TURNING POINT: Facing the Reality of Global Warming

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/17 November) — Global warming and the accompanying climate change are real.

The Earth is a living planet endlessly warmed by the sun and kept alive by the natural process or cycle of radiation, evaporation, condensation and precipitation. All living plants and animals in the planet are sustained and replenished by this cycle through the ages.

We have this phenomenon called Global Warming when the cycle is infringed or adversely aggravated by human-induced emission of greenhouse gases, primarily water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane. These gases are produced from the uncontrolled burning of fossil fuel, expansive clearing of forestlands and from massive crops production to meet the needs of an ever increasing world population.

These greenhouse gases in the atmosphere block and deflect the unused heat energy from the sun and the heat waste from human activities back to the surface of the earth, which otherwise would have dissipated to outer space,  melting the polar ice, heating unusually  the oceans, causing massive evaporation and consequent heavy precipitation.

Global warming impacts the amount of water in the atmosphere and triggers violent downpours instead of steady showers or the seasonal rains.

The temperature disturbances in the oceans increase the power and frequency of typhoons and hurricanes; and flooding and tidal surges have recently become more common in land masses near the oceans. Moreover, the melting of polar ice raises the sea level and has already submerged some islands in the Pacific and is now threatening the safety of many coastal cities.

Indeed, the unprecedented heating of the earth’s  surface due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere has changed the climates of the planet, making them wayward. It has brought downpours and devastating hurricanes in some places and droughts and prolonged heat waves in others. The rising temperatures scorch some areas in the planet while some parts are simultaneously devastated by cold temperatures and terrible winter storms.

Climate change threatens food security.

Different crops grow best at specific temperatures and when those temperatures change, their productivity changes significantly. Accordingly, the rising temperatures at the equator have pushed such staple crops as rice north into once cooler areas, endangering production in the rice-consuming tropics.

Moreover, rising temperatures favour agricultural pests and diseases that could bring havoc to crop production. The recurring El Niño and La Niña phenomena are disastrous to crop production.

The productivity of rice, the staple food of more than one third of the world’s population, accordingly declines 10% with every 1⁰ C increase in temperature.

Furthermore, the rising temperatures have pushed many fish species to migrate long distances to stay in waters that are the proper temperature for survival and reproduction. This may increase the catches of fishers in colder regimes but may eventually eliminate fishing in warm waters.

How are we to address climate change?

Climate change is a global issue that demand global action. The following are imperative:

To limit and control population growth in order to reduce consumption of anything from food to material wants. This is a necessity that requires decision and compliance at state, individual or family level.  Any measure to counter climate change problems will be offset by a runaway global population;

To tap and develop the oceans and other bodies of water as  cheap sources of protein-rich foods such as chlorella, phyto- and zooplanktons and the like to replace energy-demanding and methane gas producing plantation crops;

To develop the vast oceans, their currents and changing temperatures, as another clean and renewable source of energy in addition to the sun and the wind;

To effectively manage the disposal of domestic and industrial wastes to curb their impact on urban flooding, ocean pollution and gas emission;

To restore the cover and the health of the forests of the planet; and

To encourage and develop in the world populace a way of life that is closer to nature.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental.)