Raincheck on Doomsday

by Sonal Randeny and Sayumi Jayawardene

During the last hundred years, atmospheric temperatures have been readily increasing to the point where we are now experiencing some of the most extreme temperatures on record. This is both caused by and cause for a self-sustaining feedback loop that inevitably worsens these conditions. It’s abundantly clear that by releasing heat-trapping gasses into the atmosphere, as a result of the means we have employed to power our modern lives, we’re accelerating this morbid cycle and driving our planet further towards doom. Today, greenhouse gas levels are at the highest they have been in the last 800,000 years. 

Although the abstract idea of global warming and the greenhouse effect is no longer a mere hypothesis but widely credited and scientifically proven, there is still an air of suspicion and disbelief among some. Not to mention the complicity and inaction shown by the government in many countries including Sri Lanka. 

There are many other factors that affect the climate besides human activity. Volcanic eruptions, varying levels of solar radiation and solar wind, the position of the earth in relation to the sun, and certain weather patterns are a few natural occurrences that cause variations in atmospheric temperatures. However, it’s clear that these are only responsible for approximately two percent of the recent warning effect. By definition, this goes to show that human activity is responsible for the remaining 98%. 

Since the dawn of the human race, heat-trapping gases have been naturally absorbed through natural means, providing stable temperatures in which civilizations can flourish. However, since the industrial revolution, when fossil fuels were introduced as ways to produce energy and a precursor of our post-modern lifestyle was created, greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and atmospheric temperatures have been on the rise. In the 150 years since then, humans have increased the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere threefold. This is causing processes that would usually happen over thousands of years to take place in a matter of decades. These changes occur faster than most organisms can adapt to, and as a result will pose a multitude of challenges to all Earth’s inhabitants. 

In addition, climate change also causes irreversible damage to the environment. The remaining ice sheets such as those in Greenland and Antarctica are beginning to melt. This sets off a chain reaction where the extra water could raise sea levels significantly in a short time. The Global Change Research Program projects that by 2050, sea levels will rise by 2.3 feet. To perpetuate this cycle, the greenhouse gases trapped in the glaciers and ice caps will be released into the atmosphere and further exacerbate the greenhouse effect. This leads far more extreme weather patterns.

Unfortunately, it seems that we’ve forgotten our roots. Especially as a part of a culture that’s historically and physiognomically attached to nature and our environment. However, it’s ironic that we, as a country, haven’t addressed this issue due to a plethora of reasons. As a small tropical island nation, we’re far more vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. We’re also susceptible to the socio-economic effects of climate change as our economy is heavily dependent on the fashion and garment industry as well as the tourism industry, two of the most environmentally destructive trades, of which, the latter is immensely more so. 

However, all hope is not lost. Our planet’s afflictions may come in thousands but humans come in billions. We may doubt the impact that an individual can cause, but it is important to remember that your duty is all you can do and it is each person’s responsibility to contribute to the solutions.