As polar ice caps melt, concern over rising sea levels mount

A study by the UK Met Office and Newcastle University has looked at how climate change could result in extreme bursts of rain during summer.

Jun 05, 2014

Anil Netto

By Anil Netto
A study by the UK Met Office and Newcastle University has looked at how climate change could result in extreme bursts of rain during summer. Over in Norfolk in Southeast Virginia, sea water has reached the top of a concrete sea wall that has held it back for a century.

Now comes news that polar ice caps are melting at a worrying rate. “Today we present observational evidence that a large sector of the West Antarctic ice sheet has gone into irreversible retreat,” Dr Rignot said in a NASA news conference. “It has passed the point of no return.”

Rignot said the six affected glaciers alone could result in oceans rising by four feet as the glaciers melt within a couple of centuries.

Of course, the fact that polar ice caps are melting mean nothing to the climate change deniers. There have been articles and opinion pieces in the conservative press and established business websites pooh-poohing the threat posed by global warming. They claim that earlier warnings were too alarmist and the threat is nowhere as serious as made out to be.

And for many ordinary people, global warning and climate change are not major issues. They rarely feature as key campaign issues in the electoral process of most countries.

Let us try and figure this out. The survival of the human species is at stake but few people want to discuss the issue let alone come up with preventive measures to try and at least slow down the process if not reverse it. Strange, isn’t it?

Why is this? Perhaps we do not want to forego our materialistic fuel-guzzling consumer- driven economic model that churns out tonnes of waste, emissions and waste in the production process.

Nor do we want to deal with the heaps of waste piling up in our rubbish landfills. Remember the piles of trash found floating in the sea during the search for MH370 which provided false leads during the search-and-rescue operations? Even our oceans are choking with waste.

It is thus significant that the first encyclical of the Bishop of Rome, Francis, is set to be on the environment. In January, Francis noted:

“I wish to mention another threat to peace, which arises from the greedy exploitation of environmental resources. Even if “nature is at our disposition”, all too often we do not “respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations.

“Here too what is crucial is responsibility on the part of all in pursuing, in a spirit of fraternity, policies respectful of this earth which is our common home. I recall a popular saying: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature – creation – is mistreated, she never forgives!”.

Our present economic model falsely assumes that natural resources are unlimited — when they are actually finite and rapidly depleting. The neoliberal model based on unsustainable economic growth has generally served the interest of Big Capital and Big Business. This model has widened the gap between the rich and the poor and concentrated stupendous wealth in the hands of the top 1 per cent.

Pope Francis on the other hand is set to present us with a different model – taking our stewardship of the planet seriously enough and linking it to the preferential option for the poor as outlined in Catholic Social Teaching. We are called to protect the planet from harm and ensure that its resources are protected for the benefit of future generations — and to ensure the fair distribution of essential goods and services to the poor.

In his very first homily at the See of Peter, Pope Francis had stressed:

“The vocation of being a ‘protector’, however, is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.

It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world, as the Book of Genesis tells us and as St Francis of Assisi showed us. “It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.”

May we live up to that calling. We have no other choice.

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