Discover more from The UnEarth Bulletin
Is There Hope?
My Question this Week
The planet will become warmer by 1.5 degrees centigrade within the next few decades rued the UNEP. We will probably cross the 2-degree criteria as well since some natural processes would also have been unleashed that will add to the CO2 released by humanity. The planet will therefore be much warmer with a more volatile climate, there will be fewer lifeforms left, and economies will need to incur significant environmental costs in their day-to-day operations.
Is there any hope of avoiding this outcome? No. Most large developing countries will need to fend for themselves for both funds and technologies are missing. And so prevention is failing. Some are therefore calling out to focus on cures. Geo-engineering and reduced consumption come to mind; each would be ineffective at best and disastrous at worst. Geo-engineering either involves using mechanical, chemical, or biological means to suck and store CO2 out of the atmosphere or use reflective gases and particles to reflect sunrays back into space. This might cool the Earth but no one really knows of the side effects of such ‘cures’. Reduced consumption on a global scale would probably be worse, as it will lead to a large reduction in incomes and job opportunities, negative economic growth, macroeconomic instability, and all that goes with it.
So now all we are left with is hope - it is not doomsday yet, humanity would probably be able to adapt and survive even this. And while we wait for low-cost, low-carbon technologies to arrive, better to focus on adapting to a warmer and more dangerous planet. That seems to be the only way ahead, right?
My Views this Week
Not just in Gujarat, but across India, stray cattle numbers are increasing due to more effective and widespread cow slaughter bans. Unable to afford the upkeep of non-productive cattle, their owners leave them to forage for themselves and they end up consuming crops, forest flora, plastics in garbage dumps, etc. Gaushalas (cattle shelters) are the only solution. The state obviously needs to provide for them which the courts seem to be finally recognizing.
Researchers at the Reserve Bank of India have estimated India’s green GDP, which essentially adjusts for environmental damage incurred in the process of economic growth. It finds that the damage is reducing as a share of total GDP and therefore green GDP is growing faster than conventional GDP. Of course, many will criticize the assumptions in such an estimate. But that would be healthy; in that back-and-forth process, we would be able to devise a much better method of gauging economic growth than the heartless soul-less GDP. Well done, RBI!
Microsoft President Brad Smith has rightly pointed out the inability of companies to meet their climate pledges. And given that the monitoring and enforcement of such actions are largely missing, it is but natural that many firms will resort to greenwashing. A new global initiative that both assists and enforces companies to meet their climate pledges is the critical need of the hour, or the pledges will remain merely on paper.
As we monitor the environment more, we find more and more GHG sources that had previously gone unnoticed. Super-emitters include ‘oil fields, pipelines, landfills, animal feedlots, and other facilities that emit methane at unusually high rates.' Most of these are man-made and therefore can be dealt with relatively easily at the country level. Source monitoring lies at the heart of any comprehensive emission reduction program and it is heartening to see new technologies lend a hand.
Increasingly reports are pointing to overconsumption at the heart of the climate challenge. The problem, however, is that reducing consumption could be extremely harmful to economic well-being. Merely reducing consumption is not the answer, the solution lies in replacing high-carbon consumption with low-carbon alternatives. Many are calling for carbon-based taxation, but that will only work if there are low-carbon and low-cost alternatives. In other words, it is not the prices, but technology that will save humanity.