A critical analysis of global warming, water scarcity and the need for sustainable development initiatives
Robert Frost, in his short poem “Fire and Ice,” has imparted such a great message that it seems as if the poet had been addressing people of all times in general and the people of current times in particular. Literally, the poem indicates hatred and anger sufficient to end the world. The short poem is of tremendous importance regarding the modification of natural human tendencies and behaviourism. However, there is an inclination towards environmental/ecological concerns likely to overpower the world in the future. The fire symbolizes pollution, dust, nuclear weapons, and atoms, while the ice symbolizes freezing, frigidity, and harsh seasons.
Environmentalists have predicted that future wars will be fought over water and other natural resource crises. The melting of glaciers, due to the rise in the average global temperature, will result in water scarcity to such an extreme level that nations will engage in wars to control water resources for survival. Water crises will impact food resources, and the shortage of food will affect every walk of life severely.
We are mindful of the fact that one of the most adverse impacts of global warming is the variation in the seasonal cycle throughout India in general and in Jammu and Kashmir in particular. This winter, it has become crystal clear that the seasons have changed in a real sense, and the demarcation between the seasons has vanished. Right now, Jammu is too cold like other northern regions of India, and Kashmir is moderately hot during the day and severely cold during the night. A dry spell has caught the scene, and it is going to prolong. God forbid, it seems as if the ‘Kalyug’ has dawned, or it is the last scene of the worldly film. Food resources will be impacted to such an extent that the need for survival food will lead us to human cannibalism. It will be challenging to get grains, vegetables, and seeds from the land as the land will lose its magnitude of fertility. The human immune system will lose its resistance capacity, and people will fall victim to multiple diseases.
Now the question that arises here is who can be held responsible for the same problems? Is it the people, the government, industrialists, and nuclear plants, or is it God himself who wants to destroy the whole living world? There is a logical chain of events that resulted in global warming and subsequently in the problems we are facing at present.
Plastic Collective report
A report by Plastic Collective (14-12-2022) – an international organization, mentions that contemporary climate change is the result of increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations, caused primarily by the combustion of fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas), deforestation, land use changes, and cement production. Such a massive alteration of the global carbon cycle has only been possible because of the availability and deployment of advanced technologies, ranging in application from fossil fuel exploration, extraction, distribution, refining, and combustion in power plants and automobile engines to advanced farming practices.
Livestock contributes to climate change both through the production of greenhouse gases and the destruction of carbon sinks such as rainforests. According to the 2006 United Nations/FAO report, 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions found in the atmosphere are due to livestock. The raising of livestock and the land needed to feed them have resulted in the destruction of millions of acres of rainforest, and as global demand for meat rises, so too will the demand for land. Ninety-one percent of all rainforest land deforested since 1970 is now used for livestock.
Potential negative environmental impacts caused by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations are rising global air temperatures, altered hydrogeological cycles resulting in more frequent and severe droughts, storms, and floods, as well as sea level rise and ecosystem disruption. Industrial and agricultural wastewater can be treated in wastewater treatment plants for treatment before being released into aquatic ecosystems. Treated wastewater still contains a range of different chemical and biological contaminants that may influence surrounding ecosystems.
Water pollution (or aquatic pollution) is the contamination of water bodies, usually as a result of human activities, that it negatively affects its uses. Water bodies include lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers, reservoirs, and groundwater. Water pollution results when contaminants mix with these water bodies. Contaminants can come from one of four main sources: sewage discharges, industrial activities, agricultural activities, and urban runoff, including stormwater. Water pollution is either surface water pollution or groundwater pollution. This form of pollution can lead to many problems, such as the degradation of aquatic ecosystems or the spreading of water-borne diseases when people use polluted water for drinking or irrigation.
Another problem is that water pollution reduces the ecosystem services (such as providing drinking water) that the water resource would otherwise provide. Sources of water pollution are either point sources or non-point sources. Point sources have one identifiable cause, such as a storm drain, a wastewater treatment plant, or an oil spill. Non-point sources are more diffuse, such as agricultural runoff. Pollution is the result of the cumulative effect over time. Pollution may take the form of toxic substances (e.g., oil, metals, plastics, pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, industrial waste products), stressful conditions (e.g., changes in pH, hypoxia or anoxia, increased temperatures, excessive turbidity, changes in salinity), or the introduction of pathogenic organisms. Contaminants may include organic and inorganic substances. A common cause of thermal pollution is the use of water as a coolant by power plants and industrial manufacturers.
Sustainable development has been on the agenda since the late 1980s, and over that time, much progress has been made in moving towards a world that is more sustainable. However, with population growth and issues surrounding climate change, the challenges of sustainable development continue, and its needs must be met with new initiatives. First, what exactly is meant by the phrase ‘sustainable development’? In simple terms, sustainable development is a guiding principle that focuses on sustaining natural resources and the world’s ecosystems in line with human development.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): A key aspect of sustainable development is ensuring that the development needs of future generations are met. For example, introducing sustainable energy initiatives so that fossil fuel use is reduced, which helps keep current resources while reducing carbon emissions.
At the turn of the millennium, the United Nations introduced the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This was a set of goals that focused on a range of sustainable development aspects. After 2016, this set of principles was succeeded by a new set of goals, called the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Perhaps, one of the more general problems related to sustainable development is that it is a very broad principle that can cover a lot of different aspects. However, sustainable development does have some specific goals within this broad spectrum.
The United Nations states that sustainable development’s goals cover three core aspects that include: economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental protection. The first two of these aspects, economic growth and social inclusion, are focused on reducing poverty and inequality around the world. Sustainable development ideology has been designed to help create opportunities for individuals by raising the basic standards of living and reducing inequalities. This kind of development can cover a broad range of topics from human rights, food security, and ensuring that everyone has access to healthcare, for example. These aspects go hand in hand with the third goal of sustainable development ‘environmental protection,’ which has a goal of ensuring that developmental goals work in tandem with environmental policies to eliminate the mismanagement of ecosystems.
Examples of Sustainable Development
Often, one of the first things that come to mind in terms of sustainable development is some of the environmental aspects of its goals, such as the planting of trees to replace those that have been cut down for wood and timber production. Often, companies now look to replace and plant new trees to compensate for the trees that they cut down. A switch to more sustainable wood types – that are fast-growing – and that are in plentiful supply has become preferred. Unfortunately, problems remain such as deforestation of virgin rainforests.
There are two huge factors that affect rainforests, and that is that of timber production and the removal or burning of rainforests to create pastureland for cattle and meat production. Dealing with these issues is difficult, and plenty still needs to be done to combat these problems. For governments, this could be the policy of providing subsidies to developing nations to tackle deforestation, or for companies, it is ensuring that the wood they use complies with sustainable supply chains and does not make use of timber that has been produced through illegal logging.
Concluding, let me jot down some modest proposals that may help humanity in the present as well as the future. It is obvious that human activities and the resultant pollutants are adding fuel to the fire that is likely to take the whole of humanity in its grip in case the immediate necessary steps are not taken. So, let me put forth some modest proposals.
• Avoiding the burning of fossil fuels can reduce the release of carbon dioxide and enrich the atmosphere with oxygen that will help the living species to survive.
• Use of eco-friendly vehicles will certainly reduce the emission of CO2.
• Industries and factories must use electrical and solar energy to run machines.
• Large-scale afforestation and stopping deforestation are some of the chief contributing factors in making the environment rich with fresh air and pure oxygen.
• Proper scientific methods for the decomposition of polyethene byproducts.
• Scientific management of water resources will sustain the second most precious natural resource after air.
• Above all, awareness programs about environmental degradation and the ways to prevent it at the rural level.
Otherwise, we all will have to weep for our fate, and there will be no scope for moaning over the large-scale loss that may be equivalent to the loss of a whole life.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]