Need of the hour

By: Murali Kashyap | Posted: 05th January 2012

Need of the hour

Well, we are all hearing about global warming these days very frequently. This global warming is the effect of increased concentration of GHG (Green House Gases) due to burning of fossil fuels & deforestation.

The temperature difference between the last Ice Age and now is about 5 Celsius. Average world temperatures rose by 0.7 Celsius in the 20th century, according to the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Global average temperature is forecast to rise 4C (7.2F) toward the end of the 21st century, and this is a mere 90 years away. Even if began today, and stopped most of our greenhouse gas emissions overnight, we would still see a temperature rise of around 2C (3.6F) by 2090-2100.

Scientists are warning us to take precautionary steps; to keep the average global temperature not more than 2 degree celsius above pre-industrial levels. Otherwise, millions of people would be exposed to increased stress on water supplies, according to the IPCC in its last major report in 2007, based on research by 2,500 experts. It says more people would suffer from malnutrition, some infectious diseases and there would be more deaths from heat waves, floods and droughts. Up to 30 percent of species of animals and plants would be at increasing risk of extinction. Coral reefs would be damaged. Cereals production would decline in tropical areas but, in one benefit, would improve nearer the poles. Coasts would suffer increased damage from floods and storms. Anything more would be "dangerous" for life on the planet. Many environmental groups also have the same target. Small island states, which fear being wiped off the map by rising sea levels, say that dangerous impacts will start at a rise of only 1.5 Celsius.

Now, the global temperature is changing drastically at a rapid pace and we are becoming the victim of it. But, global leaders are just playing the politics which is very much visible by the recent Copenhagen summit. Kyoto Protocol is coming to end in the year 2012 but, no binding agreements have been entered by the global leaders to evade the unforeseen results of global warming.

Developed countries in the west are the clear spoilers of all this effects. They did not take environmental costs into account for their rapid industrial growth and development and now its the turn of developing countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) which are following the same foot steps. Both developed and developing countries are not ready to take any financial steps to evade this. If this politics continues we are going to end up lives on this earth.

There is a direct co-relation between the increase in GDP, energy usage and global warming. World GDP is growing at the rate of 2 to 4% p.a. World oil & gas reserves will last for 43 years & 58 years respectively based on the present level of consumption. After that we will end up in wide mis-match of energy supply and demand.
Now, its the hour of renewables. Renewables such as solar, wind, hydro etc. are the immediate requirements of the hour to stop the global warming and cope up with the depleting fossil fuels.

We have plenty of renewable energy sources which could supply the whole world energy requirements without any replenishment. It is estimated that MENA (Middle East and North Africa) area itself having solar capacity to supply three times the whole world energy present demand.

Then what is stopping in using these resources is the common question which evolves. The rough estimate of installing a MW of Thermal based power is 4 crores; while wind energy is 6 crores and solar energy is 8 crores (All in INR). This finance economics is what disrupting in putting up solar and wind power stations. It should be remembered that man is the creator of this world and developments. With the increase in usage and research in these fields would make these to compete with the non-renewables as it is evident from the decrease in the wind power cost in the past decade. All that is needed from global leaders is good and encouraging political support for the renewables. At present so, much push has been given by the global governments for the renewables but, this is not enough to keep the global temperature within the ceilings.

Forest covers shall be increased and environmental costs shall be levied on the use of fossil fuels to boost up the renewables. India has recently come up in their budget of levying INR 50 per tonne as the clean energy cess on coal produced or imported into India. Of course this is not enough and will not solve all the problems which India is facing now but, its the first step in making renewables more usable and competitive.

At present, world electricity production is 19.25 trillion kWh (2007 est.) and its growing at a much pacer rate than the increase in growth rate of world GDP. We shall harness all the renewables to boost up the world economy and to have a better life on this earth by getting rid of the global warming.

We need countries like Abu Dhabi, who are very much committed to renewable energies even if they are pretty much rich with fossil fuel resources. Established in April 2006, Masdar (the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company) is a multi-faceted company advancing the development, commercialization and deployment of renewable energy solutions and clean technologies. Masdar integrates the full renewable and clean technology lifecycle - from research to commercial deployment with the aim of creating scalable clean energy solutions. And initiatives like the worlds first zero-carbon city are being built in Abu Dhabi and are designed to be not only free of cars and skyscrapers but also powered by the sun.

Another interesting fact about the consumption of meat and its impact on increased global temperature. The 400 page United Nations report has identified the growing herds of cattle / goats / pigs / sheep / chickens as the greatest threat to the climate.
Methane is one of the green house gases which is causing this global warming. Its an easy problem to deal with. It is produced from 4 main sources livestock and livestock manure, rice farming, coal mining and landfills. In all the international treaties that have come and are coming like the one in Copenhagen, the developing world has tried its best to keep methane out of the debate. And they have succeeded because the west is justifiably guilt ridden about their carbon dioxide emissions. But the time has come for both the developed and developing world to recognize that reducing methane is the quickest way to stop global warming.

Methane concentrations have doubled in the last century and by now they are 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. While carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 31% during the past 200 years, methane has increased by 149%. What makes methane so lethal is that it may be less than carbon dioxide but it is 23 times more efficient in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Methane has a large effect for a brief period (8.4 years in the atmosphere), whereas carbon dioxide has a small effect for a long period. That means if we stop generating methane today, we will see the effect almost immediately.

The methane emissions for India, China and Brazil have doubled since 1990 and are expected to go up by 40% by 2020. There is only one reason and it is not an increase in coal mining or in landfills. It is because these countries grow animals for meat and milk.

In developing countries, the number of people eating meat and the amount they are eating every year has risen steadily. Between 1970 and 2002, annual per capita meat consumption in developing countries rose from 11 kilograms to 29 kilograms, according to the FAO. In developed countries, it has risen from 65 kilos to over 100 kilos. The annual global meat production will double from 229 million tons in 2000 to 465 million tons in 2050.

Livestock produce 23% of all methane because the fermentation in their intestines produces methane gas in the animals and their manure. A single dairy cow produces between 550-700L of methane a day
The worlds top destroyer of the atmosphere is not the car or the factory it is the meat eating human. And this monster is on the rise.

A meat eater contributes 1.5 tonnes more of greenhouse gases per year than a vegetarian. This means that our diet change will make more difference than if we replace our standard petrol car for an efficient hybrid car, which reduces annual greenhouse emissions by roughly one ton a year. Indias livestock of roughly 485 million contributes more to global warming than our vehicles - 11.75 million metric tons per year up from 9 million metric tons in 1994.

These cattle, pigs and sheep, chicken, goats did not want to be born we created them. They do not want to be killed but we kill them to eat. In the process, we are killing the planet. Their wind and manure are warming the world 23 times faster than carbon dioxide.
Be aware of the facts about global warming; educate our friends and fellows. Let us save our planet.

Murali Kashyap
Helsinki, Finland
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Tags: rapid pace, coral reefs, tropical areas, greenhouse gas emissions, kyoto protocol, animals and plants, degree celsius, temperature difference, heat waves, precautionary steps, green house gases, burning of fossil fuels