The cold truth about Colombo weather and commentary

by Rajpal Abeynayake

(January 15, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The recent spate of bad weather events serve to drive home more home truths than one. Floods in Sri Lanka have been phenomenally bad, displacing almost 300,000 people, but yet the chill over Colombo with temperatures hovering in the low 20s and dipping below 20, is getting almost more media coverage that the floods that have caused so much devastation in the outstations.

That is called news. Cities in three continents, Australia Asia and South America have been hit by bad weather events with hundreds being killed in mudslides in Brazil.

But it’s almost business as usual with the Sri Lankan flood situation, except that the powerful movers and shakers that matter are getting a little more perturbed about this time’s deluge, because it has been uncharacteristically cold in Colombo. (‘Would it hit us’? is the usually unasked query in parenthesis in any official announcement about the current floods in the rural backwaters ...)

Whether the floods have been caused due to El Nina or alternately due to the effects of global warming seems to be a marginal consideration in all of this.
So, a little more about that here, then:

Apparently the world’s media are unable to agree whether the recent extreme weather situations in countries such as Australia and Sri Lanka are due to El Nina or the cumulative effects of what is loosely called global warming or the Greenhouse effect.

10-1While one section of the influential global networks and the significant global television channels opine that recent extreme weather events are due to cyclical phenomena and natural weather activity such as the El Nina, another segment of these experts say that these same weather events are due to global warming and its inevitable nasty consequences.

Funnily, in most of the countries from which these conflicting reports emerge, the contrary ideas on the recent weather events in Australia, Brazil and Sri Lanka are left to stand-alone, as if the contradictions that emerge thereof do not matter.
Fortunately, the critical-analytical reality here in Sri Lanka is so different and less confusing, even though it is here that people often say we do not enjoy all the fruits of the right to freedom of expression.

Here, we can debate until the cows come home about global warming, and we can debunk that theory with the same passion that some of our young Communist party apparatchiks in those days cheered for socialism in this land when there was red-baiting and McCarthyte persecution of alleged Communists in that funnily named geographical category then and now called the Free-World.

And so if we take the weather as not merely something that happens to us, but also something that we should know and discuss about, we in Sri Lanka should probably explain to the Westerners why the El Nina theory is more widely favoured in Sri Lanka as an explanation for extreme weather events than the sexier rationale of global warming.

Those who experienced the big chill in Colombo last week have been told that these types of low temperatures had occurred in Colombo 115 years ago before global warming leave alone becoming vogue, was an idea that could not so much as remotely be conceived.

Also, these recent extreme weather events are not so extreme in Sri Lanka, when considering that with or without an accompanying big chill in Colombo, floods have been a very regular annual occurrence in this country for several successive years in the past.

People who in fact know the vagaries of the weather and do not merely imagine them in scientific papers, will for reasons that are quite obvious, not be too enthused about global warming when they know these types of extreme weather conditions that the global media giants screams ecstatically about, have been their common lot for hundreds of years in the past.

But the morale of all this has got to do not so much with the weather but with the all-important reality about how differently we perceive news and media information, and allocate this information in formulating our narratives of events for ourselves.
We did not prosecute Trotskyites or Stalinists when the Americans were howling for their blood with McCarthy taking the lead in those halcyon 50s and 60s decades. Instead, we promoted these gentlemen, democratically of course, to positions of power, and look what they did — proved themselves to be utterly ineffectual to the point where those who followed them into our time, are quaint ineffectual and eccentric hangers-on in our government of today.

So who was right?

Those who saw the Commies as demons and demonized them, or those who saw them as innocuous characters who should be given their place in the sun —- as they won’t be able to hold on to their sunlit gilded ages of dominance for too long, anyway .

So are the weather interpretations of today. We in these parts do not fret too much about global warming and greenhouse hysteria. One day they will tell us long after all our fossil fuels have been burnt out as they surely would be some day, and when we are enjoying full windmill and solar power perhaps with some nuclear augmentation on the national grids —- but yet when it is still raining cats and dogs and flooding over levees and catchments the world over —- that extreme weather events do happen in our world.
Hmm, sigh.
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