I believe WE, the human beings are the epitome of the word “development”. The development rate during industrial era is something unprecedented. With 8.7 million species (and still a lot to be uncovered), Homo sapiens have carved a niche for themselves. Such was man’s dominance that it lead to creation of a new age – “Anthropocene” – a period in which human actions affect climate, ecology and geology. We have seen that the climate has played truant – be it the Uttarakand or Chennai floods or the failure of North East Monsoon for Tamil Nadu, The next big thing is climate change. Root cause? Better… Blame it on global warming.
There are both natural and human activities that have induced global warming. There are solar activity, carbon cycle variations and active volcanoes which spew large amount of oxides of carbon and sulfur. These are natural phenomena but climate change was accelerated only due to human activities. Long term exercises such as deforestation, continuous burning of fossil fuels, emissions from industries and automobiles are the real causes of the changes in climate. The story in a nutshell is we are just harassing our living place in the name of growth.
Before we dive deep into climate change and global warming, let’s keep out politics. There are still a considerable significance of people who play down man’s role in climate change and global warming. They state that Green house gases (GHG’s) released by humans have no significant role in global warming. To add a point against them, scientists have drilled Antarctic ice from which they can extract the trapped air. Using radiocarbon dating, they can determine its’ age, CO2 concentration and temperature.
Thus, we can see a direct correlation between temperature and CO2 concentration.
The acceptance of human induced climate change has given a lot of importance to COP 21 at Paris. As of now, Paris agreement has been ratified with the double threshold of 55 countries and 55% of total emission has been met. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has drove himself into limelight for not just only for demonetization but also for this strong campaigning against climate change. India has set a good target to reduce its carbon emission intensity, i.e. the emission per unit of GDP, by 33-35% from what it was in 2005, by 2030. And also 100 GW from solar energy will be a good milestone to achieve.
The next challenge is to curb CO2 emission. As of 2013, India stands 4th in CO2 emissions next only to China, USA and EU. When compared to 2012, CO2 emissions have increased by 5% which is way higher than any other nation. The only respite for India is that its per capita emission is very low at 1.7 tonnes-though it is only due to its’ large population.
CO2 emission is a common problem for all nations but lack of proper infrastructure, research and green policy affects India to a greater extent. Good, quality roads with least congestion will save barrels of petrol and diesel, cutting CO2 emissions, saving time, money and health standards. Good traffic regulations, better infrastructure and public transport can itself reduce the per capita emission. There is no benefit in pressurizing industries & thermal power plants without developing infrastructure. Therefore, emphasis should be on infrastructure and increase in green cover.
Strict control of vehicular pollution, promotion of alternative fuels, supervising & expanding green cover, reducing prices and taxes for electric and hybrid vehicles are some steps that both the present and the previous governments have failed to boost. Their development is still snail-paced. We need to expedite this process to find better alternatives.
Government is putting in efforts by giving subsidies for setting up solar structures. The world’s first solar powered airport- Cochin International airport has to be lauded for its’ initiative and should be looked upon as an example. It is a monument of pride for all Indians. Also, the visit of the first ever solar-powered plane “Solar Impulse 2” to Ahmedabad and Varanasi is a big morale boost. The solar powered boat – Aditya is also a great showpiece of solar energy potential. It is a pure, brilliant display of what solar energy is capable of in the near future.
“Wealth from Waste”. Tons and tons of wastes are generated every day. This needs proper disposal and necessary sanitation measures which include 3 R’s-(Reduce, Reuse & Recycle). Government’s move to award best rag pickers in the country who help in waste management is welcoming. Plans such as “Cash for Clunkers” program in California where incentives are provided for returning old cars that have failed the smog test should be endorsed. The EU funded-“Sunya Project” currently implemented in Nepal and Coimbatore, aims at zero waste disposal. This project will reap huge benefits if it is enforced throughout India. More organisations like UNFCCC, IPCC, and TERI should spring up spreading awareness. Efforts like the entry of Coimbatore city in Guinness record for “the largest recycling lesson” is applaud able. Initiatives such as setting carbon standards for industries, promoting renewable energy should be more stringent. So, India should also promote these activities, while some are in the pipeline.
Action on climate change needs a psychological edge. My Idea is that all types of media should feature or telecast concentrations of greenhouse gases, particulate matter, and levels of suphate and nitrate, and aerosol level, CO2 emission from their city, state and country on a daily basis along with weather conditions. This will help to inflict responsibility in viewers and to understand that it is not somebody else’s job out there, and it is each and everyone’s responsibility to save earth. “One small step from each and every one, a giant leap for mankind”. Every city has to set up a minimum green cover and propose to maintain and increase it. Carbon sequestration must be promoted in each and every possible way.
For a particular model of a car/bike, amount of CO2 emitted/litre is to be calculated. This data should be given in electronic display and to be multiplied with no. of litres consumed. At the same time, heavy taxes should be implied on sport cars/bikes. Irrespective of their emissions, their fuel usage is very high. These simple and practical measures will etch the message of holding earth’s temperature rise below 2oC in everyone’s mind.
There is also a political factor. A new invention or discovery can’t be successful unless it has its’ government’s backing. Fear has spread among the masses after election of Donald Trump to US President who believes that climate change is just a hoax. And the appointment of Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier as the head of US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is worrisome. So, we need political backing for the success of all scientific steps.
|Image credits: Wikimedia commons
The next fact is that India with its’ enormous youth power has only 137 researchers per million inhabitants as of 2011. Even countries like Guinea and Chile have better statistics. India’s research and development area lacks luster as budget spending on research is stuck at 0.9% for the past decade. Research has to be given adequate boost.
An important day to remember is the Earth Overshoot Day. It fell on August 8 on 2016.This day marks the day when mankind has consumed resources faster than the Earth could replenish. All resources consumed after August 8 in this year are those taken from the next year’s stock. For 2015, the overshoot day was on Aug 13. The current practice of gulping down resources without a second thought on future is distressing
To conclude, maybe we need more efforts and funds to combat climate change rather than to search for possibility of life in other planets. “7 billion dreams, 1 planet, consume with care”.
– Sathes Kumar
(Sathes Kumar is pursuing energy & environmental engineering. He likes to dive deep into renewable energy and more importantly apply it to obtain greener results. And he aspires to put the environment in a better shape through his actions and writings)