In the Heat of the Night

When I got off an air-conditioned bus at around 3pm this afternoon, it was as if I was walking into a furnace – I felt as if I was devoured by the scorching heat. The fact that we are still having this sort of unbearably hot days towards the end of August is a sure sign that the summer of Hong Kong is getting hotter and longer.

I remember that the summers in my childhood years were not so hot, particularly considering that my family had no air-conditioners during that time. But in case my memory has misled me, some official figures may confirm that Hong Kong has indeed got hotter and, more worryingly, the thermometer is likely to keep rising.

In a speech given in 2008 by Mr C.Y. Lam, the then Director of the Hong Kong Observatory, said that in the 20th century, the rise of temperature in Hong Kong was roughly double that of the global average. Mr Lam attributed this to urbanisation. I would add that it is no coincidence that Hong Kong’s greenhouse gas emission also doubles that of the global average (in my blog on 13 August, I wrote that “while Hong Kong makes up 0.1 percent of the world's population, it gives off 0.2 percent of the world's total greenhouse gas emission”). We reap what we sow. Fair enough.

Regarding the future, Mr Lam presented some rather grim estimation figures comparing the “end of the last century” (1980-1999) with the “end of this century” (2090-2099) using the reference scenarios of “lower-bound”, “middle-of-the-road” and “upper-bound”. The figures are summarised in the following table:

(Right click to download table)

Back to how I felt when I got off the bus today. What worries me is that we are in the middle of a vicious cycle. I would like to think that I am environmentally responsible enough to be able to sacrifice some personal comfort for the sake of the common good (that is one of the reasons why I have become a vegetarian, and I have to add that I have found it to be no sacrifice at all), and so I use the aircon at home very sparingly. The thing is, if it gets so hot that it becomes absolutely unbearable (to be honest, the heat these days has become quite unbearable), we will be left with no choice but to turn to the cooling devices too. In the worst case scenario, it might even be a matter of life and death. We will then be on the path of no return.

It is said that in greedily and selfishly consuming the natural resources like we do now, we are drawing from the credit of the next generation. I am afraid that if something is not done fast to correct the present situation, it might not even be the next generation that suffers the grave consequences. It may well be our own one.

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