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As the weather felt as if it reached sub-zero temperatures, Egyptians struggled to cope with the wintry evenings and chilly days, some by confining themselves to the relative comfort of their warm houses, some by wearing extra layers of clothes and others by simply sipping hot soup
It doesn't take a genius to realise that the climate has really changed and not in a good way. The standard rainy days in the months of December and January, the coldest days of the year, are long gone. This year, winter has had its own agenda, with heavy rain, frost and harsh winds literally flooding the country, adding hours to traffic and taking several degrees off our famous warm temperatures.
Being unaccustomed to such frost, Cairenes snapped up all electric heaters. Streets have been transformed into giant pools of mud. With its measly 15,000 drains, Greater Cairo simply cannot cope with the powerful rains, leaving unfortunate citizens trapped in muddy, chaotic, flooded streets for hours.
There is more to come. According to climate experts, the cold wave is continuing, with daytime temperatures barely reaching 15 degrees Centigrade and nighttime temperatures hovering at six.
But whatever happened to our warm winters? According to the Human Development Report 2007/8 Fighting Climate Change, current changes have consequences that will last for a century or more. The greenhouse gas emissions are not reversible and the heat-trapping gases we send into the atmosphere in 2008 will remain till 2108 and beyond. Since the advent of the industrial era, the average global temperature had increased by 0.7 degrees Centigrade. It is now, however, accelerated to 0.2 degrees every decade. At this rate, the report explains that seas are already warming, ice caps are melting and global rainfall patterns will change. The consequences are significant, as global temperature increases of 3-4 degrees Centigrade could result in 330 million people being permanently or temporarily displaced through flooding worldwide. Six million of them live in Lower Egypt, where potential delta flooding could destroy agricultural production. Egypt's emission of carbon dioxide increased from 1.5 CO2 per capita in 1990 to 2.3 CO2 per capita in 2004. The United States ranks first followed by Canada. Egypt ranks seventh. This, according to the same report, reflects the large carbon debt accumulated by rich countries -- a debt rooted in the over-exploitation of the Earth's atmosphere. However, while people in rich countries are increasingly concerned about emissions of greenhouse gases from developing countries, they tend to be less aware of their own place in the global distribution of carbon dioxide emissions; for instance, the United Kingdom (population 60 million) emits more carbon dioxide than Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Vietnam combined (total population of 472 million). The Netherlands emits more carbon dioxide than Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and the seven countries of Central America combined. Most shocking of all is the fact that the state of Texas (population 23 million) in the United States registers carbon dioxide emissions of around 700 metric tonnes of CO2 or 12 per cent of the United States' total emissions. That figure is greater than the total carbon dioxide footprint left by sub-Saharan Africa, a region of 720 million people.
While China may be about to overtake the United States as the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita, emissions from India are also on a rising trend.
The report concluded that the distribution of current emissions points to an inverse relationship between climate change risk and responsibility. The world's poorest one billion people walk the Earth with a very light carbon footprint accounting for around three per cent of the world's total. Yet, living in vulnerable rural areas and urban slums, it is the poorest billion who are most exposed to climate change threats, for which they carry negligible responsibility.
Despite all conventions and treaties, the fact remains: the Earth is still suffering the consequences of carbon dioxide emission. So unless developed and developing countries team up to stop the climate from changing and cut down on CO2, everyone should be prepared for nature's payback.