Kaluwin: Change threatening earth

Main Stories, National

The National, Thursday 01st December 2011

in Durban, South Africa

THE earth is under threat from global climate change and if we do not address it, it will harm all forms of life, Prof Chalapan Kaluwin of the University of Papua New Guinea said.
Kaluwin said in an interview during the United Nations framework convention on climate change in Durban, South Africa, that the earth was under immense threat from climate change as a result of man’s actions.
“The polar regions and glaciers are melting at a rapid pace and this is causing an increase in sea level through coastal flooding which in turn is endangering the island regions of the world,’’ he said.
“PNG is an island nation and many of our smaller low lying islands especially in Manus and Milne Bay provinces are being affected.”
He said the meeting in Durban had brought together 194 nations to provide an overview on how to protect the world by maintaining its climate temperature to one or two degrees.
“Leaders from these nations must make a stand, that in the next 20 to 50 years we have to stabilise the earth’s temperature by one to two degrees Celcius,’’ he said.
“We are here as developing nations to also get a commitment by the developed nations on their support to effect these discussions.
“In PNG for example, any change in degrees higher than normal, you can kiss your coffee and other crops bye as these temperature will seriously affect the climatic conditions. It is that serious.”
He said from melting glaciers and earlier springs to advancing tree lines and changing animal ranges, many lines of evidence backed up what thermometers showed.
Earth is getting warmer. In the 20th century, the average global temperature had risen by 0.8 degrees Celcius.
“There are two broad explanations, more heat is reaching the earth, or less is escaping,’’ he said.
“The first option can be ruled out, as the amount of solar heat entering earth’s atmosphere varies by about 0.1% on a time-scale of years as the sun’s activity changes. But satellite data show no increase corresponding to the soaring temperatures of recent decades.”
He said we were left with the second possibility which was that less heat was escaping and there were several reasons why this could be so.
“One is a rise in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. These gases absorb specific frequencies of infrared radiation, heat that would otherwise escape into space,’’ he said.
“They re-radiated some of that energy towards earth’s surface and lower atmosphere. More greenhouse gas in the atmosphere means less heat escaping and a warming planet.”