Friday, 17 April 2015

Pressing the panic button -- a solution to human-made Climate Change

For millions of years, nature has been taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — taking carbon out of circulation — and stashing it away, not only as trees, but also as enormous coal and crude-oil reserves under the earth.   But since the discovery of the steam engine and the industrial revolution, mankind has been taking these carbon and hydrocarbon reserves and burning them. Every passing year, we thus undo the work of a few thousand years of nature. Humankind is now a rampant force of nature.

Our GDP and per-capita consumption is rapidly rising at close to 10%, and so the carbon footprint of each individual human-being on earth is doubling every 20 years or so. [Very brief explanation: Each extra shirt we buy and stash in our cupboards or each apple that we eat that has been flown in from Australia or China, or even lorried in from Himachal Pradesh, represents an unnecessary load of carbon in the air that we have contributed.]

As our population grows at a galloping pace — rising as much in 10 years as it did in the entire millennium between 1 AD and 1000 AD — the collective carbon footprint of humankind doubles every 10 years or so. In other words, the ‘weight’ or ‘impact’ of humankind on earth is doubling every decade.

The upshot of having more carbon-dioxide in the air than ever before in the last 650,000 years is: All that carbon dioxide is storing solar heat in the atmosphere. This increased heat energy will transform, and is already transforming into more kinetic energy as (i) more rapid evaporation and precipatation (ii) more frequent, widespread and powerful hurricanes (iii) a higher water-level in the oceans as the polar ice-caps melt, stronger waves and tidal movements, which will over the next decade require every human settlement and activity on the coastline including fishing villages, metros and ports to be relocated further inland.

I don’t know if remedies are available. Personally, I think we are already in deep shit and blissfully unaware of it, like a guy who is falling to his death from a skyscraper, but is heard saying as he whooshes past the 10th-floor window, “So far so good! Everything feels great!”

Still, because of our human nature, we like to believe that it is never too late to mend.

Statement of One Possible Remedy

Our economies, which depend primarily on combustion, need to be urgently unhooked from combustibles and hooked onto alternative sources even if they are uneconomical at first. Energy from combustibles seems economical only because it does not take into account the environmental cost; in other words, such energy is environmentally ‘subsidized’. However, such subsidies are no longer sustainable, and there is an enormous ‘natural deficit’ that has built up that needs to be balanced.

So we need to learn to consume solar energy, wind energy, tidal and hydro-electric or human-generated energy, even if it seems terribly uneconomical at first. Simultaneously, we need to learn to live with drastically lowered energy consumption.

Immediate measure 1: We need to impress on decision-makers (and not just general public) at various levels the urgency of our situation. We must make presentations before people in the government and administration at all levels, as often as possible.

Immediate measure 2: We need to show that we ourselves believe in our message. It is not very convincing for us to continue to go around in our big air-conditioned cars and sit in air-conditioned offices, air-conditioned homes and air-conditioned chambers of commerce. We need to show our willingness to step down into less-stylish cars, or maybe even scooters, public transport etc. We need to send out a clear message by (1) scaling down our own usage of electricity by opening our windows and using ceiling-fans etc, (2) walking and bicycling as much as possible instead of taking motorised transport and (3) depending on non-energy consuming forms of recreation such as going for long walks or playing cards together.

Immediate measure 3: To make a dent on the public consciousness, send out a clear message, and set off a mass movement, those of us who are aware of this problem and deeply concerned about it need to do something emblematicHow about something like dressing very simply and riding a bicycle to work (and everywhere else) one day of every week -- something that is directly opposed to our increasingly ostentatious lifestyle?

Footnote: I do realize that these ideas are not exactly “civilized”, and they make me sound like I urgently need a shrink. But maybe taking such drastic measures will show that we clearly understand the gravity of our situation. Our collective existence depends on this sort of response.

Sustainability, Anti-growthism, growthism, global warming, climate change

1 comment:

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