There are, broadly, two types of greenhouse gases. First type includes natural gases like water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone whereas; the other includes gases like hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) that are emitted due to the industrial processes. Human activities also contribute significantly to the level of naturally occurring greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases vary in their ability to absorb and hold heat in the atmosphere, a phenomenon known as the 'greenhouse effect'.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that sea level, by the end of this century, could rise by half meter unless necessary actions are implemented urgently in order to minimize the greenhouse gas emissions. If the prediction of scientists on global warming is correct, sea-level rise, violent storms, flooding and land subsidence etc. are going to a part of life particularly, for the people living in port cities all around the world. The stakes are high as the population in big port cities is expected to grow threefold by the 2070s, according to the Paris based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). There have been a range of predictions from scientists regarding the speed with which the ice sheets are melting as a result of sharp rise in the atmospheric temperatures. Less optimistic scientists predict that sea level could rise nearly two meters by the year 2100. And, the low-land states like Maldives are really in danger of being submerged as the average height of the land is just 1.5 meters above the sea level!
President of the Republic of Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed, once wrote in the International Herald Tribune, "Looking out from my office window, it is difficult to believe that this view someday disappear. If we are unable to save countries like the Maldives, it might be too late to save the rest of the world from the apocalyptic effects of self-reinforcing, run-away global warming."
It's not only the small island states like Maldives that need to worry about the sea level rise. More than 70 percent of the world's population lives on coastal plains, and 11 of the world's 15 largest cities are on the coast or estuaries. Already, two of the islands that make up Kiribati (a Pacific island nation) have gone under the waves and, according to some reports, if current warming trends continue, cities like London, Bangkok and New York will disappear: displacing millions and causing massive economic damage. Apart from this, one of the worst effects of the rising sea level is the contamination of the surface & ground water supplies worldwide. The rising sea level also threatens to wipe out the rural population and farmlands in most of the coastal countries.
Nepal, like several other countries, has almost no share in the global emission of the greenhouse gases. However, the fall-out of global warming and climate change threaten to wash away vast areas of the country. The possible consequences are lake bursts and disastrous floods. Global warming has increased the pace of snow melting as such big glacial lakes in the country are at risk of floods from glacial lake bursts, which could trigger huge loss of life and property.
So, is everything over now? The answer is: no! If we can fast track our efforts to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, we can still prevent the worst effects of the climate change. However, we should be honest enough in our efforts. The disastrous sea level rise may be avoided if we decide quickly to switch to the renewable energy sources and reduce our dependence on the existing coal, oil & nuclear energy options. The need to decarbonize the world economy was never as significant as it's now. The IPCC suggests that world has to cut the emissions drastically in a couple of decades. However, the present 'global economic recession' threatens to shift the focus of the world leaders from the agenda. There is a good chance that countries might fall into a self-defeating game of refusing to cutback first.
Once the chilling winter starts to bite with snowfall as the most common sight around, one may be forgiven for thinking that a warmer world, perhaps, is a better place to live. But, think again, it might be a suicidal notion. If our thoughts & policies could not be farsighted, at least we can feel for those who are on the verge of losing their identity. Countries like Maldives are living on borrowed time and, our fate too doesn't seem to be different!
(Referred online sources: Greenpeace International, Wikipedia, Global policy, About.com, International Herald Tribune Image1, Image2 etc.)