ON WATER, 2070 letter

Khurshid Anwer

There are two lessons to be learnt from this presentation. One is the
obvious one of judicious use of water. But one can only do that if one
has water. The bigger challenge is how to conserve the source of our
water – the glaciers.

Glaciers work like mirrors and reflect back 70% of the ultra violet
rays from the sun and absorb only 30%. The oceans absorb 70% and
reflect back only 30%. As the surface area of the glaciers reduces due
to global warming, more heat is absorbed and less reflected back.
Higher ocean temperatures means more rapid glacier melting, setting up
a vicious circle.

The 70% reflected back by the glaciers would normally escape through
the atmospheric ring around the earth. But the atmospheric ring is
getting thicker every day because of the green house gases being
emitted through burning of fossil fuels i.e. oil, gas and coal. The
thicker atmospheric ring does not allow all the ultra violet rays to
escape but reflects them back to the earth. This sets up another
vicious circle.

We have already reached a point of no return. If burning of fossil
fuel is not curtailed drastically now, the glaciers will disappear in
30 years. The melting of the glaciers will also raise the sea levels
displacing millions of people living along the sea coasts, many times
more than what the reservoir of a mega dam would do.

The western world is very cognizant of these dangers but not us. Two
leaders got into an argument as to how honest the people of their
village were. They got a big pond dug up and asked each person to pour
a bucket of milk into the pond in the dark of the night. Each person
thought that since every one else is pouring milk, my bucket of water
will not be noticed.  In the morning when the two leaders came to
inspect the pond they found if all full of water.

Similarly governments tend to think that the comparatively small
amount of green house gasses they are allowing to be emitted will not
add to the global warming. One fine morning we will find all our
Himalayan glaciers gone just because we were too stupid not to go for
the alternate clean, cheap hydel power. Talk about mega dams being bad
for the environment, pray, what will be the environment like when
there are no glaciers, hence no water and the oceans have risen by 20
feet –

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