C.E. KARUNAKARAN

If all the people of the world had the same living style as the average American, the holocaust would have already visited us.

Mike Tidwell comments -This is a view from India . No matter how you slice it, carbon dioxide simply cannot be released on this planet. One gets a sense from this article how difficult it will be for us to take action ahead of the curve.

Floods in Jakarta, Indonesia, following torrential rain in early February left many residents trapped in muddy waters up to two metres deep in their homes.

“I’LL tell you one thing I’m not going to do is, I’m not going to let the United States carry the burden for cleaning up the world’s air, like the Kyoto Treaty would have done. China and India were exempted from that treaty.” So said the then presidential hopeful, George W. Bush, in October 2000, to Al Gore, in a televised debate. Al Gore could have responded, “I am sure you would be happy to let the United States carry the responsibility for polluting the world’s air the most.” He did not, being the other presidential hopeful.

After all, Al Gore, who only three years earlier represented the U.S. in the Kyoto discussions and had authored a book on global warming, could not have been unaware of what Andrew Kerr of the World Wide Fund for Nature pointed out: “The United States is responsible for almost half of the increase in world carbon dioxide in the past decade. That increase is greater than the increase in China, India, Africa and the whole of Latin America.”

Nor could he have been unaware that with a little over 4 per cent of the world’s population, the U.S. was responsible for 35 per cent of the total historic emissions of carbon dioxide – the principal driver of global warming – in the post-industrial era. Or about the fact that the average American was then emitting seven times as much carbon dioxide as the average Chinese and 20 times as much as the average Indian. But then, he refrained from pointing this out in the debate, or for that matter any time after that, including in his latest movie An Inconvenient Truth – a commendable effort that has initiated more public debate in the U.S. on the seriousness of the climate change issue than probably any other single trigger before it.

To describe climate change as serious is now generally accepted to be an understatement – catastrophic is more like it. It is variously described as the ultimate weapon of mass destruction and a threat worse than terrorism or nuclear war. To understand why it is so, one should look at some basic facts. Global warming is caused primarily by the very foundation on which modern civilisation is built – the burning of coal, oil and gas. So much so, a real solution to the problem would include lifestyle changes, something that goes against the grain of the consumer culture and the socio-economic system built on it. Our earth has not seen anything like this build-up of carbon dioxide for over half a million years. If this continues, by the end of the century the earth will be hotter than at any other time in the last two million years.

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