23 July 2010

Rig the Climate

By: Viva Kermani 

The climate denial lobby is beginning to look really silly. It creates loonies out of people -the most recent one - Lord Monckton - who claims that climate change, is a conspiracy, a new flag of the left and rebukes the very idea of global warming.

For someone who has no training in science whatsoever to discount the IPCC s body of some 800 scientists, he is irresponsible and certifiable. The science is now loud and clear - warming of the earth is unequivocal and there is no doubt that much of the change in climate is due to human induced action.

Scientists at NASA-GISS have confirmed that the first six months of 2010 have set a global temperature record. But I am not going to write about the vicissitudes of climate change of my generation or the politics that world leaders has been engaged in over the last decade to try to solve the climate crisis or what is the planet we are leaving behind. It has been about 2 decades since the Earth Summit in Rio and we are still struggling for an agreement to protect our planet and its ecosystems, its forest, water tables, atmosphere, oceans and mountains.

In the last 50 years or so millions have been spent in UN conventions, declarations and pledges for environmental protection. While we may have failed the earth in the last 100 years or so – there were some who paid it glorious tribute 5000 years ago. The best tribute ever paid to the environment can be found in the Vedas.
The Vedas are considered the most sacred books for Hindus. The word Veda means “wisdom”. There are 4 Vedas .The Rig Veda, the Sama Veda, the Yajur Veda and the Atharva Veda. The Rig Veda , a collection of hymns ,are the most ancient of all Hindu texts, probably about 5000 years old but codified much later.This is concerned with the worship of gods that are largely personifications of the powers of nature. The Rig Veda contains the most popular mantra , the Gayatri mantra. I don’t know any Indian who does not know the Gayatri Mantra – it’s the mother of all mantras.

Aum Bhoor Bhuwah Swaha

Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasaya Dheemahi

Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodayat

There are various interpretations of this simple mantra - I do not wish to go into the existential meaning of this mantra, its metaphor or its esoteric meaning.I am no expert in Sankrit or ancient texts. Not at all and cannot even remotely claim to be. But this much I know -when I do a word to word break down of the Gayatri Mantra it is telling me something – a prayer to the "giver of light and life" - the sun (savitur). Its power remains unchallenged and unrivalled. It is not only the Rig Veda that pays tribute to nature.

There are 63 mantras of Atharva Veda (12.1.1. to 12.1.63) pertain to Hymns to the Earth, which glorifies Mother Earth. The Rig Veda regards trees and plants as possessing healing properties. Tree planting is considered a religious duty.

So ecology is not a modern day science that was started in Europe. Its root can be found in our ancient texts and its modern day manifestation in the Chipko Movement that began in the early 70’s in the Garwhal – where villagers formed a human chain and hugged trees marked to be cut down for the development of a sports equipment factory. Since then, the movement has grown as a ecological movement. So while world leaders break their heads over complex documents on carbon emissions,legal frameworks,binding targets,offsetting, de-forestation and afforestation, Indian Rishis understood this 5000 years ago but instead,chose to express it through beautiful, 4 line hymns - that are still chanted today.

08 July 2010

Take note: climate is warming but weather is variable

By: Kaavya Nag

Do you sometimes feel, like I do right now, that unless people are convinced 'beyond reasonable doubt' that the climate is indeed changing, no amount of scientific fact is going to make Mohammed go to the mountain? 
Why has it become so convenient to confuse weather and climate?

The 2009 cold wave in Europe and some parts of North America was all it took to bring down the average confidence in the threat of climate change.

"If its so cold, how can the climate change"?

Unfortunately, even scientists have to get defensive about their positions, reiterating that global temperatures (the planet as a whole) continue to rise, 'regardless of the fact that some parts of the United States are now experiencing an atypically cold weather'.

Now that there is a heat wave in the United States and North America (July 8th 2010), climate change has 're-become' the culprit for the extreme temperatures. 

But for how long will this heat-wave remain in public memory?
Obama might make impassioned statements defending climate change; Ban ki-Moon might do so too. Scientists may come out in the defense of other fellow scientists, and US Government scientists might try to take a dig at climate skeptics. But these are not the real 'convincers'.

Opinion is shaped by reading (or listening or watching) the same convincing (need not mean true) arguments again and again. And if every second newspaper article says 'yes we have soaring temperatures, but ...', or,'yes there is a cold wave, so don't you see ...?', what would you believe? 

At the least, you would start doubting that climate change is real.
I ask why well educated individuals writing in the public domain make it so easy to blinker themselves to some fundamental differences between weather and climate. Focusing on short periods of time to prove that global warming is not occurring is a misuse of the definition of climate, as much as it is a misleading way to use statistics.