22 September, 2020

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Climate Changes

By Ranil Senanayake

Ranil Senanayake

Ranil Senanayake

Internationally there is a palpable sense of urgency among the climate scientists. While waiting for our climate scientists to even twitch from their slumber, we should begin to consider what all this means to us. There seems to be a real concern that the sea level will rise substantially. On July 20th, a major study suggested that mean sea levels could rise 10 times faster than previously predicted: 10 feet by 2065. While the level is up for debate the fact of sea level rise seems to be certain. One emerging, disturbing fact is that while the IPCC climate [change] models predict a gentle, slow change, the current experience is one so rapid that neither scientists, nor animals can keep up with it.

As our fossil profligate lifestyles, keep pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere a large part of it is absorbed by the oceans. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s converted into carbonic acid and the pH of seawater declines. Unlike a prediction of massive sea-level rise just decades away, the warming and acidifying oceans represent another problem that seems to have kick-started an oceanic mass extinction on the same time scale. Acidification has a direct effect on mollusks and other marine animals with hard outer bodies: A striking study last year showed that, along the West Coast of the US, the shells of tiny snails are already dissolving, with as-yet-unknown consequences on the ecosystem.

pollustionThe combination of excessive nutrients from agricultural runoff, abnormal wind patterns and the warming oceans is already creating seasonal dead zones in coastal regions when algae blooms suck up most of the available oxygen. The appearance of low-oxygen regions has doubled in frequency every 10 years since 1960 and should continue to grow over the coming decades at an even greater rate.

In the face of all these global problems, Sri Lanka stands exposed as the worst polluter of the Indian Ocean. The new maps on human impact on the world’s oceans are now on the web.The maps depict a massive halo of pollution that rings our island. If the pattern is studied carefully it will be seen that the damage to the ocean extends well beyond the area where land based pollution would be expected to affect. Further, to the east of the halo of pollution a tell tale line of pollution extends in a straight line following the shipping channel. It seems that the shipping is indeed causing a serious impact on our waters. The massive load of agrochemicals, industrial chemicals and silt from land erosion, that has already brought ill health and misery to out farming population, makes our immediate oceanic environment highly polluted. When the global affects of climate change and ocean acidification are added the future looks bleak.

The volume of shipping along this route is expected to increase significantly in the near future. As we do not have any control over this phenomenon and as shipping uses the most dirty polluting fossil fuels, we can expect the ocean pollution around Sri Lanka to increase significantly in the near future. Nothing has been done to control ship-based pollution or insure that a tanker accident will not cripple our economy, by the galaxy of agencies concerned. There is poor possibility for pursuing accountability if ships have no insurance against such eventualities. A robust risk analysis and subsequent risk insurance should be implemented at a minimum; an effective monitoring program will then become practical.

The prognosis is dismal; Sri Lanka not only contributes to the pollution of the ocean around it, but also has embarked on an insane drive to establish coal fired power plants to supply the national energy need. Not only do we defecate on or own doorstep but we also let others also invite others to do the same. We let foreign vessels use and pollute our waters without fear of prosecution.

It has been pointed out that climate change has a straightforward solution: End fossil-fuel use as quickly as possible. If tomorrow, the leaders of the United States and China would agree to a sufficiently strong, coordinated carbon tax that’s also applied to imports, the rest of the world would have no choice but to sign up.

In an astounding recent announcement White House administration stated that it sees no long-range future for fossil fuel, the state department climate change envoy, Todd Stern, said the world would have no choice but to forgo developing reserves of oil, coal and gas. With this statement, the US administration has acknowledged that the era of profligate use of fossil fuels is over.

But in Sri Lanka the so-called ‘decision makers’ are still running with the thesis that bigger is better, so megapolises, giant unwanted bridges and coal fired power plants are brought in to show that the new lot can be grander than, the useless airport, harbor, sports stadium driven old lot. Not a peep from our scientists, on the climate or on our irresponsibility of linking ‘development’ with the consumption of fossil fuels. Not a peep from the administrators who travel the world attending conferences that shows the folly of reliance on fossil fuels. Have all of them gone the way of the politicians? They should have the capacity to educate the public on the price that we have to pay. But why is there such a silence in questioning the current ‘development’ process that gets this nation addicted to fossil fuels, which makes us contribute more fossil carbon to the atmosphere, accelerates climate change and leaves us completely at the mercy of the fossil market? Not to mention the dubious title of the ’worst polluter of the Indian Ocean’.

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    RS,

    “But in Sri Lanka the so-called ‘decision makers’ are still running with the thesis that bigger is better, so megapolises, giant unwanted bridges and coal fired power plants are brought in to show that the new lot can be grander than, the useless airport, harbor, sports stadium driven old lot”

    Thank you for your article. The subject is very important but unfortunately the politicians and voters do not yet understand it. When they understand it time will already be up.

    In Jaffna we have a problem with brackish water as you may know. The other problem is lack of water. When I talk with the elderly they say that it does not rain like it used to.

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      Agree. the decision makers not only destroy the environment but allow poisoning of its citizens so that they can pocket the commission. Carbide in fruits, formic acid in Curd, Fertilizer that has caused CKD amongst 10% of the population in NCP and now spreading , Insectiside in pulses so that they appear fresh . These are treacherous acts . In real Sinhala language these B— decision makers must be hung in Galle Face.

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    And only one person (now two), has acknowledged this great article :( (maybe one or two more will comment before/after me)

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      I probably speak for more than a few readers when I say that other pressing news stories demand my attention at the moment. I will revisit this climate change story after the 17th.

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        Was thinking of Champika…….that he should be a mandatory/honorary member on whichever team wins.

        Him, together with UPS/JVP/JUH should teach whatever winning regime, that environmental and socialist issues take precedence over money-making enterprise.

        That no one will starve with environmental and socialist issues, but plenty will have craving with money-making enterprise.

        Very important for 17th.

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          He,(not Him) together with UPS/JVP/JUH…… * (although Him sounds more condemnatory)

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    I think I speak for most Sri Lankans when I say “If it doesn’t cost me anything, if it doesn’t affect me directly, if I can perceive no negative effect on me or mine, or if it is profitable to me in some way, I don’t care”

    Shameful and Short-sighted I know but then, humans are not that much concerned about what will happen in the future.

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    Well, this is a popular and recurring theme among academics and trickled down to the general public. The imminent dangers of anthropogenic climate change! While it’s generally agreeable to many ideas in the article on pollution and ways to address the disposal of trash that’s accumulated on the shores as well as on the ground, it’s another matter to ring alarms on climate change based on shaky science. There is no question about having a national policy on trashing our environment. We need to leave it in pristine condition to our younger generations. We need a cultural change in our psyche. But taxing people and countries more for carbon emissions! That’s a big no no! The governments and some “experts” propose more taxes is the only way to address the alarming “global warming” issue. We need to separate the shady issue of “global warming” based on shaky science from preserving our environment. I am sure the writer has not looked into the mathematical models built on predicting the temperature patterns, sea levels etc. If only he looked into those, he would have found out how simplistic these models are. They are nothing but statistical models to fit curves to historical data and extrapolating them! Anyone who checks the weather reports know that we cannot predict the temperatures for a week or two out but these writers believe in models that predict temperatures into years and decades! The IPCC mandate is to study anthropogenic climate change and they are not going to say anything to jeopardize their funding! Once the climate issue is viewed as a threat, environmental organization can raise more support from the public, politicians can pretend to be the protectors of the humanity, media can show and write more fear mongering stories in turn increasing their sales, and scientists can justify more research grants! Humans have evolved in more cooler and warmer temperatures. Who says that the 20th century temperatures are the ideal? Global temperatures will change no matter what; either cooling or warming! Humans may contribute to some of it, but there is no scientific model that’s going to tell you by how much. But it’s no reason to spend another trillion dollars on policy changes and alternative sources of energy and drastic changes in the quality of life – all based on shaky science! Instead let’s focus on a national policy on cleaning up our environment and preserving it to future generations.
    Environmentalism has today become a hip religion among the urban “educated” crowd; there was a Garden of Eden with unity with nature, then there was a fall from grace after eating from the tree of knowledge into a state of pollution, and because of that there is a judgment day coming to us all! We are all energy sinners doomed to die unless we choose the salvation called sustainability. We should call it the “Church of Environment”! 

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      Cruul,

      Even mollusks instinctively know, that they have to burrow their heads in the sand and die, or painfully spout new genes within a 1000-year time-span, to tackle an atmosphere that is gravely imbalanced, compared to what their ancestors enjoyed for 100-million years.

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    Best article I have ever read:

    “By nature Sri Lankans are not exploitive entrepreneurs; they are farmers they have always been; they wait for the rains; they wait for the crops to ripen before it is harvested after which they enjoy the New Year festivities and return to work only after the basic rituals are completed at the auspicious time to set out to work. A laid back life when compared to the west! They think like the Mexican fisherman who was satisfied with catching one fish and enjoyed the rest of his time in leisure activities. But what is wrong with it, if the final goal achieved by the Mexican fisherman and the big time entrepreneur, is the same?”

    http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=129873

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