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Upsetting a delicate balance

In the past the Earth's climate has changed as a result of natural causes in our atmosphere. The changes we are witnessing and those that are predicted are largely due to human activities. We are burning fossil fuels and heating up the planet at the same time. We blow increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere every year – 35.9 gigatonnes of CO2 (2014) and rising – and this warms the globe. Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been burning fossil fuels on a massive scale.

We use this energy, almost without care for the consequences, to run vehicles, heat homes, conduct business, and power factories. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 stored millions of years ago as oil, coal or natural gas. In the last 200 years we have burned a large part of these stores, resulting in an increase in CO2 in our atmosphere. The destruction of our forests also releases CO2 stored in trees and in the soil.

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FEATURE | POSTED ON 17 APRIL 2016 | HEAT WAVE, KOLKATA, GLOBAL WARMING, GON CHOUDHURI
Raul Aaron David, Writer
Being the change the world needs.
Too warm, Kolkata!
In 2009, EarthSmiles.net reported a heat wave when Kolkata’s temperatures rose "as high as 41.8 °C," six degrees above normal, for that part of the year. It was the highest in 59 years. The Met office issued a heat wave warning for Saturday, May 9, 2009. This April, temperatures have already crossed that!

February and March are supposedly the months when the gentle warmth Spring embraces our city, but this year we were hit by a different sort of ‘warmth’. A heat wave hammered the city and Kolkatans, used to mild weather and a couple of squalls this time of year, have been taken off guard by the sharply rising mercury level.

Suburbs are seeing their little ponds dry up which is affecting the lives of the people who use these water bodies for bathing, washing clothes and fishing. These people rely on these ponds as their main source of water for chores too. Mr. Shyamol Banerjee, a resident of the fairly under-developed Picnic Gardens, one of Kolkata’s biggest suburban areas, said as he pointed at the pond near his hut, “The water level of this pond would be just a few centimeters below the road level, now it’s almost dry, where are the people around this area to get water from now?”

The people in these areas, if forced to part with a chunk of their monthly income for buying water for household purposes, will struggle to survive. The average temperature of March varied around 34.5 degrees celsius, with a maximum temperature of 37 degrees Celsius. The 21st of March saw the city being hit by a highest of 37 degrees Celsius. In April it inched towards the half century mark. There is a high jump in the average temperature from the year 2015, where the average temperature was roughly 33 degrees Celsius.












Street dog takes shelter under the cool belly of an old car...

An increase in 1.5 degrees Celsius in just a year spells doom for us all. In addition, the high UV-rays are extremely harmful for humans and causes skin diseases. Some ways to protect yourself from UV-rays are as follows:

1. Seek shade.
2. Wear protective clothing that covers your arms and legs as well as your body.
3. Put on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face and neck.
4. Wear sunglasses.
5. Apply broad spectrum SPF 30+ water resistant sunscreen every 2 hours.

Sunscreen should not be used to extend the time you spend in the sun The excess heat and high UV-rays are a cause of discomfort for students in schools and colleges as they attend classes and tuitions during the morning hours and are exposed to the burning heat while commuting.

Huzaifa Tausif, a second year student of engineering at the Calcutta Institute of Engineering and Management, seemed visibly agitated with sweat dripping from his head while he waited for his bus in the heat of the day, “With heat like this, so soon in the year, what are we supposed to expect in the peak summer months. Most students will think twice before attending college in this heat.”

Other than the disinterest caused by this uncomfortable weather, most students are drained of their energy by the time their classes start, thus affecting their concentration level.

What is worrying about this weather is that the high temperature is persisting over a long period of time. In other words, the climate is changing. "Earlier, even if the temperature crossed the 40° C mark for a day, it would soon drop by a few degrees. Now, the temperature persists above the 40° C mark for several days at a stretch. This is a disturbing trend. It is happening due to global warming and climate change. So, we are encouraging people to use eco-friendly tools like solar power and to conserve electricity," says S P Gon Choudhuri, Chairman, NBIRT, popularly known as "the Solar Man of India".

Undeniably, global warming, here, as in ever corner of the planet, has something to do with abnormally high temperature. (As the ozone layer thins and ultraviolet rays which are meant to bounce of the ozone layer and back into space are now reaching the earth’s surface unfiltered, making the weather unbearably hot and warming the seas as well, shrinking the very icecaps that reflect the heat off Earth – Global Warming). Welcome to the City of Joy. You can now feel its warmth, more than ever before!

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