Save the planet from choking on Carbon

Save the planet from choking on Carbon
It is not just a metaphor that the planet is choked on carbon; it literally is. The latest research by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) shows that carbon concentration in the atmosphere has dramatically risen since 1984- from 2ppm a year to all of a sudden 3ppm in 2013. This is a 50 per cent increase. Climate scientists are baffled by this out-of-the-blue growth in the face of all that the world, world institutions and world governments have been doing to reverse the rate of carbon emissions.

One explanation of this abrupt surge is that the biosphere and the oceans, which have long been the sink of excess carbon, can no longerabsorb it, as they appear to have reached their absorptive limits. As a result, surplus carbon has escaped into the atmosphere, dramatically raising the rate of concentration from 2ppm a year to suddenly 3ppm in 2013.

A trillion dollar question that follows from the fugitive carbon emissions is this: Is it a one-off phenomenon, or is it the foremost signal of a pattern to form? If it is the latter, the world will be watching, with a sinking feeling, the rate of emissions in 2014 and afterwards to detect the emerging pattern. Should carbon emissions rise to 3ppm again in 2014 or even higher, that will be the dire news for the planet and its inhabitants. The total accumulation of atmospheric carbon has already crossed the commonly believed safe threshold of 350ppm to surpass 400pm– in 2013– a level reached’for the first time in 3 million years history of the planet Earth.’ This means world efforts to keep global mean warming under 2 degree Celsius by 2100 to save the planet from burning up may come to grief.

Is It All Doom And Gloom?

In this hopeless situation, the world’s future seems to rest with three global actors: North America (Canada and the United States particularly), Europe-27 (a grouping of 27 affluent nations of the continent), and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) with their respective GDP of $18 trillion (2013), $17.3 trillion (2013), and$14trillion (2012). These regions account for almost 66 per cent of the global economy of $73.9 trillion in 2013. North America is astonishingly falling behind on its commitment to a binding treaty on climate change.

Canada has found a new religion in the tar sands that will keep it hooked to a carbon-intensive growth for a foreseeable future. Yet subnational and sub-federal governments (i.e., state/provincial and city governments) in both countries are going beyond the dictates of Kyoto Protocol to cut back on carbon emissions. Similarly, Europe is overcompensating the shortfall of North American national governments, as it has already voluntarily agreed to reducing emissions far below the level of 1990, a threshold that is required to reach by all future signatory nations to a binding treaty on climate change.

In parallel, a realization is sinking in among the BRICS that growth will mean little if their future is fraught with mega disasters from warming of the planet. They are turning, although gingerly, to alternative green energy from such resources as sunshine, wind and water with which they are naturally endowed. These resources are worth trillions of barrels of oil, and quadrillions of cubic meters of gas. The State of Rajasthan in India, for instance, is a ‘nature-made solar park’ that alone can light up the entire south Asia. If there were developed markets in green futures, Rajasthan would be worth more than all the gold reserves in the world!! Similarly, Brazil, Russia and China are each continents to themselves in regard to their territorial heft. Brazil is home to the Amazon in whose health is anchored the future of ‘God’s green earth.

‘Russia’s hundreds of millions of acres of ‘black soil’ can turn the country into the world’s grain silo. In the midst of this plentitude, the BRICS cannot afford to sit on these resources and let their economies and societies choke themselves to ruin from carbon pollution and climate breakdown.

Solar Future Is Here To Embrace
With solar power becoming a reality as the cost of its production is consistently dropping, making it ever morecost-effective and cost-competitive, there is every reason to believe that solar future is here to be embraced. No wonder that China alone has committed to invest $267 billion in renewable energy, an investment that is many times that of the rest of the world combined.

The sheer size of this investment wowed the British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who told his fellow Liberal Democrats, just as a teacher would tell her arithmetically challenged students, that the Chinese investment of $276bn in green energy production is larger than the entire Finish economy.
More importantly, China is on the way to becoming world leader in solar power technology, especially one that is cheap, fast and mass-produced. China, whose President Xi Jinping recently concluded a state visit to India, is already combining its hardware power with its neighbor’s software prowess to reshape the planet.

As a first major step, China will invest $20bn in building the Indian low-carbon urban infrastructure, such as high-speed bullet trains. It seems the reality of carbon pollution and warming of the planet itself has become instructive enough to move world nations in the cleaner and greener direction, regardless of what comes out of the climate summit in New York.

By arrangement with Down To Earth
Tarique Niazi

Tarique Niazi

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