All our material progress is contributing to global warming
‘The Inconvenient Truth’ and ‘Our Choice’ by Al Gore are the two books highly recommended to understand the urgency of global climate crisis. There is a universality of opinion among the world community of scientists that global climate crisis is real and it will come soon, unless we wake up to it. We may have dispute about the opinion but we must not have dispute about the fact. A few years back, there was a flood like situation in Mumbai and scientists attributed it to global warming. Katrina Hurricane became intense due to global warming. Hurricane Dorian was an extremely powerful Category 5 hurricane that devastated the north-western Bahamas and caused damage to the South-eastern United States and Atlantic Canada between 24th August and 10th September ,2019.There are thousands of such instances to prove that global crisis is real and it is a fact we must not deny. Some people feel that the problem is so massive that no one can do anything about it. So we move from denial to helplessness. This is not a right approach. There is no helplessness. It is for all of us to act in a way that we can cope with this crisis. Combating climate crisis is a long term battle. It may even cross our life span, but this battle has to be fought. If it is not fought, there will be a deluge and the entire world will be swept away.
Why the climate crisis is an inconvenient truth? The truth that the globe is warming is inconvenient because it makes us think to change our life and behaviour and even our thinking in a manner that is not convenient to us. There is a long list of what all we can do as an individual, as community and as government to deal with this crisis. We need energy but is it thermal power plants that we need or the solar or wind energy? The answer is obviously the latter. But solar energy is very expensive. The state of Uttar Pradesh has a target of becoming self sufficient in power supply by installing 8500 mega watts capacity thermal power plants by 2022 (Business Standard, 24th August, 2019). All thermal power is contributing to global warming. You may question: Is it a right decision? We get electricity through thermal power generation plants which have high emission of carbon dioxide (co2). In case these thermal power plants are closed, and new ones are not installed, what will be life with only 12 hours of electricity supply? Very inconvenient. We want 24 hours of electricity supply till we are alive, and we get the same but through thermal power plants. Uttar Pradesh does not have hydro plants. Wind and solar energy are few. You cannot live only with that. This energy is not enough to meet the needs of all the sectors of economy – domestic consumers, industry and agriculture. Technologies in this regard are not sufficiently developed and in case thermal power plants are closed, we will face lot of inconvenience. That is why Al Gore said it is an inconvenient truth. The point is that solar or wind energy if produced at commercial scale will still be very costly. As government, world community or opinion makers, we have to correct the market signals. What are the market signals? Tax those projects that have high co2 emission and subsidise those which do not contribute to global warming. Thermal plants are those kind of projects which need to be taxed.
Help overcoming political obstacles at international levels. Americans may consume hundred times more energy than the Indians do but they want to have equal parameters when it comes to taking steps about global warming. That is the politics about it. These may be difficult issues but as they say, charity begins at home. One has to be an active, agile partner in this political process that ultimately assumes global dimensions. For example, it is told that the trains are more energy efficient compared to aviation but will any one who can afford air travel decide today that he /she will travel by train in stead of air? It is inconvenient in many other ways also.
Take the case of paper mills. Paper mills are one of the most energy inefficient sectors in the world. Should these be closed? We use paper tissues usually now in place of handkerchiefs simply because of convenience. Do we know that paper industries are surviving more on tissues and packaging than on writing papers and books? But if we devise a policy resulting into closure of paper mills, it will be highly inconvenient – what about the workers employed in the mills? What about the capital invested and loans given by the financial institutions? And we decide to let the paper mills continue and devise those technologies which will consume less water and energy. But when will those technologies be devised and what will happen to the global warming till then? These are the questions that bring forth the inconvenient truth before us. How do we go about it? In a way, all our material progress is contributing to global warming. It has to be a total paradigm shift in the model of progress. Sustainable development where there is no or limited scope of thermal power generation. Alternatives are very few and inconvenient.
If Sri Chandi Prasad Bhatt can initiate Chipko Andolan and create change in entire Uttarakhand, why can we not? At individual level, there are four most important things one can do, as follows:
1. We must save energy. Consume less of every thing, as every thing that goes into building any material requires energy. Become a conservative society instead of consumptive society. We are extracting natural resources in order to make our life more and more comfortable and ultimately at the cost of our future generation;
2. Plant more trees but then each of these should be maintained and protected;
3. Use public transport;
4. Use less paper and create more paperless offices. Use more information technology but then the issue of E waste will also need to be addressed.
We will have to make compromises on our comforts and costs. We will not leave this problem for our future generations to pay for it. That would be highly immoral. In that case we will start hating ourselves. If we do not take proper measures , there will emerge a situation in future where the temperature will be very high , floods and hurricanes will be frequent and things will become so difficult that it will be as good as death.
We do not have solutions but we must know that we will have to take certain inconveniences if we are serious about global warming and climate change. Wherever we are, we must know that global warming and climate crisis are real and urgent, and we must take inconveniences in our daily life to ward off their impending dangers. We don’t have time.