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Saturday, January 9, 2010

A case of extremes /December 27, 2009

By Mary Margaret /— Bernama photo
What do you think? Has the weather gone crazy? Is it raining when it should be dry? Or is it dry when it should be wet? Is it superlative weather — the hottest, the coldest, the driest, the wettest, the worst storm?
Have you come to expect the unexpected? The changing and extreme weather patterns this year compared to past years have been making headlines.
The American Midwest and parts of Europe were buried in snow; freezing cold of about -40 degrees Celsius hit the Canadian prairies during the second week of December. Fiji was struck by a Category 2 (Category 5 is the highest) cyclone with wind speeds of 90 to 110 km per hour leaving three people dead, a trail of destruction, landslides and flooding.
Other regions in the South Pacific were not spared. Australia is threatened in the north by cyclones and in the southeast by extreme heat of 40 degrees Celsius — the hottest since the fire storm swept through Victoria last February, killing 173 people and burning 2,000 homes to the ground.
Who can forget the poignant photo of an exhausted fire fighter giving water via a mineral water bottle to a koala that had survived the fire, but had burnt its paws?
Losing land
Land has disappeared. Two islands—Tebua Tarawa and Abanuea (which ironically means the beach which lasts a long time) —which belonged to the Island State of Kiribati now lie beneath the waters of the South Pacific.
Twenty-nine atolls of the Marshal Islands are at risk. The cost of building a single temporary sea wall for a single atoll is estimated at US$100 million; a cost greater than the yearly wealth of the country.
Two thousand Indonesian islands are expected to be victims of climate change and global warming as well.
Mother Nature displayed her strength (and anger?) while we negotiated an agreement in Copenhagen to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Representatives, negotiators, Ministers of the Environment, met from Dec 7-18, to thrash out the accords to take the place of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.
Most industrialized countries agreed to legally binding reductions of greenhouse gases emission to 6 to 8 per cent below the 1990 level. This protocol, which also established carbon trading, was ratified by 175 countries A sense of gloom hung over the Danish capital during this two-week period. Representatives of developing countries walked out and protesters were arrested. The world watched with dimming hopes for even just a political agreement on how the 192 countries around the world will cut emissions to below the 1990 level, allocate funds to the developing world and that these economies continue to grow even while reducing emissions.
The science behind global warming is not being questioned. The percentage of CO2 and the other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising. We are experiencing unpredictable weather. The complications are economic as economic growth; the industrial revolution and the consumer-driven economies are responsible for the ever increasing levels of CO2 in our Earth’s atmosphere. Nature is responding to this influx.

WATER EVERYWHERE: Residents brave flood waters in Kelantan last month. — Bernama photo    
To not respond may be a decision for immediate financial returns and sound the most economical, but it will mean future disasters. We live in controlled environments and nature is what we see on television. This gigantic divide separates us from the natural world, which we cannot live without. It is from this world that we get oxygen, food and water.
What we can do?
Regardless of the success or lack of success in Copenhagen, we can take action at a personal level. And the first step is to embrace the natural world and Mother Nature’s gifts, which we have taken for granted for so long. The second is to remember the well-known and much repeated refrain — reduce, reuse, recycle repair and refuse.
The Sibu Municipal Council has taken the bold step of banning plastic bags on some days. Plastic bags for the most part are unnecessary and end up clogging drains, rivers and eventually the oceans where the accumulated non-decomposable rubbish builds up. So we need to remember to bring along our own marketing bag and containers. What does it matter if the onions are mixed with the oranges?All sorts of complicated schemes have been suggested to pull the excess carbon from the air. This is what trees and other plants do through the process of photosynthesis. Plant trees so that they can act as carbon sinks. There is so much else that we can do.
 Let’s try to:
  •  switch off lights and electricity sockets use energy efficient light bulbs
  • use energy efficient appliances recycle paper, plastic, metal and glass compost kitchen and garden waste
  • eat less meat 
  • eat locally grown food 
  • buy less 
  • make use of technology 
  • to reduce the amount of paper used 
  • walk more 
  • drive less and use an energy efficient car 
  • fly less 
  • plant trees to act as carbon sinks
  •  reduce, reuse, recycle, repair and refus
When the bell tolls midnight on Jan 1, 2010, will you resolve to be part of the solution?

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