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A Development More Tangible and Scary than Terrorism

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh

During the past few years, almost all reports by international, governmental and nongovernmental organizations have indicated that climatic conditions of the world are rapidly deteriorating. This warning has nothing to do with thinning of the ozone layer, which forced governments and states to take immediate actions to reduce greenhouse gases. Apparently, this time, everything is getting out of hand. Look at the following incidents which may happen to us during the next 3-4 decades:

1.    Flooding due to polar ice thaw would leave about 100 million people homeless;
2.    Melting ice caps in both poles would cause one-sixth of world population to suffer from water shortage;
3.     Wildlife would be in danger and, under the worst conditions, 40 percent of wild animals would disappear;
4.    Draught would cause millions of people to become refugees due to climatic conditions;
5.    Failure in controlling climatic changes may lead to economic and social collapse in human societies and cause damages similar to two world wars;
6.    Temperature in North Pole would increase rapidly and, as a result, the ice cap may thaw. Draught in arid regions like Sahara would be worse and millions of people in small Asian islands would be threatened by inundation;
7.    If the current trend continued, temperature would increase by 5 degrees during the next 100-150 years and the consequences would be similar to the last Ice Age. At present, 1.5 degrees increase in world temperature compared to average temperature in 1990s is threatening about one-third of animal species with distinction;
8.    During thousands of years, major mountain ranges like Himalayas, Rockies, Andes and Alps have trapped water resulting from raining and snowing and have gradually released that water in summer, thus playing the role of natural fresh water reservoirs. Himalaya Mountains in Asia contained the highest water reserves after Polar Regions and gave birth to seven biggest rivers of Asia. However, natural glaciers in those mountain ranges are in decline. A recent study predicted that 75 percent of glaciers in Alps would disappear before the end of the current century. As ice reserves disappear, there vernal and autumnal floods would be more possible, while summers would be dry.

Politicizing environmental policies

Unfortunately, in most cases, acceleration of industrialization process has had reverse relationship to maintenance of the environment and, for this reason; many governments are not willing to abide by their obligations with regard to reducing environmental pollutants such as fossil fuels. Many countries only agree to take such measures when they make sure that other governments would do the same. According to the above facts, new trends in India indicated that all animal species such as fish, elephants, tigers, and leopards are moving toward northern parts of the country and researchers maintain that the main reason behind their immigration is to find a colder habitat.

Scientists maintain that warming along Ganges River, which pours into Bay of Bengal, still continues. This issue has led to inundation of adjacent lands by rivers, flooding and storms. Scientists who work on natural glaciers maintain that glaciers which supply water to Ganges River would be nonexistent by the end of the current century. However, the Indian government mentions the fact that greenhouse gas emission in India is one-tenth that of European countries and one-twentieth of the United States and is resisting a request from the United States and European countries to join negotiations for limiting production of greenhouse gases. Some news services have reported that Indian politicians are of the opinion that climatic changes are used as an excuse by the West to stop economic progress in India.

Interestingly, a reason brought by US President George W. Bush for not joining the Kyoto Protocol is that Asian giants like China and India are following no plans to reduce their greenhouse gas emission. On the contrary, Indian politicians compare lifestyle of wealthy Americans and poor Indian farmers and argue that US request from Indian government to reduce greenhouse gases is illogical.

Anyway, differences still go on and as long as everybody has not felt the effects of climate warming, the possibility for reaching a broad-based agreement which would be binding for all countries is remote. All researchers maintain that the poorest countries which are not capable of defending themselves would suffer most from the consequences of climatic imbalances.

The important thing, however, is the priority given by politicians to environmental issues. In a common division, environment is considered within the framework of soft politics, which are considered to be less important than such issues as security and power, which constitute hard politics. Although during the past few decades, in which sustainable development has overshadowed many international political matters, the above division has somehow faded, but it still exists. Issues like terrorism; weapons of mass destruction; as well as border, ideological, religious, and ethnic disputes in addition to disputes over energy resources and other problems have overshadowed environmental concerns. Evidence of this can be seen all through the world: from US invasion of different countries on grounds of fighting terrorism to eternal fighting in Africa. Both of them are making life difficult for themselves and others and, if this trend continued, human beings were sure to reach a point in which they would forget about fighting over land, religion and ethnicity and would fight each other for little water.

In conclusion, it seems that the agitated world of today needs a major shock in order to pay more attention to what is going on and to remind us where we are standing. Experts maintain that persistence of climatic changes will reduce economic growth in the world by up to 20 percent while fighting climatic changes will account for only one percent of gross domestic product of countries. Will there be a time when human beings would be calm and put down arms, give up their arrogance and join hands with others to protect the natural world in which they are living.

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