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World Environment Day (International Polar Year)

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease."
- (Genesis 8:22, The Bible ).

Our environment has been under threat for quite sometime now. Needless to say, we, the people, of this planet earth, are to be blamed.

Global warming is threatening the Earth's endurance and our very existence.

Awareness regarding the environmental crisis began way back in the twentieth century. In 1972, The United Nations General Assembly decreed that the world observe World Environment Day (WED) on June 5, each year. Accordingly, every year a different city plays host to WED and organizes an international exposition that extends a week, starting on June 5.Each year this exposition highlights a then current issue. The purpose of this observance is to not only kindle an awareness among the public about our fast deteriorating environment , but also to harness political and public support and to implement restorative action.

This year,the most peaceful country in the world, Norway, is the host.And the topic? It is "Melting Ice - A Hot Topic?" The focus is on climatic changes and its effects on ice and snow-covered areas of the world as it is in the polar systems that the impact of global warming has been most profound and measureable.

Norway plans to showcase the main celebrations in its eighth largest city, Tromsoe.The city, popularly known as "The Gateway to the Arctic" is situated north of the polar circle. In the context of the shrinking Arctic ice cap, it would appear that the place and theme are well matched indeed what better way to (celebrate) WED!

The North and South Poles are the centres of our planet's polar regions .These frigid zones are extensively covered by polar ice caps resting respectively on the Arctic ocean in the north and the Antartic continent in the south. Since the ice is more "water ice", the Arctic Ocean is covered by floating ice or sea ice, called the Arctic Ice pack.

In recent years there has been noticeable shrinking of polar ice. Scientists have warned that the Arctic ice cap may disappear in the next 100 years! NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Centre together conducted a study and report that since 1978, the polar ice cap has shrunk by 30 percent. Incidentally, the Arctic summer this year was the warmest in 400 years!

The Greenland ice sheet is melting three times faster today than it was five years ago, according to a new study. The finding adds to evidence of increased global warming in recent years and indicates that melting polar ice sheets are pushing sea levels higher, the authors report. According to the study, Greenland ice loss now amounts to more than 48 cubic miles (200 cubic kilometers) each year . - John Roach (National Geographic News, 10 Aug 06).

The single reason for this mishap is anthropogenic global warming,directly implicating man and his activities. Global average air temperature around the earth's surface increased by 0.74+0.18C(1.3 0.32 F)during the last century.The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) attributes this notching up of temperature to increased greenhouse gas concentrations, caused very likely' , by human activities. It may do well for the readers to understand that such gases in turn increase the green house effect.

Greenhouse effect is similar to warming air inside a greenhouse to keep it at a higher temperature as compared to the air outside it. Technically, it refers to the emission of IR (infra red) radiations from the atmosphere, which warms the earth's surface. More commonly, it signifies the increase in temperature of the earth's surface due to emission of gases related to human activities.

The depletion of the ozone layer is also linked to the e mission of green house gases, especially Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs also contribute to global warming.

In a summary of volume 1 of the Fourth Assessment Report submitted on February 2, 2007, the IPCC has stated that increase in the strength of natural calamities like hurricanes and cyclones since the 70's "more likely than not can be attributed to man-made global warming."

On the melting of the polar ice caps and its effect on rising sea levels,the panel projects a further rise of 4-8 inches to the already existing increase of 7-23 inches, by the end of the century.

In April,2007, volume 2 of the Fourth Assessment Report entitled "Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" was released. It paints a bleak picture for the future of mankind. The report warns of more anthropogenic global warming, extensive loss of bio- diversity, shortage of food and water and newer threats to human health.

Human existence is inseparably linked to natural systems. Any interference or disruption in the latter is bound to affect humans, seriously. Visible changes are already having a deleterious impact on the biotic community. As global warming increases, negative consequences will also rise.

USA, Russia, China, India and Brazil, are among some of the top 50 countries in the list of "Largest emitters of greenhouse gases". Despite the Kyoto Protocol and G8 summits and environmentalists advocating strategies to combat the environmental crisis, so much more needs to be done. It is up to the individual countries to take immediate steps to drastically bring down their greenhouse gases emission rates. Recent observations point to agricultural activities, emissions from industries and automobiles as the most likely causes of global warming. Taking steps to cut down burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and limiting the use of CFCs would significantly bring down the concentration of greenhou se gases and afford a safer environment.

We have only this earth to live on; let's bequeath a good planet to our children-we owe it to them!

Summing it up is this quote from Bill Clintons speech at a United Nations Climate Conference in 2005,

'I think it's crazy for us to play games with our children's future. We know what's happening to the climate, we have a highly predictable set of consequences if we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.'


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