Kyoto back in fashion

The Environment Ministers of the EU countries agreed in Brussels on a division of the costs involved in the ratification of the Protocol of Kyoto. The EU intends to reduce Greenhouse Effect Gases (GEG) by 8% by the year 2020.

The fifteen member states pledged to ratify the protocol during the first half of 2002, before the World Summit of Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, at which a new organism, the World Environmental Organisation, is to be set up.

The protocol of Kyoto was discussed by the world community in 1997 but its ratification has been a thorny issue, since to reduce GEG means added expenses as industry puts into practice costly environmental protection schemes. The main reason why the USA refuses to ratify the agreement, despite being responsible for 25% of GEG emissions, is that its implementation would be so expensive that the US economy would be affected.

Expense, however, is a preoccupation of the present in a world which has a responsibility towards future generations. There are many indicators which point towards alarming trends in the state of the planet.

In the last 50 years, the quantity of ice in the seas has decreased by 10 to 15%. The polar ice caps have reduced in size by 10% since a measurement was taken in 1960. The collective effect is an estimated rise in the sea level by 88 cm. by the year 2100, which will constitute a natural catastrophe for countries like Bangladesh, the Maldives and Guinea Bissau and will cause severe flooding to coastal cities such as Lisbon.

During the twentieth century, the average surface temperature of the world increased by 0.6º C, the 1990s being the hottest decade of the century. During the next century, it is calculated that the temperature will rise further between 1.4º C to 5.8º C on average but that Northern America and Central Asia could see their temperatures rise by more than 40% of the global average.

Drought is increasing in Africa and Asia while heavy rains are increasing in the northern hemisphere. These are expected to become more and more intense.

The main reason for this is that Carbon DiOxide (CO2) rises into the stratosphere, forming a barrier to the escape of the planet’s heat. As solar rays come in, the heat constantly builds up, increasing the temperature of the globe, in a process called the Greenhouse Effect, which produces global warming.

The Ozone Gap is another process, caused by the emission of CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbonates), which destroy the Ozone layer, which acts like a filter against harmful solar rays. This makes the sun stronger and more harmful, but does not increase the Earth’s temperature.

Mankind inhabits many countries on a common planet. If the generation of today does not prepare for tomorrow, the future of Man is bleak. It is a collective responsibility which to date only a few have undertaken to commit themselves to. It is hoped that other countries will follow suit.