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Issue 20
, 2009
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Himalayan glaciers most threatened by global warming

Source: The Hindu, New Delhi, Date: , 2009

Just before starting his lecture on ‘Atmospheric Brown Clouds,’ Prof V. Ramanathan admits that people think he has come to dismantle Indian progress. The Director of the Center for Clouds, Chemistry and Climate, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego, in a recent address to the International Federation of Environmental Journalists in New Delhi, said the world was already committed to a global warming of 2.5 degrees Celsius.“Think of greenhouse gases as covering the earth like a blanket,” he starts off. The good news, he says, is global warming may be delayed and the bad news is that smoke particles or mirrors absorb the sunlight and heat the blanket directly. The science of climate change is uncertain at best; even if the Copenhagen summit succeeds, temperatures could rise in the future to 3.5 per cent, Prof. Ramanathan forecasts. Pointing fingers is not a solution, he says, quoting Mahatma Gandhi that an eye for an eye will make all of us blind.Referring to his own study, initially called the Asian Brown Cloud, Prof. Ramanathan admits that it was a mistake. The Himalayan glaciers also show evidence of black carbon. The hope lies in the fact that black carbon in the atmosphere is 55 per cent.

Alternative cooking fuels could reduce human deaths and clear the air, so to speak, and there is need to focus on reducing black carbon, which has a short life of less than 10 days in the atmosphere. But black carbon and smoke have a deadly effect on human health. Indian contributes six per cent black carbon, though its contribution of biofuels is just one per cent. China accounts for about four times more.