We all thought we were on the ‘unsinkable Titanic’ even when we were sailing straight towards the ‘iceberg’. We are facing one of the biggest crises that humanity has faced till date—global warming. We experience its adversities increasingly each year. Each new year becomes hotter than the previous, and the warmer it becomes the more air conditioning we use, to keep it cool around us, without knowing that the hazardous gases generously contributed by such use are increasing the average global temperature yet again. Hence, this vicious cycle goes on and on. 

There is only the selfish and unethical use of resources that planet earth provides by the human species to blame. We have brought this upon ourselves by our ignorant and reckless participation, but then, what use comes out of blaming? We can only rectify the current situation and try to turn it around. We have to get our hands into sustainable, ecologically intelligent development. 

The reason of global warming is the concentration of GHG (greenhouse gases) such as CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), HFC (hydrofluorocarbons) water vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbon, sulphur hexafluoride and methane. CFCs play a massive role in ozone layer depletion which dwindles away our protection against harmful ultraviolet radiation. CFCs which were being used in refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers and in aerosol cans, prior to the Montreal Protocol, react with ozone and break it apart. Such reaction leads to the formation of ‘ozone holes’ resulting in ozone layer depletion. Large scale deforestation is other reason that boosts global warming. Lesser trees bring about utilisation of lesser carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and subsequent conversion into oxygen and forest produce leading to an imbalance in the ecosystem. Hence, cutting down of trees has a twofold effect on our home and the earth. The only habitable planet can become soon inhabitable if we allow such abominable and detrimental human activities to go unchecked.

India’s carbon emissions rank fourth in the world if the European Union is considered as a single entity which occupies the third place. Carbon footprint is a term that is often associated with greenhouse effect. Carbon footprint refers to the total amount of greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions for which an organisation or individual is responsible. 

Global warming is the increase in the average global temperature causing a wide variety of problems that complement, multiply and sort of conglomerate into a larger picture involving climate change, rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns in different regions, extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods, heat waves, heavy snowfalls. Other effects are ocean acidification, ocean deoxygenation, expansion of deserts and tropical cyclones. Glaciers, permafrost and sea ice are starting to disappear. Climate change will cause untoward changes in the crop production. It can affect our health in unfavourable ways. Researchers have shown that global warming and consequent climate change can have an indirect effect on mental health causing disorders. It is said to cause increase in stress and anxiety, substance abuse, depression, suicidal tendencies and even domestic violence. Mental health problems can and will result in undesirable alterations to physical health.

The most important thing is that when climate changes, everything else changes. Biodiversity experiences changes. The species emigrating and immigrating varies and species which can only thrive in a very narrow temperature range will fail in its efforts to continue its existence. According to the latest observations, about one million species are threatened with extinction on earth. Extinction is an irreversible process. Although extinction is a natural process, the frequency and the number of species vulnerable to extinction have increased with astonishing swiftness during recent decades. This quickening in pace can be attributed to climate change. Governments have come up with certain terms such as ‘hotspots’, ‘Ramsar sites’ and the ‘Red Data book’. Hotspots are regions whose species are at the verge of extinction.  Ramsar sites refer to wetlands which are in peril due to climate alterations. Red Data book is a state document, listing all the endangered species present in a particular locality. The gene pool (the total number of genes and alleles associated with a particular population) will experience drastic change. With the ice melting, our land masses can go underwater taking us with it. We can still steer away from the catastrophe if we are more prudent.

Even though slight amount of warming and cooling of earth was present from the beginning, actual, discernible warming began after the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution brought about changes in all walks of life—social, economic, political, ecological, even religious. “The industrial revolution,” said Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, “ushered in the  machine age.” The industrial revolution certainly set the stage for the ‘quietus’. That stage still need not witness the end.

So what are the steps we can take to save our planet? Are there any joint ventures out there in the world where we are trying to replenish earth?

YES, THERE ARE! The most recent one being the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement signed by various countries to keep the increase in average global temperature to well below 2.0 degree Celsius compared to preindustrial levels. Most countries are parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) and it is those countries that have pledged to work towards saving our planet. India has become the 62nd party to Paris Climate Change Agreement. Although the Paris treaty received a warm welcome across the globe initially, yet no country has made a significant step to actually achieve the goals set up  by them. The United States of America has pulled out of the agreement which was looked down upon by other parties. Other such agreements include the Kyoto protocol, Montreal protocol, etc. However, it does not matter how many agreements we make. It amounts to nothing if we make no effort in realising the goals we set for ourselves.

Few steps that we can take are to reduce the use of vehicles run on fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases. We can switch to electric cars, make use of public transportation and also try to walk out short distances. The Union Government has instituted certain norms called the Bharat Stage (BS) emission standards to regulate the output of air pollutants from internal combustion engines. We are currently following the European emission norms through BS-IV norms. India has pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by half and also produce 40% of its electricity using non-fossil fuels such as solar, wind and biomass by 2030.

We can replace the use of electrical devices for light and air circulation, making use of natural light and fresh air as much as we can by eco-friendly architecture. One of our major goals must be to plant as many trees and plants as we can. Large scale afforestation can go a long way in helping us turn around the present scenario. We have to increase our forest covers. Even with all that is going on, there is a large section of society that remains unaware of the very delicately balanced environment that we now live in. Those who are aware of the consequences must do what they can to make others sensitive to this pressing issue.

There is one thing we are all forgetting or trying to forget so as not to feel guilty of our wrongdoings. The earth is our home. Our home. Around the world, people are taking part in the rat-race to pave the way for a comfortable lifestyle (at least for their children if not for themselves) forgetting that the earth might not last enough to be able to sustain our future generations. Do you not want your children to know what a real tree looks and feels like? Do you not want your children to wake up each day and breathe in fresh air? Do you not want to pass onto your children a bounteous earth unbleached in its natural beauty? Let us grow in our duties to our home. To our Mother Earth.         

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