of glaciers – all these were considered remote events, no way impacting our lives. Not anymore. Today, we are experiencing the effects closer to home, jolting us out of our complacency.

In “An Inconvenient Truth“, Al Gore compared our attitute to that of a frog kept in water which is being gradually brought to boil. If the frog is thrown in hot water, it would immediately jump out. However, if the temperature rises gradually, the frog does not realize the danger until it is too late. A large proportion of us are still under a similar spell, lulled by the gradual rise in temperature. In a recent New York Times article, Paul Krugman called climate change scientists Cassandras of climate – “gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them”. Even though scientists have warned us of the clear and present danger, we continue to vacillate between denial and affirmation. The polemic of climate change detractors have also added to the confusion. But, probably, it is less a matter of confusion than consious denial because the truth is too “inconvenient”, as Al Gore put it.

We cannot shutdown our refineries or power plants tomorrow. Neither can we stop driving to work or stop running the air conditioners. Currently we depend on fossil fuels, be it coal, oil or gas for our energy needs. But we cannot survive unless we drastically reduce pollution, cut back energy consuption and embrace green energy. This would mean adopting technologies which are nascent and more expensive. It would also mean changing our lifestyle, giving up the SUV’s, installing solar heaters, harvesting rain water and conserving energy. Without sufficient appreciation of danger by all, no one would be willing to make such sacrifices, fearing themselves open to exploitation.

It would need universal awareness, cooperation, commitment and joint affirmative action to save the planet. Being the purportedly rational animals, can we achieve such a consensus? Otherwise, our nemesis would not be asteriods or aliens, but ourselves. We have nowhere to go from here, the planet is our only home. It is time for us to define our future on planet earth. It is time to choose our path. Quo Vadis?

Categories: Planetwatch
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