The Global Warnings

Pollution

In September 1992, 2,500 scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that there is a “discernible human influence on global climate likely to cause widespread economic, social and environmental dislocation over the next century.” This “discernible human influence” is another word for the unchecked pollution which has steadily poisoned our Earth since the last few decades.

We live in a world invaded by plastic and an estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic, is dumped in the world’s oceans every year. To give an idea of what it represents in terms of ‘investment’ in the future, a plastic cup can take 50 to 80 years to decompose whilst a thicker plastic milk jug would take 1 million years.

Each year, for every one of the 6 billion people on earth, nearly four tons of carbon dioxide is spewed into the air. U.S. factories alone spew 3 million tons of toxic chemicals into the air, land, and water and the same happens, often in more dramatic proportion due to the lack of proper government control, in China, in India and in every country following the agenda of all out industrialization. The concentration of carbon dioxide released in the atmosphere has never been so high for hundreds of thousands of years and humanity has never lived in an atmosphere like the one it lives now.

Every month, more than 125 million tons of solid industrial hazardous wastes get dumped across America alone. An estimated 40% of America’s rivers are too polluted for fishing, swimming, or aquatic life. Pollution has become a global killer now regarded as a major and quickly emerging factor in disease which likely affects over a billion people around the world, with millions poisoned and killed each year.

The World Heath Organization estimates that 25 percent of all deaths in the developing world, including three million children under age five, are directly attributable to environmental factors and some researchers estimate that exposure to pollution causes 40 percent of deaths annually. People affected by pollution problems are much more susceptible to contracting other diseases.  Others have impaired neurological development, damaged immune systems, and long-term health problems.

The World Bank reported that 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities were in China, with an estimated about 400,000 yearly pollution related deaths.

India’s rivers are among the most polluted in the entire world as around 80 % of urban waste ends up in its rivers. The Ganges,India’s holy river, displays levels of pollution 3,000 percent higher than what is considered safe for bathing. In Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, more than 10 million plastic bags are dumped every day in the city’s drains.

But pollution is not only about spoiling our environment: it is also about polluting our own bodies with pesticides, fertilizers as well as with high levels of antibiotics concentrated in meat, in food additives or simply in doctors prescriptions. Food additives are chemicals with an ‘accepted’ level of toxicity destined to make our food look prettier, taste nicer and last longer. You now find them in just every food item you buy in shops or supermarkets. Studies estimate that people in industrialised countries absorb between six and seven kilograms of food additives every year, clogging their organisms with unnecessary toxins and breeding illnesses and immune deficiencies.

Pesticides and fertilisers exterminated parasites and produced unprecedented results, relegating to the past bad harvests and famines. But those toxic substances have now sipped into the air, the soil, the plants, the animals, the rivers and the oceans. They have penetrated the heart and are causing unknown harm to all forms of life.

Studies describe more than 100 active pesticide ingredients circulating in our daily food suspected of causing cancer, birth defects and gene mutation.

Global warming

Since the 2001 assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded that, “an increasing body of observations gives a collective picture of a warming world and other changes in the climate system,” global warming has made the headlines and more or less everyone is now aware of the phenomenon.

After al Gore’s notorious ‘Inconvenient truth’ the issue came to the forefront of public awareness and there has been a lot of talking, especially in developed countries, on how to avert the worst consequences of a change in weather patterns which will affect the lives of millions of people.

One studies widely vary with some reports mentioning that 100 million people will be displaced by global warming, others putting it at 250 million while Christian Aid warns that 1 billion people, an almost unthinkable crush of humanity, could be forced from their homes by 2050 because of climate change and the increase in natural disasters, which will also exacerbate regional conflicts. How can the numbers be so wildly disparate? The truth is that nobody knows because nobody had anticipated.

“The most widely accepted estimate, and it’s really a guesstimate, of how many people could be on the move because of environmentally related factors, including climate change, is an extra 200 million,” said Koko Warner, who heads the U.N. University’s migration section within the Institute for Environment and Human Security in Bonn, Germany. “This could be double, maybe more: we don’t know. There’s so much we don’t know about climate change,”

Although many have been ringing the alarm bell since decades, scientists are now telling us that we have 10 years to change the way we live, to avert the depletion of natural resources and change the course of our civilisation if we wish to curb the catastrophic evolution of the Earth’s climate.

The signs are already visible with warmer weathers, increasing heat waves, earlier spring arrival, increasingly severe hurricanes and floods, coastal erosion, expanding deserts and globally disrupted weather patterns. 2010 was the hottest year on record; climate-linked natural disasters, like the floods in Pakistan, have claimed thousands of lives; and scientists say the picture is only getting worse.

Among all the measures to reduce global warming, nations are urged to cut by half their emission of carbon dioxin and individuals to pay more attention on how they waste energy, switch off unnecessary lights and equipments, drive less, recycle more, use less packaging and plant more trees. But the most effective remedy to reduce global warming is not so much about car exhaust or electricity consumption: it is meat consumption. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the U.N.’s Nobel Prize–winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, urged people around the world to cut back on meat in order to combat climate change.

A 2006 report of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) concludes that worldwide livestock farming generates 18% of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions whilst all of the world’s cars, trains, planes and boats account for a combined 13% only.

Lord Stern of Brentford, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming shares the same view saying that successful dealing with climate change would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases..

Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. Emissions of methane from cows and pigs are a significant source of greenhouse gases and methane is 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. Each cow expels up to 200 L of methane a day and there are 100 million cattle in theU.S.alone. To this you add animal waste or manure which generates vast volumes of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that has 296 times the warming effect of CO2.

 Much of livestock’s contribution to global warming comes from deforestation, as the growing demand for meat results in trees being cut down to make space for pasture or farmland to grow animal feed. In Latin America, the FAO estimates that some 70% of former forest cover has been converted for grazing. Lost forest cover heats the planet, because trees absorb CO2 while they’re alive but release it in the atmosphere when they are burned or cut down.

Yet, as the world economy grows, so does global meat consumption. Pork imports to China for example rose more than 900% through the first four months of 2008.

Natural disasters

The world’s bank and insurance companies report a steady increase in the occurrence of natural disasters worldwide.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) director and former German environment minister Klaus Topfer mentioned in 1999 that, “There had been an increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, such as hurricanes, now killing and injuring many millions of people every year and causing mounting economic losses”.

Globally, insurance companies are calling it a “catastrophe trend.” In a report issued December 1999, Munich Re, the world’s largest reinsurer (insurer of insurance companies), notes that the number of natural disasters has increased more than fourfold since the 1950s.

250 million people per year on average were affected by natural hazards between 1995 and 2004, an increase of 70% from the period 1985 and 1994.

In the 1950s, the average cost of catastrophic events was a mere $3.9 billion per year but since 1950, the cost of natural disasters has increased, dramatically. The Associated Press reported in 1998 that violent weather cost the world a record $89 billion during 1998, more money than was lost from weather-related disasters in all of the 1980s.

Munich Re, reports that disaster-related economic losses topped US $145 billion in 2004, up from $65 billion in 2003. The majority of the losses in 2004 were caused by weather-related events. “Since the 1980s, earthquakes have risen by around 50% but weather-related hazards such as major floods have increased by as much as 350%,” the report said.

The number of people affected by disasters has risen by 68%, from an average of 174 million a year between 1985 to 1994 to 254 million a year between 1995 to 2004.

“This year we have seen floods in South Asia, across the breadth of Africa and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people,” says Oxfam’s director Barbara Stocking. “This is no freak year. It follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people.”

Exhaustion of resource

“Many natural resources are already exploited to or beyond their limit. With the demand required to meet the needs of an additional 3 billion people in the next 50 years, whether the planetary environment can meet these demands is an open question.”

Report from the United Nations Development Program, 2002

Forests and Air

According to Blue Planet United, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and grassroots action on issues of environment, population, and sustainability, every minute 145 individuals are added to the world population whilst almost eight hectare of productive, arable, land disappear.

Every year a rainforest area larger than England is burned or cut down and in less than 40 years, the world’s largest rain forest, the Amazon, has been reduced by 20%, replaced by Soya bean farms grown to feed livestock and poultry in Europe and Asia.

Every hour, the equivalent of 3600 football pitches are cut in the Amazon forest, the lung of the Earth and its richest reservoir of organic life, and researchers estimate that by 2020 less than 5% of it will remain in its original condition.

Borneo has a rate of deforestation that within ten years almost nothing will remain of its forest which had the richest biodiversity in the world. Those forests disappear replaced by palm oil cultivation used for food, cosmetics, detergents and alternative fuels.

In Haiti which cannot feed it population without foreign aid anymore only 2% of the forest is left and the land has been stripped bare for charcoal, left without anything to hold the soil back which is washed into the sea by rain water and increasingly unsuitable for agriculture. Project those figures ten years in the future and …

Water.

Although there is always the same mass of water under or on the surface of the earth or in its atmosphere, the amount of liquid, gaseous or frozen water as well as its location constantly change.

Water has now become one of the world’s most needed resources and in some countries, one liter of mineral water is already more expensive than one liter of gas we put in our cars. Today, 12% of the world’s population uses 85% of the available fresh water on the planet.

Some 70% of humanity’s water consumption is for agriculture and is used in concentrated pockets of intensive farming, depriving other regions and communities. The River Jordan, once mighty, it is now just a trickle running through deep furrow, its water has been used to grow fruits and vegetables flown to European supermarkets. Today, one major river in ten no longer flows to the sea for several months every year.

Half a billion people (more than the combined population of Europe) live in desert regions where no running water irrigate the land. They depend on fossil water which is a non renewable resource which gets depleted a fast rate.Saudi Arabiafor example believed in its green revolution but today, although hundreds of thousands of pumps are there, there is no water left underground.

Water shortages could affect 2 billion people before 2020 and the situation is already so critical that the United Nations has recently added access to water to its list of basic human right which now needs to be protected. Yet, 2 billion people depend on water from the Himalayas and the glaciers are melting due to global warming.

India is most likely to suffer the most from water problems as water reserve have been exhausted and wheels need to be dug deeper and deeper to find water and in Western India, 30% of wheels have been abandoned.

Some experts predict that the next conflicts will be fought around water. The 1022 Libyan conflict may be a first confirmation of this prediction as Libya is said to have vast untapped underground water resource.

Oil.

Once the undisputed and seemingly unlimited source of energy, oil has also become an increasingly priced commodity whose price’s fluctuations make the world’s market shake. Although some new reserve may be found under the melting ice cap of the North Pole, experts estimate that the world’s oil reserves could be exhausted by 2040.

Oil’s biggest role is power generation but the British government, for example, has pledged that by 2010, at least 10% of its energy needs would come from renewable sources like water, wind and sun. In the US, automotive fuels account for more than half of oil consumption; in 1999, Americans drove 2.6 trillion miles — enough for 14,000 round trips to the Sun. Yet, saving schemes are still far on the list of priorities in most of the rich nations: in a world where the energy crisis is becoming more acute everyday: oil rich technopolis of the future Dubai has endless sun but no solar panels.

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