23 September, 2020

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After The Flood

By Ranil Senanayake

Dr Ranil Senanayake

We have just witnessed another weather feature that confirms the future predicted with Climate Change, localized, extreme, weather events of both flood and drought. But we still seem blissfully unaware and unprepared for such a future. The last abnormally high rainfall event should be looked at as a warning of the future to come.  There should be some commonsense in planning, for example the architecture of housing in flood prone areas must change. Living spaces should be constructed above the known flood level. Many nations around us routinely build this way.in flood prone areas.

There should also be some scientific capacity and national interest in the bureaucrats whom we fund to travel to the international conferences on our behalf. There should also be less jealousy of countrymen involved in the task of building a safe country for their children. A case in point is the Climate Change Convention and our national Climate Change Secretariat. In Paris at COP 21 country statement was drafted by the Presidential Delegation. They issued the ‘Country Statement’, which was highly appreciated as a ‘forward thinking’ document by many delegates at the conference.  However the bureaucrats from the ministry who were at the conference wanted to have nothing to do with it, because it did not come from them and has not sensitized the requisite arms of government to be prepared for such extreme events as yet.

One urgent example is the statement:

We are aware that the optimum operating temperature of chlorophyll is at 37 deg C. In a warming world where temperatures will soar well above that, food production will be severely impacted. We would request the IPCC to address responses to this phenomenon.”

Why is a heat wave so dangerous? Apart from the heat stress in human and animals, it could exceed the threshold for enzymatic activity. All of agriculture depends on the good growth of plants, all plants rely on their chlorophyll to grow and produce. Chlorophyll is a molecule that functions to an optimum at about 37degrees, above that their performance falls. In heat waves often exceeding 38 degrees plant productivity will be impacted and yields drop (fig1).  This year much of Australia dealt with a brutal spring heat wave that reduced farmers’ yields.

The danger to agricultural production is further exasperated by the reliance on chemical farming with so-called ‘high yield ‘ crops. These crops have been bred by reducing photosynthetic biomass for crop biomass. This reduction being made possible by the use of chemical fertilizers. But in a high temperature situation when chlorophyll is functioning sub-optimally such reductions of leaf biomass may bring serious crop losses.

Already countries such as Australia have begun researching the ‘heat stress’ loss in the agriculture. In Sri Lanka however there seems to be no official recognition of this fact. To have official recognition, one needs the official organ recognize these facts and begin transmitting it to the other organs of government that need to respond. For example, the Ministry and Department of Agriculture should have been informed and should have begun research on heat and drought tolerant varieties. The public should be informed on how to affect ambient cooling in their neighborhoods.

The trends are more than obvious now. Last month a record high of 53.5C set in the southwest Pakistani city of Turbat, the world’s hottest-ever temperature recorded for the month of May. In Delhi it is currently over 44C.  A recent study found that the number of heat wave days increased by 25 percent across most of India. Areas in the south and west of India experienced 50 percent more heatwave events, or periods of extreme heat lasting more than three or four days.  Should we not prepare ourselves? Is this not disaster preparedness?  But does Climate Change and Disaster Management and Meteorology discuss these threats, in a joint manner?

The creation of increasing areas of impervious surfaces, where the rainwater cannot penetrate, will create floods if not properly drained. This was a strong lesson from the floods. Yet no watershed base plan has been created for the massive urbanization activity that seems to be the only idea of ‘development’ within the current political system. They also do not seem to understand that, massive urban growth that relies on fossil energy for its maintenance will create even more Carbon Dioxide, which in turn will trigger more extreme climate events.

The bottom line is that we need an informed, concerned, Climate Change Secretariat within the Government to inform and co-ordinate activities that will help the nation adapt and respond to the coming changes. We also need to understand better that using fossil fuel, be it Coal Oil or Gas for development will mean more floods, more droughts and more misery for a vast majority of the people. Communicating this information to the public is as important as grandstanding at international conferences.

We have become a nation of international hypocrites. We preach about our concern for the environment, our concern for public health and our adherence to Buddhist principles, on all possible international stages, while doing the total opposite at home.  Our ecosystems are in tatters, our biodiversity restricted to tiny patches in a sea of monocultures, our economy is totally dedicated to greed, our seas are so polluted that a simple cut can get infected in many locations.

The flood has hopefully taught us that we cannot continue business as usual. Along with the shovels and brooms to clean the mess the flood left behind we should also identify, name and hold accountable all those who feed at the trough of disaster preparedness  (US$ 100,417,924  in 2016 by the UN records ) and insist on performance not excuses.

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Latest comments

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    If a nation with an average national IQ of 79 is to survive then those above the average must link up to support and guide the government towards “Good Governance”. This government has committed itself to such “Good Governance” even though most of its members do not even know what that means. It is up to the citizens of the state to guide the government along the paths to good governance. Writing critical articles is important but it is far more important to write to the government clearly setting out the actions that we want the government to take. This is our responsibility as citizens and we cannot hold the government responsible for tasks that we have not asked it to perform. If any will place their eloquence and knowledge at the disposal of this vital task of democracy they are most welcome to join in…

    At the moment I see a marked reluctance on the part of those who claim to know exactly what the government should be doing, to write down their recommendations and mail them to the government via registered mail. I cannot understand this reluctance and it is very unbecoming of those who claim to be thinking people.

    Initially it will be a good thing if more of you learned citizens will write to the president – who is the chairman of the national disaster management council – and ask him to dismiss his minister of disaster management and replace him with a more responsible and capable person if the minister himself does not have the grace to resign on his own.

    If we as citizens are unable, or unwilling, to discharge our own responsibilities that arise from the democratic process, then we have no one to blame other than ourselves for the quagmire that we find ourselves in at present.

    • 1
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      IQ score can be misleading.Han Chinese are 74% of the population of Singapore, and the average Singapore IQ is 108. Han Chinese are 91.59% of the overall population of China, yet the average Chinese IQ is 100. It must mean the Chinese in China lack some of the opportunities of the Chinese in Singapore. So you cannot look at an IQ of 79 and conclude an entire nation is full of buffoons. To get the real IQ of a set of people, say Sinhalese, you would have to offer them equal educational opportunities both in Sri Lanka and outside.

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        An “average” means that the entire nation is “not” made up of Baffoons. It means that there are some intelligent people who do understand what an “average” is and many who do not.

        Quite simple…but alas not so for many Sri Lankans most of whom are Sinhalese Buddhists. This does not of course mean that all Buddhists are Buffoons but it does mean that a large number of those who like to call themselves “Sinhala” Buddhists and live on that island that they call Sri Lanka most certainly are if persons with an average IQ of 79 are to be called Buffoons as has been suggested.

  • 0
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    An impossibility to implement! Too expensive. Money in current GoSL is tied up in the hypothesized South-Asian fiat-industrialized-commercial aspiration, which leaves little to no money for environmental infrastructure. In their desire to force-create wealth for the South Asian Empire they forgot the basics. They are next going to ala kazam money from city areas (and leave the rest of the country in a bog).

  • 0
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    I quote the following from another article:

    (Climate change is) “the deliberate and systematic distortion and massaging of the data to fit a threadbare theory that defies common sense and a decent regard for the known facts of the planet’s history.

    Among these are the span between 980AD and 1750AD which clearly encompassed a pre-industrial era. The beginning of this span saw Eric the Red name and settle “Greenland” not because he was color blind or wished to starve to death on a sheet of ice; and the latter marked the waning days of the Thames Frost Festivals, which did not occur annually because the Londoners of the time were foolish enough to try ice skating on cold water.

    In fact, during the Medieval Warm Period (850 to 1300 AD) Greenland was a swell spot for Norse farming colonies and the eventual flourishing of agricultural and fishing trade with the Norwegian fatherland, while during the Maunder Minimum ( 1645 to 1715 AD) or Little Ice Age giant “frost festivals”, like the scene depicted below from 1685, were held on the Thames and most European rivers without fear of plunging into the icy drink.

    In short, the Medieval Warm Period was far hotter than anything recorded today—with temperatures 2 degrees centigrade higher than at present and ocean waters up to 25 feet higher. Likewise, the winter colds of the Maunder Minimum have not been experienced in the northern latitudes for several centuries.

    What varied during that 800 year span, of course, was the solar cycle, not the level of industrial activity—of which there was none.

    Indeed, the Maunder Minimum refers exactly to the lack of sunspot activity, as recorded by observers at the time. Likewise, core samples from Greenland’s icy glaciers document clearly that levels of CO2 were far higher in 1017 than they are in 2017. That’s because carbon levels follow the solar cycle driven planetary temperature variations rather than cause them.”

    excerpt from Contra Corner “The Undrainable Swamp: Why The Donald Is Going Down, Part 1”

  • 1
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  • 0
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    Keep up your excellent work Ranil – Quite right, SL Foreign Ministry bureaucrats are a jealous and vicious species indeed!
    The erosion of land in Kalutara to sea waves is directly related to the consolidation of sand and land in the form of the Colombo Port city which is another Chinese environmental DISASTER in the making. The Colombo port city project must be stopped and a proper EIA conducted in relation to the erosion taking place along Colombo’s Southern coastal belt which has exacerbated since the port city disaster stated operations..

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    Nation of hypocrites indeed!

    Ranil and his pretty boys need to go to New York for gay and happy medical check ups because Sri Lanka or even Singapore (which is nearer and less expensive), is not good enough! Ranil and co. of Jarapalanaya Govt. are more corrupt that Mahinda Jarapassa family.
    Ranil was in US to get corruption and development policy instructions from the Trump administration whose policy is to “make America Great again” by setting up wars in the Middle East, Indian Ocean, and East Asia and then selling weapons and military infrastructure!

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    How many will remember the Ranil Senanayake message a week for now? Democracy works because of the indifference of the silent majority and more importantly short memory and attention span. Following the 2004 tsunami, plans were floated – warning beacons, declare 500 m from shorelines reserves and so on. What happened? There was quite a furore after the Meethotamulla garbage collapse. Then what? Floods and landslides are common occurrences. Flood preparedness is talked about but this almost always include a handful of privileged who may lose out. Then the familiar lethargy sets in – our memory is short!

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