By: Khalid Saleem

In this topsy-turvy world of ours in which human values have lost all sanctity, it is a wonder that there still exist people who fret about such causes as ‘global warming’. It tends to restore whatever little faith one had in human nature. Global warming is one disaster waiting to happen. The mere fact that it creeps on gradually rather than descend as a bolt from the blue does not make it any the less calamitous. The positive aspect is that the world has plenty of warning to prepare itself or to make amends before the disaster strikes.

A look over the shoulder may be in order. Thanks to the pressure exerted by the agitating minority, some progress was registered in this field. For one thing, the Kyoto agreement belatedly came into effect after a hiatus of some seven years. Despite the fact that the two biggest offender countries chose to stay out, even the mere fact of the protocol having become a reality is something to crow about. But the proof of the pudding lies in the eating. So long as the protocol’s essential ingredients are not put into effect as early as possible by all concerned the effort that went into
its drafting will have gone in vain.

In the course of several earlier multilateral conferences where the subject of global warming came up, it was brushed aside by the developed world as a Third World worry. From their jaundiced point of view, this matter was hardly worth sacrificing the First World’s prerogative to burn fossil fuel to its heart’s content! They also found it expedient to fob off the ultimate responsibility on those Third World states that were eking out a measly living through the clandestine sale of their rain-forest timber. The North felt secure in the belief that states of the developed world would never ever be on the receiving end of things.

Tens of millions of hapless people, mainly in South and Southeast Asia, face serious or permanent flooding of their lands if the climate change predictions associated with global warming become a reality. Would it be at all realistic to nurture the hope that someone from the developing world will take it upon himself to study and report upon this problem from the point of view of the poor and deprived lands? Given the past record, though, this is destined to remain one of those idealistic but unfulfilled dreams.

The World Meteorological Organisation had termed the past decade as the warmest since accurate records began in the mid-nineteenth century. The collapse of a huge ice shelf in the eastern Antarctic was reported some years ago. This was apparently due to the gradual rise in the temperatures in the region. Scientists have surmised that — if the present trends continue unabated — the Arctic could well turn into a navigable ocean by the middle of this century. The ecological disaster that such a phenomenon may bring in its wake is too horrible to contemplate.

Nearer home, the landslide tragedy in the Siachen sector should have served as a wake-up call to both sides. Substantiated fears have been expressed that global warming could well lead to the melting of the Siachen Glacier, an eventuality that could lead to an ecological disaster of immense proportions. While the two bickering neighbours play a never-ending game of going round and round the mulberry bush, Mother Nature may have other and more venomous plans for the region.

While on the subject of natural disasters it may not be out of place to spare a thought not only to why such disasters are proliferating but also why in some designated regions in particular. For instance, why must most of these disasters be concentrated in the world’s poorer regions? Could it be possibly due to the indiscriminate ‘live-testing’ by big powers of newer and more devastating weapons of destruction? Indiscriminate use of such weapons could also cause irreversible damage to the natural equilibrium as well as sub-strata of the regions in question.

Be that as it may, humankind needs to understand that it never pays to play ducks and drakes with the laws of nature. And those that think that they can get away with wreaking havoc away from their shores may well discover that they would be doing so at their own peril. If nothing else, nature has earned the reputation of being a great leveller.