Armageddon 2012: Will the world succumb to climate change?

Published: September 5, 2011

Natural disasters caused $109 billion in economic damage last year. PHOTO: REUTERS

 I still remember clearly how me and my friends were laughing out loud at every scene of the movie 2012, back in 2010, when we sat together to watch it .We never thought that this natural chaos shown in that movie would ever happen to us until July of last year.

The print, electronic and social media began to frantically scream about the great floods in Pakistan in which around 1,985 people lost their lives, nearly 40 million people affected and a loss of $43 billion had to be endured by the already sick economy. The floods were something that touched each and every one of us, as watching live pictures of our fellow country men stranded in floods from Khyber to Thatta was heart-breaking.

These images made me wonder, is it the beginning of the end? However, being one of those few optimistic individuals left in Pakistan, I discarded this thought and brushed it off as an absurd notion.

The inception of the winter of last year however, had something else in store for me. My friend in London, who was planning to come to Pakistan, was stuck at the airport for days when no plane could take off because the snowfall in Europe had broken all previous records. Life throughout Europe came to a grinding halt. Several train services had been delayed or cancelled across Europe leaving many travelers stranded. UK, France and Germany were amongst the worst-hit countries.

What followed this were floods in three continents and drought in Africa. Climate change intensified the monsoon rains that triggered record floods in Australia’s Queensland state. The Queensland floods have killed 16 people, since the downpour started last month. They are inundating towns, crippling coal mines, and are swamping the state’s main city of Brisbane.

Moving to Latin America, avalanches of mud and debris, triggered by flash flooding in Rio de Janeiro, buried entire towns and smashed roads and bridges in the region.  The death toll in Brazil’s worst landslides in decades is likely to hit 1,000 as authorities warned that hundreds were still missing. The waves of mud hit with such force that the geography of the region has been changed profoundly.

Coming back to Asia, soon after the flooding in Pakistan, Srilanka witnessed flooding which affected 1.25 million people. Over in Africa, severe drought caused increasing hunger affecting 10 million people in four countries. In Niger, the worst-affected country, 7.1 million are hungry, with nearly half considered highly food insecure because of the loss of livestock and crops coupled with a surge in prices.

That was it! I was compelled to research this surge in natural calamities, as I had began to realise that it’s time we mend our way, or else, our future prospects would  seem dim, as best. My findings were catastrophic. The UN had declared the year 2010 to be one of the deadliest years for natural disasters in the past two decades. 373 disasters had been recorded last year, of which 22 were in China, 16 were in India, and 14 were in the Philippines. Moreover, natural disasters caused $109 billion in economic damage last year, three times more than in 2009, with Chile and China bearing most of the cost.

I discovered that the emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, scaled new peaks in 2009, and 2010 was on course for becoming one of the three warmest years on record. Moreover, the decade 2001-2010 was stated to be the hottest ever.

However, something which amazed me was what Christiana Figueres’s ( head of the U.N. climate secretariat) statement. He claimed that climate chaos will also lead to wars among countries, meaning that one could be at risk of danger from both, natural calamities and man-made calamities.

Even after the biggest disaster of 2011 i.e. the Japanese earthquake and tsunami which killed more than 12,000 and led to the worst nuclear crisis, where do we stand? What have we done so far? The Kyoto Protocol’s commitments run out at the end of 2012, and Japan has bluntly refused calls to extend it tentatively. The treaty only requires wealthy nations to cut emissions, but the United States rejected it in 2001.

The much talked about Cancun conference produced nothing concrete, except to meet in Durban, South Africa in 2012. It was marred by protests by green peace, the failure of the Copenhagen conference, and internal rifts between developed and developing countries. There were no carbon dioxide emissions reduction targets to reach. However, each country could pledge its own target, and the UN could check to see if they are achieved.

The influx of 15,000 people attending the UN conference left a massive carbon footprint. The Mexican government puts the figure at 25,000 tonnes based on emissions caused by flying people across the world, busing them between conference venues, feeding them and providing electric power. This carbon footprint was equivalent to the output, over two weeks, from a small African nation of the type the UN wants to save.

It is in Durban, South Africa, where the rich and the poor have decided to meet again to decide your and my future. However, whatever the results are, for the sake of humanity and planet earth, I have already gone green. Those of you who want planet earth to survive beyond 2012, and prove the makers of the movie 2012 wrong, please change the way you live.  Cut your carbon footprint, recycle as much as possible, reduce your use of water and electricity, reuse paper and plastic, use less heat and air conditioning, buy energy-efficient products, plant tees, encourage others to conserve, and do whatever you can to adopt a green life style.

Salman Shah Jilani

Salman Shah Jilani

A management undergraduate who blogs at globaldaaira.wordpress.com and chowrangi.com and tweets at @jilani7.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/fahadk85 Fah

    Dude I didn’t even read your blog.. coz its scary.. I’m so scared.. I’m going to watch 2012 (the movie) in 2013!Recommend

  • candy

    hi, i watched 2012 today after looking into a few youtube videos and i have to say im actually scared lol.. I know some people will say… it’s just a movie… but it is very scary. I had a dream that earth was hit by a small planet but we didnt die but it made a loud bang as before it hit, as it entered our atmosphere I just youtubed that and saw that when an object passes into our earths atmosphere it makes an explosion.. though Im not sure why.. I also heard about planey X and NASA are correct there is no planet X but in January of 2012 a planet called Eros is scheduled to orbit close to the earth they call it an NEO. But apparently we get these all the time and this one isnt even as close as ones we had in the past, they have scheduled a possible 1 in 300 chance collision for 2880 but we’ll all be dead by then anyway.. as for global warming.. I admit it is freaky you know with the tsunami in Japan and the weather fluxuations, can I just say though. I live in england 2 hours from london and the weather was bad but it wasnt as bad as weather we had 30 years ago.. it wasnt the first on record as you said.. I believe in God and I believe that only he can know when the end is coming, the Mayans ran out of rock.. they said when 2012 is over and their calendar has ended it just starts again like our calendar does on dec 31st. Personally I think lets not worry, live our lifes, if the end is coming then we cant do all anyway. We all die at some point in time. I just pray this isnt real xRecommend

  • Gabriel Atega

    Well here is a story that is more scary. While the movie 2012 was showing in Butuan City, a strong earthquake struck. It scared everyone who were inside the theater. Imagine yourself being seated watching 2012 and the entire theater building is shaking.

    That is not a joke. It actually happened.

    But here again, the blame is put on CO2 emissions. Cutting down the levels of CO2 is not going to solve the problem. Consider instead deforestation!

    What happens when 80% of the forests are removed from land?

    The load over the land is reduced by a) the weight of the trees that are removed; b) by evaporation of the waters in the soil once covered by forests. In other words the land becomes lighter relative to the oceans.
    When waters go up to the heavens by evaporation following the loss of forests, heavy precipitations occur in many areas including the oceans. Without the forests, the precipitations will rush to the waterways creating flash floods, heavy erosion, and more fresh waters are brought to the oceans. Fresh waters do not mix with salt waters; it is lighter and stays as thin layer over the salt waters; it is then subjected to solar radiation and go up to become water vapors causing humidity and heavy cloud formation. In other words, there is a hydrologic cycle acceleration.
    Hydrologic cycle acceleration will translate to more water in the atmosphere as humidity and cloud formation. This increase in moisture in the atmosphere will in turn cause high humidity levels and the experiencing of hot temperatures.
    With hot temperatures in humid areas, contrasts will result as the temperature differences between the cold areas and the hot areas become more pronounced. This will in turn accelerate the movement of winds in inter-tropical convergences, creating more frequently storms with fast moving winds.
    When winds move fast, it will suck moisture and concentrate these for transport in the storms. Since the atmosphere is already very humid, the transporting storm or hurricane will be carrying a very heavy load of moisture for precipitation. At the first encounter with land, these concentration of moistures will be dumped to create heavy rainfall and severe flooding. In cold areas, these will translate to heavy snowfall.
    Back to the lands that have become bald and lighter, these will rise up higher and cause tectonics to occur. Imagine the Antarctic losing its load of ice; that is similar to tropical lands losing their forests.
    Earthquakes will therefore occur.
    Since the oceans have disproportionate sizes, the Pacific being the largest, the distribution of waters in ocean surfaces will also be disproportionate. More weight will be carried by the larger oceans and its basins will be pushed downward against the mantle. There will be a squeezing of the mantle below the ocean basins, and these will push material on land to cause volcanoes to erupt and move the plates to cause earthquakes.
    The continuing warming of the atmosphere that is caused by the loss of the forests that release more moisture in the atmosphere will also continue the loss of ice in the mountains and in the polar regions. As the loss of ice take places these will move as fresh waters to the oceans adding more weight against the basins. In the ice cycle, therefore, there will be a process of acceleration that will feed into the further warming resulting from increasing humidity or in the amounts of waters in the atmosphere.
    The resulting hydrologic cycle acceleration will be catastrophic.

    How do we therefore mitigate the climate change following deforestations? Of course, we should bring back the forests. The forests will take care of the CO2 that many climate scientists are concerned about. When forests are restored, faunal habitats are restored and the life systems will begin to be restored to normal. We should realize and appreciate more the value of bringing back the forests.Recommend

  • Mirza Temojin

    Mate, this climate change is inevitable.Any human nor any civilization has the power to impact weather patterns so severely that is claimed. Earth is some time old as far as we know and it has gone through such cycles many times.The reason behind making us believe in such things is to make money out of it. Ridiculous claims as increasing CO2 levels cause havoc are just to get us freaked out like USA did to half the world with the communist threat (which wasn’t actually a menace greater than capitalism itself). When we really tend to research and not get engineered by whatever we want to read or study, we clearly see the weather patterns throughout history as well as the fact that CO2 levels were the highest ever (even higher than what would be in the next 100 years even if we went on emitting it all) in the prehistoric times and guess what??Earth was the greenest at that time with perfect weather patterns for cultivation as well as life.We don’t need to change our lifestyles but those who actually have started preaching it.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Two days ago Obama refused to sign a bill on reducing emissions as it would effect the American economy which is in the doldrums anyway.
    Population of America : 302 million. World population : 7 billion.
    Over the past 100 years the one nation mainly responsible for the degradation of the atmosphere, yes you guessed it, America.
    Classic American saying : You broke it, you fix it.
    If responsibility is not taken then as you have nicely detailed nature will take its toll.Recommend

  • candy

    I thought China was the worst country for fuel emmisions?? Recommend

  • Fulcrum29

    I swear to visit ET, if the world ends on dec 21,2012. And i am sure to see few pakistanis blaming Indians for the end of the world, and a conspiracy to destablize pakistan, and I will have a final laugh before i go down with everyone :)Recommend

  • TK

    Fact of the matter is that if everyone dies, it doesn’t matter that you died. No need to be scaredRecommend

  • Itsthesunstupid

    I guess none of you have read the news this past week, the scientists at CERN have proven that Man-made Climate Change is utterly false and just a way to scam people into wasting money in a products that are useless. Stop posting scare articles to make people think things are getting worse, and “green is the way to go.” Its all a big waste. It’s not carbon that’s changing things, it’s the Sun. The United States was right not to waste our time with the Kyoto B.S. It’s costing us far too much money trying to reduce our Carbon footprint when that’s not even the real problem. Stop listening to Al “I couldn’t make it as President but I didn’t want to leave the spotlight” Gore and and listen to some REAL scientists.

    http://calderup.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/cern-experiment-confirms-cosmic-ray-action/Recommend

  • http://www.tarpley.net Moise

    When we are done reading the dogma check out what the scientist at CERN are saying:

    “The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.” http://tgr.ph/mZtfJWRecommend

  • Ibrar Ahmed

    Its scaring but its the reality and I Scared alot when I searched about the HAARP and UFO and now Bio molecular Insect for the invention of which working is going on and that insect will spread the daises. Recommend

  • Javeria Mahmood

    Hay main mar gageeRecommend