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Reckoning with Global warming

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01.FEB.08

EDITOR: On December 10th, 2007, Al Gore and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in accumulating and disseminating greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and for laying the foundations for the measures necessary to counteract such change.{{more}}

Mr Gore’s efforts culminated in the blockbuster film An Inconvenient Truth. In the film we discover that the force driving climate change is global warming.

The IPCC’s report proved that earth is heating up and that it is due to human activity. All of the blackened carbon emissions that pour out of Vinlec’s smoke stacks and mini-van and truck mufflers as well as the emissions from the many private vehicles we drive contribute to the Green House Effect, the major cause of the warming. The emissions, largely in the form carbon dioxide, CO2, together with other green house gasses, such as water vapour, H2O; man made ozone, O3, and methane, CH4, allow radiation from the sun to enter the Earth’s atmosphere, but they do not allow enough of it to leave. The result is steadily climbing atmospheric temperatures.

The climbing temperatures result in larger numbers of and more violent storms; they result in high enough ocean temperatures to boil coral on the oceans floor. Loss of coral and ocean plants means loss of fish. Our planet is currently in such upheaval that many places that used to receive snow no longer do; this has forced the closure of many traditional ski resorts.

Meanwhile, places such as Australia, the United States, and Greece experienced some of the worst droughts in 2007. The climbing temperatures result in desertification across the globe, parching the earth till it cracks. When topsoil dries out it is easily blown away. Recently, desertification has been responsible for massive clouds of topsoil and other fine particles that reduce visibility and trigger a host of allergic reactions such as asthma. On any given day, the dust that hangs on the mountains and obscures our view of Bequia may not just be Sahara dust, it could come from as far away as China.

One of the more urgent effects of global warming is sea level rise. This sea level rise is due in part to rising ocean temperatures. Very simply put, when heated, any fluid such as water will expand. Sea level is, however, most dramatically affected by the rapidly accelerating melting of ice shelves in Antarctica and Greenland. Ice shelves over 700ft tall, which took hundreds of thousands of years to form, are now breaking off sliding into the ocean. In his film Mr Gore shares estimates that place final ocean levels as high as twenty (20) feet above current levels. Many coastlines, including those of SVG, would be devastated. If there were a 20-foot rise in sea level all our major towns such as Kingstown, Georgetown, Port Elizabeth, Calliaqua, and all our air, and seaports would vanish. In light of the above, one wonders how much planning has begun to go into sea defences in this region. Have sea defences been budgeted for with regard to the significant investment about to be undertaken in the Argyle international airport? Global warming and its effects have now been proven and verified by Nobel Laureates. We must heed their warnings and begin to prepare now. What is most distressing is that for Vincentian politicians, journalists and the general population, climate change and its implications appear to be non-issues. If we become as keenly aware of environmental issues as we are of the petit tit for tat, day to day politics of St Vincent & the Grenadines we might well have a fighting chance.

What can Vincentians do? We can begin simply by increasing our awareness of the issue; I highly recommend the film An Inconvenient Truth. Social studies, geography, and biology teachers, as well youth group facilitators, will find the film gives much food for thought and sparks quite a bit of discussion. People who are informed will be better able to influence our country’s policy on the issue and how our representatives vote at international fora. We as a people also need to begin to ask our leaders what is being done to move us away from our dependency on costly and polluting petroleum products. The link below leads to a BBC article on how an 11-megawatt solar power tower runs an entire city in Spain without fossil fuels (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/6616651.stm#graphic). There are solar sterling arrays, and wind farms, both off-shore and on-shore. Incidentally, in 2007, authorities in Barbados approved the building of a wind farm, and rumor has it they are investigating bio-diesel production. St. Vincent risks being left behind yet again.

Salt

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