It's not HIV/Aids that's going to decimate our working population.........it's going to be global warming! 

2013-02-09 17:43

Here am I sitting in my vest and shorts wilting in this cloying heat that is sapping my energy. The overhead fan is whirring and buzzing like a crazy horsefly and doing nothing else but shifting the warm air around! Welcome to global warming.......and this is only the beginning! Here's a "Global Warming 101" for the wondering few. But first a disclaimer!

Before you read on remember,mine is a layperson's perspective and concerns that I seek to exchange with you.I am no expert.The finer and gory details I leave to scientists brave enough to get of their well subsidized cacoons and publish their findings through the mass media! So if you not interested, now is the time to switch to another informative op-ed on voices.news24.com.

Global Warming occurs as a result of increased concentration of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The main greenhouse gases are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and ozone. Because of global warming these gases do not allow all the radiations from the Earth to escape back info space. This in short is known as the Greenhouse Effect. 

So what is global warming and why should we be worried. And what should we as South Africans do about it? Well firstly get off the self pity we habitually wallow in blaming everything on government!

So should we be worried? I believe we should. Major problem that is being exacerbated by the worlds leading industrialized nations playing twiddly winks with the likes of the Kyoto Protocol with disaster looming over their horizons!

So here am I, a lay person,penning  and sharing my concerns about global warming,perhaps the single  most greatest environmental challenge, I am informed,facing planet earth!

This, as one line of a song goes,certainly must be the road to hell! Now that I have your undivided attention let me explain the gravity of the situation that threatens us and our very existence. The fuel we use to power our cars,homes and our businesses is causing the earth to warm faster than anyone expected. 

The first seven months of last year in the USA alone, SA statistics being unavailable unfortunately,and the last three decades, were the warmest since national record-keeping began in that country in 1895. And the Earth's temperature has reportedly soared to the highest point ever it has been in the past 12,000 years. Did you get that? I hope you do!

If nothing is done…if the Earth warms 5 to 9 degrees Celsius, the face of our planet will change forever. Let me repeat "forever"! Hyperbole? You wish! 

Seriously the much talked about Greenland and Western Antarctic ice sheets would melt completely. When a major ice shelf sheered last year in the Arctic, our media was mute. As was news of flooding on low lying areas in the wake of the released volume in countries close by! These two ice sheets currently hold 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water. So what would then happen?

Sea levels could well rise by 20 metres atleast! Think about the damage that would cause to coastal areas around the world. I wonder if the dykes holding back the sea in Holland would survive the onslaught! When Hurricane Katrina struck off the coast of New Orleans,we know how the levees were swept away like pawns on a chess board and the disaster that ensued!

Extreme weather patterns are a fact and no longer academic.Heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, floods - and they are occurring with greater frequency and greater intensity. When i was researching this topic I discovered that in 2003 alone  heat waves caused 20,000 deaths in Europe and 1,500 deaths in India.And in the USA the number of "Category 4 and 5 hurricanes" have doubled since the 1970's. The sheer force of Hurricane Katrina alone is testament to that.And things will only get worse as Earth's temperature rises. 

The question is: how much will the increase be? It's any one's guess but what we can take as a given is that it's going to happen sooner than we expect!

With  hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather patterns becoming the norm we must know that they are becoming more volatile than ever. Malaria  and water borne diseases like bilharzia would spread like wildfire! Recent weather abnormalities in SA led to many deaths and damage to property as well as loss of life.

The trapped radiation or heat that I referred to earlier on, helps to keep the Earth at a constant temperature. Greenhouse effect is thus very important to maintain the temperature of the Earth at a habitable level. But if that radiation is increased by anything between 5-9 degrees Celsius the danger is nothing to scoff at !

Over the past few 100 years or so, human beings have been deliberately burning trees and fissile fuels, thereby releasing millions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere.We in SA are amongst the culprits! 

The increased level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has caused the temperature of the Earth to imperceptibly to rise. This in turns leads to more evaporation  and release into the atmosphere. Water vapor is very good at absorbing heat. This causes the Earth’s atmosphere to become even more warmer. Scientists refer to this effect as ‘Global Warming’. I stand corrected but what I have learnt is that they have warned that global warming could shift rainfall patterns, raise the sea level and alter the ecological balance.

Surely we are experiencing this of late? Our average temperature has being around 28 degrees Celsius and our rainfall pattern has been somewhat unusual causing floods and severe damage!

That's why we must act soon and decisively. The question is: what should we do? More pertinently,how can we as South Africans combat global warming? Well I have a few suggestions like closing down factories that  although help our economy,are amongst the major polluters and contributors to global warming. But I would probably be burnt at the stake for daring to pen this silly suggestion. 

So let me propose what I believe we , as South Africans, should as a collective be doing. Ever heard of the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle? This is what is being advocated in those still functional schools in SA!  If we adhere to these , I believe, we can make an impact.

If we use reusable products instead of disposables and bye products of minimal packaging this would reduce waste. And it's axiomatic about recycling paper, plastics and other stuff! Guess what?Do  you know in this way you can save approximately 5000 kilograms  of carbon di oxide annually!

The next suggestion is plant more trees.We know that trees trap carbon di oxide and release oxygen. Oh and we must also conserve water and use it sparingly.So if you suspect a water leak or a leaky faucet become proactive now! Your future depends on it.

These are some of the suggestions I have in mind although I have volumes to suggest but space constraints dictate otherwise! Besides experience has taught me to keep my message short and straight, if not simple!

 As South Africans remember the last 3 letters in South African namely "can"! In the words of President Obama, yes we can!

Saber Ahmed Jazbhay

@jazlaw24

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