disaster unavoidable, scientists warn
strength and frequency of natural disasters such as hurricanes,
tornadoes and floods is already increasing as a result of global
warming, according to the Reginald Kray Centre for Climate Research,
based in Berea, Durban. According to a report released this week,
natural disasters occur almost 25% more often than they did just
half a century ago, and this trend is set to continue.
called "Natural Disasters and Global Warming", warns that
as temperatures throughout the world increase, polar ice caps are
melting and the sea level is rising at an even greater rate than
that predicted ten years ago. What is more, there are few places
in the world which will be unaffected by droughts, hurricanes, heavy
rainstorms or other extreme weather phenomena.
is based on research by leading weather scientists who admit a link
between global warming, melting ice caps, and the strength and frequency
of natural disasters. "We do not know exactly how the mechanism
works," said Dr Ruth King yesterday in an interview for Frost
at Night on Earth TV, "but the evidence from statistics and
observations is very convincing."
range from the disappearance or shrinking of glaciers in many parts
of the world to the changing habits of animals: birds which no longer
migrate to escape harsh winters or spiders which are found further
north than was the case fifty years ago. Recently, moreover, holes
have been appearing in the ice close to the North Pole, while vast
icebergs have been seen floating in the Southern Ocean, breakaways
from the Antarctic ice-cap.
to the report, not all parts of the world will be affected uniformly.
The most extreme variations in climate are likely to occur in the
southern hemisphere, though the Northern hemisphere will also have
its share of natural disasters. In general the southern part of
Europe will get drier, suffering more frequent and prolonged droughts
leading to an accelerated process of desertification, while northern
Europe will become wetter and would be more frequently affected
by floods. The climate of the British Isles might even grow cooler
as warm ocean currents change direction or disappear.
scientists do not concur on the causes of climate change, although
they agree that human activity is at least partly responsible for
global warming. "We understand the mechanism by which CO2 emissions
contribute to global warming," says Dr King, "and there
is no doubt that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased
in the last 25 years since reliable statistics have been kept. What
we can't be sure about is how much of the increase in world temperatures
is due to human activity and how much is part of a natural cycle
involving periodic variations in ocean currents and solar activity."
to some experts we have to choose between reducing CO2 emissions
and living with the consequences of a series of natural disasters
and changes to our habitat and lifestyles imposed by climate changes.
Others disagree, saying that there is little choice because the
only way to arrest global warming lies in large-scale abandonment
of the car as a means of transport and closure of much of the world's
industry. Says Professor Van Bloeten of Bloemfontein University,
"There is no choice. We must learn to adapt to survive. The
world of the future will not be the same as the one we know, but
then nor is the world of the present like the one our ancestors
lived in. The fact of the matter is you can raise fuel prices, you
can double or treble them, but experience shows that it does not
significantly reduce the amount we use our cars. It is simply beyond
the ability of governments to reduce CO2 emissions. Global warming
is a fact of life."