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Global Warming
An Analysis of Problems and Facts

by L. Antonysamy
Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, India

L. Antonysamy.
L. Antonysamy. All photos by Nic Paget-Clarke.
Sunset on the Missouri River outside of Columbia, Missouri.
Sunset on the Missouri River outside of Columbia, Missouri.
Mangroves in Trinidad and Tobago.
Mangroves in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Eastern Ghats mountain range. Here in Tamil Nadu, India.
The Eastern Ghats mountain range. Here in Tamil Nadu, India.


1. Humanity today is facing a serious 'value' crisis because of the value-system of the capitalistic mode of production, accentuated by imperialism. The crisis is manifesting itself in many ways and one of the ways is global warming.

2. Humanity is losing its humanness because of the 'value' crisis. Humanity is not only losing its humanness among human beings, but it is failing to understand that it is part of 'nature'. It thinks that it is superior to the other beings of 'nature'. Humanity has misunderstood and misinterpreted that it is the 'boss' of 'nature' and thus has powers to exploit 'nature', instead of living in harmony with it.

3. Humanity is driven by imperialism, which is making use of science and technology, in its favour, and thus making the only life-Planet, Mother Earth, become unfit for living for the majority of its children.

4. Therefore, it is high time that humanity start contemplating its role of living in harmony with 'nature', otherwise, it has to rest its soul and body in the 'grave' created by itself, as there is no scope for 'saviour'.

Global Warming, the Problem

1. Global warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation.

2. Global warming has pushed up average global surface temperatures and the rise has been particularly swift since 1976. The U.K. Met Office has predicted that 2007 would be the warmest year on record. The warmest years since 1861 are 1998 and 2005, respectively.

3. Average global surface temperatures have risen by 0.7 degrees Celsius since the start of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says the rise in global temperatures could be as high as 6.4ºC by 2100.

4. In 2001, the IPCC predicted that sea levels would rise by between 9 and 88 centimetres by 2100, relative to 1990 levels. The new report says rises could range from 18 cm to 59 cm. But predictions of sea level rise are one of the most contentious areas of the report - very recent research has suggested that rises of up to 140 cm are possible.

5. 0.13ºC is the amount the atmosphere is warming each decade. 1.3 times as much CO2 is entering the atmosphere, compared with just 20 years ago. 3 kilometres is the depth to which the oceans have warmed and 3.1 centimetres is the rise in sea level each decade.

6. Global warming is not only en ecological or environmental problem, but very much a socio-cultural, economic, and political issue.

The Effects of Global Warming

Global warming has begun to affect the sea level, snow cover, ice sheets and rainfall. Shifts in regional patterns of climate marked by rising air temperatures are already affecting watersheds and ecosystems in many parts of the world. The cost to national economies of coping with extreme weather events, crop failures and other emergencies related to climate is growing steadily higher. And human costs are also multiplying. Dry-land agriculture in the developing countries has become more risk-prone. Low-income economies and poor households in developing countries are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects combined with the "normal" pressures of poverty. Many small island developing states are threatened by a rise in sea level and are a yet more telling case in point. Their very existence as habitable countries is under threat.

Below are estimates of the impacts for each degree of temperature rise. They are based on a major report published by Nicholas Stern, chief British government economist, in October 2006:

1. The impacts of 1ºC rise

  • Small Andean glaciers disappear, threatening water supplies for 50 million people
  • At least 30,000 people die every year from climate-related diseases
  • 80% of coral reefs are bleached, including the Great Barrier Reef
  • The Atlantic thermohaline circulation starts to weaken (editor: thermohaline circulation/THC is the global density-driven circulation of the oceans -- Wikipedia)

2. The impacts of 2ºC rise

  • Water availability in some vulnerable regions (Southern Africa & the Mediterranean) could drop by 20% - 30%
  • Crop yields in Africa drop by 5% - 10%
  • 40 - 60 million more people are exposed to malaria in Africa
  • Up to 10 million more people are affected by coastal flooding
  • Arctic species, including the polar bear and caribou, run a high risk of extinction
  • The Greenland ice sheet could begin an irreversible melt

3. The impacts of 3ºC rise

  • In southern Europe, serious drought occurs every 10 years
  • One to 4 billion more people suffer water shortages; up to 5 billion gain water but they could suffer increased floods
  • Another 150 to 500 million people are at risk of hunger
  • One to 3 million more people die from malnutrition
  • The risk of abrupt changes in monsoons climbs
  • There is a higher risk that the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, will collapse

4. The impacts of 4ºC rise

  • Water availability in Southern Africa and Mediterranean could drop by 30% - 50%
  • African agricultural yields drop by 15% - 35%
  • Up to 80 million more Africans are exposed to malaria
  • Another 7 to 300 million people are affected by coastal flooding

5. The impacts of 5ºC rise

  • Some of the large Himalayan glaciers may disappear, affecting one quarter of the Chinese population and millions in India
  • Ocean acidity continues to rise; marine ecosystems are seriously disrupted
  • Sea level rise threatens small islands, low-lying coastal areas such as Florida, and major world cities such as New York, London, and Tokyo

6. The report released in London authored by Mr. Nicholas Stem, the former chief economist of the World Bank, says that because of a 2.5 to 5 degrees Celsius rise in mean surface temperature, within India, northern India will be warmer. There will be a 20% rise in summer monsoon rainfall. All states will have increased rainfall except Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, where it will decrease. Drought and flood intensity will increase. The Krishna, Narmada, Cauvery, and Tapi river basins will experience severe water stress and drought condition and Mahanathi, Godavari, Brahmani will experience enhanced flood. Crop yield will decrease. The prediction of loss of wheat is more. Rabi crops will be worse hit, which threatens food security. Coastal agriculture suffers most in Gujarath, Maharashtra, Karnataka. Punjab, Haryana, Western UP (Uttar Pradesh) and will face reduction in yield. Frequencies and intensities of tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal will increase particularly in the post-monsoon period and flooding will increase in low-lying coastal areas. Malaria will continue to be endemic in current malaria-prone states of Orissa, West Bengal, and southern parts of Assam. It may shift from the central Indian region to the south-western coastal States of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala. New regions Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram will become malaria prone.

7. Over the twentieth century, the seas rose between four and eight inches, ten times the average rate of the last 3,000 years. This alarming trend threatens all of the nations' coastal communities, and where more than half the U.S. population lives. Other parts of the globe are vulnerable, too. More frequent and extreme flooding due to sea-level rise threatens low-lying areas near the mouths of the Nile in Egypt, the Mekong in Vietnam and Cambodia, and the Ganges and Brahmaputra in Bangladesh, and other rivers around the world. Italy's famous sinking city of Venice, which is surrounded by water and whose ground underneath is subsiding like Louisiana's, is also particularly vulnerable.

Regional impacts

Global warming could devastate European ski resorts forcing low-altitude resorts to close and threatening winter sports, which now attract up to 80 million tourists a year. The report of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), states that the recent warming in the Alps region was roughly three times the global average and 1994, 2000, 2002, and 2003 were the warmest years over the past 500 years. The economy of Germany, Austria, France, and Italy is affected.

Glacier and ice cover some 17% of the greater Himalayan region, a total area of nearly 113,000 sq. km., the largest area covered by glaciers and permafrost outside the polar region. The Himalayan region alone has some 35,000 sq. km. of glaciers and a total ice reserve of 3700 cubic km. It is the source of the nine largest rivers in Asia, whose basins are home to 1.3 billion people. Various studies suggest that the warming in the Himalayas has been greater than the global average. A recent summary of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Working Group predicts "If current warming rates are maintained, Himalayan glaciers could decay at very rapid rates, shrinking from the present 500,000 square kilometers to 100,000 square kilometers by 2030s". Since the mountains and surrounding valleys are warming at an alarming rate, it is believed that the increasing temperature will also affect the biotic pool resulting in extinction of some of the precious species. Moreover, it will decline productivity of biological systems, change floral composition, increase uncertainty, spread diseases and increase the risk of hunger and famine in some locations, finally putting human security at a high risk.

One of the most iconic of Indian glaciers is the majestic Gangothri glacier in Uttarakashi District of Uttarkhand and is considered the second largest glacier in the region. For thousands of pilgrims, the Gangothri is a sacred spot as a major source of fresh water to the Ganga. In recent times, the 30 km-long glacier has shown considerable recession. Satellite data has shown that the rate of retreat in the last three decades has been more than three times the rate during the earlier 200 years or so. In the last few decades, continuous impact on the environmental landscape particularly in the Himalayas in the form of land-use practices such as water diversions, deforestation, agriculture and industrialisation etc. have caused large scale impacts on the watersheds of the region. Global warming will further accelerate the adverse impacts on these regions.

Shrinking glaciers, frozen earth melting, grasslands turning yellow, rivers drying up...scientists studying the effects of global warning on Tibet are deeply worried. "The glaciers at the source of the Yangtze River are shrinking much faster than we had anticipated," said Li Yaji, a scientist, who visited the area in the 1980s and again in the 1990s. The breathtaking view of Mount Yushu and 14 other snowy peaks stuns passengers travelling along the Qinghai-Tibet railway. But those who enter a typical glacier valley west of Mount Yushu will no longer find any trace of a glacier at the snow line altitude of about 5,000 m. Scientists found the remnants of the glacier on the far side of the mountain.

A new study shows that rising sea surface temperatures (SST) in the Atlantic over the last century appear to have caused a dramatic increase in the number of tropical cyclones. During 1995-2005, on an average 15 storms formed due to a 0.7 degrees Celsius increase compared to six storms 1900-30.

A UN Body report says that the cities of Chennai and Mumbai are on the list of cities to be affected (immersed in the sea) by global warming. The world famous Kashmir Dal Lake, which was once 30 sq. km., has now shrunk to half because of global warming, according to a report released in London.

Biodiversity, agriculture and health

A warmer world will be extremely harsh on biodiversity and agriculture. 1,700 species of plants, animals, and insects have already moved towards the poles at a measurable rate each year in the second half of the 20th century.

Climate change is likely to trigger a "risk of hunger" in India by affecting cereal production by as much as 18% because of floods and droughts, warned the UN agency, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It said that India could lose as much as 125 million tonnes of its rain-fed cereal production. Rain-fed agriculture in marginal areas in semi-arid and sub-humid regions is mostly at risk. If there is a rise in the sea from 10 to 85 cm., then rice-cultivating countries like Vietnam will be affected completely, reports an alarmed scientist from the Manila rice research centre.

A study was done on rice production and global warming in the last 12 years. Taking population growth into account, rice production should increase 1% per annum, but it was found that as temperature increases 1%, the rice production decreases 10%. The main reason for this is that there is an increase in the temperature at night.

According to Dr. John Balmes of the American Lung Association of California, higher smog levels "may cause or exacerbate serious health problems, including damage to lung tissue, reduced lung function, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and increased hospitalizations for people with cardiac and respiratory illnesses."

Smog forms when sunlight, heat, and relatively stagnant air meet up with nitrogen oxides and various volatile organic compounds. Exposure to smog can do serious damage to our lungs and respiratory systems. Inflammation and irritation can cause shortness of breath, throat irritation, chest pains, and coughing and lead to asthma attacks, hospital admissions, and emergency room visits. These consequences are more severe if people are exposed while being active. More hot days mean better conditions for creating smog that can trigger asthma and other breathing problems. "The number of people with asthma in this country has more than doubled over the past 25 years, led by soaring rates in children" says Dr. John Balbus, head of Environmental Defense's health program. "With climate change worsening smog in some areas and altering pollen levels, future air quality may pose a greater threat to our health, especially those of us with asthma and other lung diseases."

The deep sea is one of the harshest habitats on Earth, but is home to many remarkable creatures. Atmospheric carbon dioxide is being pushed deeper into the oceans than previously thought, according to researchers. Higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, caused largely by industrial activities, push the greenhouse gas into ocean waters. The findings mean the oceans may continue to absorb human emissions of greenhouse gas more rapidly and for longer, they say, reducing their impact on global warming. But the research is bad news for the marine organisms that are already suffering from ocean acidification. This will badly affect marine organisms, especially coral reefs.

The Root Cause: Greenhouse Gases

The cause of global warming is the Greenhouse Gases (GHGs) emitted into the atmosphere. These gases trap heat and raise air temperatures near the ground, acting like a greenhouse on the surface of the Planet and they stay in the atmosphere for decades.

The GHGs are:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O)
  • Hydroflurocarbons (HFCs)
  • Perfluorocarbons (PFCs)
  • Sulphur hexafluoride(SF6)

Source Categories of these Greenhouse Gases as per the Kyoto Protocol 1997

1. Energy

  • Fuel combustion
  • Energy industries
  • Manufacturing industries and construction
  • Transport, other sectors
  • Fugitive emissions from fuels
  • Solid fuels
  • Oil and natural gas
  • Other

2. Industrial processes

  • Mineral products
  • Chemical industry
  • Metal production
  • Other production
  • Production of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride
  • Consumption of halocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride
  • Other

3. Solvent and other product use

4. Agriculture

  • Enteric fermentation
  • Manure management
  • Rice cultivation
  • Agricultural soils
  • Prescribed burning of savannas
  • Field burning of agricultural residues
  • Other

5. Waste

  • Solid waste disposal on land
  • Wastewater handling
  • Waste incineration
  • Other

Immediate concerns

England's soils have been losing carbon at the rate of 4 million tonnes a year for the past 25 years -- losses which will accelerate global warming. The unexpected loss of carbon from the soils - consistently, everywhere in England and Wales and therefore probably everywhere in the temperate world - means more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which means even more global warming, and yet more carbon lost from the soil.

Europe's great heat wave of 2003, which claimed an estimated 35,000 lives and cost the continent's economies an estimated 7 billion Pounds altogether, may also have fuelled further global warming. The U.S. heat wave of 2006 was one of the worst in recent memory - not only because of its severity, but also because of its reach and length. It lasted nearly a month and swept across the entire country, cutting a swath of record or near-record temperatures from southern California to the East Coast. Hundreds of people died, crops withered, wildfires raged, roads buckled, and electric grids struggled to provide power to sweltering customers. Tens of thousands of New York residents lost power for over a week.

Comparing CO2 over 400,000 years, it has risen considerably since the industrial revolution. Beginning with the industrial revolution in the 1850s and accelerating ever since, the human consumption of fossil fuels has elevated CO2 levels from a concentration of 280 ppm to more than 380 ppm today. These increases are projected to reach more than 560 ppm before the end of the 21st century. Dr. D. Narasimman of Madras Christian College has said that the green cover's capacity to absorb carbon emission had some limit: of the 386 billion tonnes of carbon emissions from 1850 to 1995, only 208 billion tonnes was absorbed. This showed that the carbon emission level far exceeded the capacity of the green cover.

The biggest factor of present concern is the increase in CO2 levels due to emissions from fossil fuel combustion; anthropogenic aerosols, particularly sulphate aerosols from fossil fuel combustion and cement manufacturing. While fossil fuel combustion and deforestation each produce significantly more carbon dioxide (CO2), cement-making is responsible for approximately 2.5% of total worldwide emissions from industrial sources - the energy plus manufacturing sectors.

Equations, an NGO based in Bangalore, says that the tourism industry itself is a contributor to global warming by generating greenhouse gas emissions through travellers' consumption of transport services, notably road and air transport, and high levels of energy consumption like air conditioning, heating, and lighting in tourism establishments. The aviation industry is the biggest threat as it is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases, growing at a rate of 5% per year and contributing to 3% of global emissions. Air travel, particularly long-haul international flights emitting greenhouse gases at high cruising altitudes, adds substantially to climate change effects.

The Root Cause: From the Industrial Revolution to TNCs

1. The industrial revolution paving ways for the capitalistic mode of production started alienating humanity not only from its own community, but from 'nature', without which humanity cannot exist.

2. The industrial revolution was handy for the imperialist countries to colonise the other countries, to satisfy the lavish needs of the kingdoms and the profit-mongering private companies, which later transformed into Multi-National Corporations (MNCs), and then Trans-National Corporations (TNCs), which started controlling the entire globe.

3. The Developed Countries directed by their MNCs/TNCs, not only exploited all their natural resources, but started taking control of the natural resources of other countries especially those of the developing countries and the underdeveloped. The classic example is America using war, military support, and economic sanctions as strategies to take control of a country in crisis, appropriating natural resources. e.g. the recent Iraq war. In the name of development, vested interests promote indiscriminate industrialisation resulting in the disappearance of the green cover, especially the forest, leading to urbanisation by appropriating the resources.

4. The Developed Countries/MNCs/TNCs have transferred so-called science and technology, which was the cause for global warming, to Third World Countries and continue to do so. Communities in the Third World Countries were living in harmony with nature without affecting the ecological equilibrium. But these vested interests have conquered these nature-loving and living communities and looted their resources and then slowly made them follow blindly so-called modern development, thus making them also become addicted to it.

5. After the World Wars, when countries fought and became politically independent, the Imperialist Countries, once again colonised the so-called politically independent countries by providing Aid, economic support, and technology transfer through the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), GATT and, recently, the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

6. During the Nineties, Globalisation has been advocated by the Imperialist Forces -- Developed Countries/MNCs/TNCs -- as the saviour for all the problems that the world is facing. But, Globalisation is actually promoting privatisation, which revolve only around the market economy, which is concerned only about profit and not about humanness or living in harmony with nature. Globalisation is advocating a value-system which is promoting profit, competition, importance of money, greed for materialistic goods, private property, individualistic living, exploiting the natural/livelihood resources.

7. Globalisation is not solving the global crisis, but keeps adding fuel to burning problems. Globalisation is globalising capital, production, market and also so-called waste management i.e. dumping the chemical waste of the developed countries into the developing and underdeveloped countries. It promotes industrialisation more than at any time in history. Industrialisation at the hands of the imperialist forces causes global warming.

Addressing Global Warming

1. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) jointly established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988 to look into the issues of global warming/climate change politically by the governments of different countries. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was adopted in 1992 in the context of the 1992 Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to address climate change issues. The Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change was adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by the developed countries. The USA, the biggest contributor of GHGs, has refused to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol.

2. The solution to combating global warming is to reduce the emissions of the GHGs, mostly by the developed countries. Instead of making efforts to reduce the emissions of GHGs with clear-cut targets, these countries want that countries like China, India, etc. should come out with targets for the reduction in GHGs. We cannot buy their argument as they do not have any right to demand so. But, as the developing and the underdeveloped countries are also following the path of the developed countries, they are also responsible for reducing the emissions of the GHGs, because the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report estimates that carbon dioxide emissions from energy use could rise by 45 per cent to 110 per cent between 2000 and 2030. The report indicates that two-thirds to three-quarters of the increased emissions would come from developing countries. The report also makes clear that the greater the efforts to reduce global GHG emissions, the less severe would be the impact. In spite of the efforts taken by the UNO Agencies, the issue remains unresolved.

3. The real solution lies in changing the capitalist mode of production, which is the real cause. Unless there is change in the paradigm of development, it is impossible to solve the problem. Development should be people-centred and nature-centred and not market and profit centred. The value system should be one of coexisting and not competition or exploitation.


"Peoplearthisation" is the answer. It is a value-driven process focusing on living in harmony with people and living in harmony with nature, both at the local level and at the global level. "Peoplearthisation" is placing the people and earth at the centre of sustainable development. "Peoplearthisation" is just and equitable in terms of gender, socio-cultural, economic, political and ecological spheres. "Peoplearthisation" is peaceful, mutual, consensus building, not dominating and not colonising one over the other, not discriminating in terms of Caste and Race. "Peoplearthisation" is a sustainable and equitable decision-making process by the people with a human rights and natural rights perspective. "Peoplearthisation" advocates ecological democracy, which would ensure combating global warming.


  • United Nations Convention on Climate Change Handbook, 2006
  • Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, United Nations 1998
  • Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  • news service -
  • Synthesis of the E-conference on "Climate Change and the Himalayan Glaciers" in commemoration of World Environment Day 2007 by Mount Forum -
  • The Hindu 9&23/9/05, 30/11/05, 26/10/06, 15/12/06, 23/5/07, 2&17&30/8/07
  • The New Indian Express 1/11/06, 10/7/07, 17/8/07
  • Dinamani 11/11/06, 13/12/06,†† 9,&10/7/07
  • The Hindu - Survey of the Environment 2007
  • "Equations", Bangalore: Statement on International Biodiversity Day, May 22, 2007
  • L. Antonysamy, Ecological Democracy, WSSD People's Earth Summit 2002 and WSF Mumbai 2004

"Global Warming - An Analysis of Problems and Facts" Paper Presented by L. Antonysamy, State Convener, Tamil Nadu Environment Council (TNEC), Chairperson, CEDA TRUST, 98A, Kooturavu Nagar, Dindigul - 624 005, Tamil Nadu, Phone: 91 451 2431090, Fax: 91 451 2431040, Mobile: 91 9443032424, E-mail:, Presented at: Global Warming: A Threat to Humanity, Philosophy Symposium, September 14 & 15, 2007, Coordinated by Rev. Fr. S. Sekar Sebastin and Rev. Fr. P. Ambrose, Organised by the Department of Philosophy, Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee, Chennai - 600 056, Phone:†† 91 44 26272171 and 26496121, Mobile:† 91 94434456646/ 9444306664

Published in In Motion Magazine March 22, 2008