Save the planet
When the leaders of the major industrialised nations, the G8, met this month, one of their prime concerns was 'global warming' - the so-called Greenhouse Effect.
In simple words, the issue revolved around the amount of carbon dioxide being released to the atmosphere by the countless industries around the world, the millions of light bulbs being burnt, air-conditioners used, the petrol burnt by vehicles, the aircraft flying around the world -- and so many other ways heat-trapping gases are caused by man-made products.
The world's two biggest polluters were reported as the United States of America and China, each in their own way. The industrialised West and Japan were indicted as the other biggest polluters of our world.
While some dismiss the imminent dangers to our planet by these man-made pollutants as "alarmist", others cite the stark evidence -- major ice chunks the size of countries, melting in the heat generated from these greenhouse gases, inconsistent weather patterns around the world, the increasing freak weather in the form of torrential rains leading to major floods, cyclones, bush-fires, hurricanes and the like hitting countries as never before.
The Kyoto Protocol (which will expire in 2012) is the accepted international document around which the world is required to conduct itself. German Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to coax the G8 leaders to implement the Protocol in its entirety, and leading environmentalists have been asking for a target of global temperatures increasing by no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Farenheit) - i.e. to cut emissions by 50 per cent of the 1990 levels by 2050, but she succeeded only half-way because of resistance by the US.
The US under President George Bush, preaching good governance to the world, has been widely accused of feet-dragging and sitting out on talks on global warming for years.
Now, however, President Bush has been forced to accept that the US owes the world a debt for polluting it and has agreed to a proposal to cut these gases by allowing each country to develop its own strategies.
Critics term this a "complete charade", but others claim victory for at least getting the world's biggest polluter on board.
To deflect criticism, the US is calling for curbs on gas emissions from newly emerging economic power-houses like China and India saying that they must share the blame. India has reacted angrily accusing the US of being the biggest culprit that is polluting the world and defends its pursuit of economic growth arguing that the Kyoto Protocol concedes that economic upliftment of the peoples of this world must be given immediate priority.
Today, it is said that over 50 million trees are cut down annually in India, simply for funeral pyres in traditional cremations. But both India and China slam the West saying that today's global warming is because of the sins of the West.
Actually, global warming was not dealt with a sense of urgency at the G-8 summit. The language of the declaration was hollow. They agreed to "seek" substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and give "serious consideration" to halve emission levels by 2050. The G8 declaration on global warming does not spell out specific goals for each industrialized nation or a United Nations formula for the rest of the world to adopt.
It is heartening to hear the Sri Lankan Government's announcement on Thursday that subsequent to a Cabinet proposal by Environment Minister Champaka Ranawaka, it is planning to set up a carbon fund to promote carbon trading and provide financial and technical support for potential project developers.
These are new avenues to ‘exploit’ the focus on carbon trading worldwide and earn some valuable foreign exchange in the process.
However, we must also look into our own strategies on other sources of environmental pollutants, much of which is in the form of traditional garbage disposal, felling of trees by politician-backed mafias and the indiscriminate exploitation of land that is the cause of landslides and earth-slips. All these are co-related to the greenhouse syndrome.
Not so long ago, the Supreme Court intervened to stop some illegal sand-mining operations in the Puttalam area but what is needed is a greater effort at saving our environment by all concerned. We hope the new Environment Minister will be equal to the task.
Recently, however, a decision taken by his predecessor to ban the import of two-stroke three wheelers because it caused these greenhouse gases and increased the risk of asthma in little children was made the subject of a review by the new Minister.
If the Government doesn't have what it takes to implement such a small decision for the sake of future generations - and seeks to be beholden for its next vote to remain in office -- then there is little we can do to save ourselves.