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“I want you to act as if your house is on fire because it is” : Time to wake up

Climate change is a long-term shift in global or regional climate patterns. Often climate change refers specifically to the rise in global temperatures from the mid-20th century to present. Climate is sometimes mistaken for weather. But climate is different from weather because it is measured over a long period of time, whereas weather can change from day to day, or from year to year. The climate of an area includes seasonal temperature and rainfall averages, and wind patterns.

Climate change is one of the major environmental threats facing the world. Forest type distribution, carbon stocks or emissions and climate change are interlinked processes. Deforestation and land degradation contributes to about 20 per cent of global CO2 emissions and the forest sector provides a large opportunity to mitigate climate change, particularly through the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) mechanism. Meteorologists reported that this spring was the warmest ever recorded for our nation – in fact, it crushed the old record by so much that it represented the “largest temperature departure from average of any season on record. Possessing an excessive carbon footprint is rapidly becoming the modern equivalent of wearing a scarlet letter. Because neither the goals nor acceptable emissions limits are clear, however, morality is often mistaken for science.

A recent article in New Scientist suggested that the biggest problem arising from the epidemic of obesity is the additional carbon burden that fat people—who tend to eat a lot of meat and travel mostly in cars—place on the environment. Greenhouse-gas emissions have risen rapidly in the past two centuries, and levels today are higher than at any time in at least the past six hundred and fifty thousand years.

In 1995, each of the six billion people on earth was responsible, on average, for one ton of carbon emissions. Oceans and forests can absorb about half that amount. Although specific estimates vary, scientists and policy officials increasingly agree that allowing emissions to continue at the current rate would induce dramatic changes in the global climate system.

To avoid the most catastrophic effects of those changes, we will have to hold emissions steady in the next decade, then reduce them by at least sixty to eighty per cent by the middle of the century. (A delay of just ten years in stopping the increase would require double the reductions.) Yet, even if all carbon emissions stopped today, the earth would continue to warm for at least another century.

Facts like these have transformed carbon dioxide into a strange but powerful new currency, difficult to evaluate yet impossible to ignore. Clouds currently cover about two-thirds of the planet at any moment. But computer simulations of clouds have begun to suggest that as the Earth warms, clouds become scarcer. With fewer white surfaces reflecting sunlight back to space, the Earth gets even warmer, leading to more cloud loss. This feedback loop causes warming to spiral out of control.

For decades, rough calculations have suggested that cloud loss could significantly impact climate, but this concern remained speculative until the last few years, when observations and simulations of clouds improved to the point where researchers could amass convincing evidence.

Sikkim Himalayas, a part of the eastern Himalayas, which is influenced by the T-junction of climatic systems largely dominated by the SW monsoon and receive limited winter rain from the Mediterranean westerly, and North-east monsoon, provides a vantage location to understand the complex responses of the climatic changes. The Sikkim Himalayas is also known to be a part of the biodiversity hotspot.

 The major population of the Sikkim Himalayas is rural (75%) and economically dependent on climatically sensitive sectors such as agriculture and tourism for its livelihood. Besides, the area also contains more than 100 glaciers, which are the lifeline to the region.

Therefore, the climatic study of this region is not only important to understand the physical atmospheric system but is also crucial to assess the influence of any climatic change on the biophysical and socio-economic setup of this region. During the recent years, a rise in the temperature has been noted. Frequent landslides, rise in river level, cloudbursts had been observed. Change in weather patterns is normal now. The clear and present danger of climate change means we cannot burn our way to prosperity.

In the words of President Obama, “No challenge poses a greater threat to the Future generation than climate change”. We are the first generation to be stung by the Global Warming and the last generation that can do something about it. Let’s bequeath our planet just like we inherited it.

“YOU ARE NEVER TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE”.

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