The Inconvenient Truth At the Oscars, apart from Martin Scorsese, among those most feted was Al Gore for his documentary feature titled An Inconvenient Truth that focussed on the dangers of global warming. Deservedly so and no one would grudge Gore if he uses the adulation to take another shot at the US Presidency. Unfortunately though, another major event on the same subject, which should have received similar worldwide attention and taken far more seriously, went largely ignored.
In Paris recently, the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), considered the last word on the subject, came out with its latest report that showed clearly that average global temperatures had risen faster than predicted in recent years.
The average temperature rise of 0.74 degrees Celsius does not reveal the whole truth. The Arctic, for instance, is warming twice as rapidly as the rest of the world. If the Greenland ice sheet was to end up in the oceans, sea levels would rise by several metres submerging many coastal cities in the world.
The report also showed that the impact of climate change was already being felt with the average rainfall decreasing in areas where it was once high and increasing in others where it was not-leading to unexpected events such as floods, heat waves and hurricanes. Remember Katrina.
The main cause has been the rapid increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the earth's atmosphere.
R.K. Pachauri, director-general of The Energy and Resources Institute and IPCC chairman, who released the report, told me: "We have only a short window of opportunity worldwide to start taking steps to mitigate climate change. Otherwise the implications can be serious." Shamefully, as Pachauri points out, "The international record on dealing with the problem of global warming has been very poor."
Only a few developed countries have taken steps to control greenhouse gas emissions to levels committed to in the Kyoto Protocol. The US, the biggest contributor to such gases, has kept out of it altogether. In India, though per capita emissions are pretty low as compared to the US, there is much we can do including changing the way we transport goods and people. Global indifference is the inconvenient truth that the world has to deal with before it becomes too late.