The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize this October to former US Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has sent an unprecedented message to the world: the future is green.
The IPCC had caused alarm bells to ring loudly at the United Nations earlier this year when it announced that global warming was “most likely” i.e. over 90%, caused by human development and carbon dioxide emissions. Al Gore, for his part, had sent a chilling message about the consequences of climate change in his movie An Inconvenient Truth, for which he also won an Oscar.
In layman’s terms, global warming is all about carbon emissions that cause heat to remain trapped in the atmosphere, which in turn melts ice caps and glaciers causing epic flooding in some areas and intense drought in others. Taken to extremes (that is, if all the ice melts), whole coastal cities could disappear, as could many species of flora and fauna. There would also be less water and more disease. Scientists predict that within the next 100 years, average temperatures may rise anywhere between 1-6 degrees.
Scared? Here’s the good news: part of this process is, it seems, reversible and many European countries have apparently taken initiatives to combat global warming including banning certain ‘greenhouse gases’ and launching mega awareness campaigns.
The vast majority of the world’s population however, are not fully aware of the dangers of global warming and even if they were, would no doubt be unsure what to do about it. Whilst it is true that individuals in themselves contribute very little to endangering the planet (industry and airlines are the biggest polluters) a concerted, unified effort by us little people would consolidate results and make a difference.
How many Lebanese — or Arabs in general — recycle? How many use water efficiently, switching off lights that are not being used, and perhaps most importantly, are not reliant on their cars to drive 100 meters? Some people in the United States and Australia have gone as far as to disconnect their homes from the electricity grid and forego toilet paper! They are even blogging about it.
However, the solution to global warming can only come from governments who will make a unified, concerted effort to work together to reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the two biggest polluters in the world, the US and China, refuse to enact legislation that combats global warming and it seems that the Lebanese state (although relatively minor in its contribution) has adopted the same line.
After the oil spill during last summer’s war with Israel, the government did very little to foster awareness of environmentalism, while a move to ban mazoot in cars and vans has all but been reversed since it came into effect a few years ago. A report from the Lebanese Ministry of the Environment on Global Warming drawn up in 1999 with the UNDP (United Nations Development Program) clearly says that the Lebanese government, although committed to combating climate change, had ‘other things’ to worry about. Meanwhile, Sukleen, the company charged with keeping Lebanon clean, does place recycling bins on major streets and is happy to provide them for corporate recycling but the main initiative has to come from the consumer.
So, should we panic? It is important to keep a cool head in a (rapidly) heating situation. There is other scientific research that acts as a counterweight to the IPCC’s research and that claims that global warming is a cyclical phenomenon that will phase itself out, and yet other researchers suggest that global warming is a natural occurrence without which we would still be living in the ice age.
But if you do decide to ignore global warming then I should put you in touch with my four-year old who is exhibiting extreme calm in the face of a melting Earth and is already making plans to move to another planet.