What is Climate Change?
It is well known that ‘Green-Houses’ are structures designed to trap sun’s heat to maintain warm temperature within them. A similar mechanism is working for the entire planet where a specific mix of gases; like carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, etc. in the atmosphere; help to maintain earth average temperature at about 15°C.
This stable environment has remained so for thousands of years, thanks to the self-adjusting processes of nature. However; since the industrial revolution, human activities have increasingly added large amounts of CO2 equivalent gases (CO2eq) to the atmosphere where they persist for decades and centuries.
This excessive carbon concentration of about 410 ppm level has already happened, mainly due to excessive burning of fossil fuels to meet the growing requirement of Energy of the modern civilization.
This is the era of ‘Anthropocene’ where human activities have dominated and influenced the Earth Ecosystem. The scale of this human caused emission of CO2eq is now reaching levels beyond the nature’s capacity of self-adjusting. And this is causing a slow build-up in world average temperature – the ‘Global Warming’.
Global Warming and Climate Change also affect weather, seasons, temperature, rainfall, freshwater distribution, coast lines, oceanic currents, etc. All these factors drastically affect the ecosystems and even survival of species, including humans.
Why Collective Approach?
Since ‘Climate’ or ‘Weather’ does not recognize regional or national boundaries, any effective action must involve ‘Global’ cooperation. And that begins with regional cooperation and national consolidation of desired climate actions.
The UN-sponsored IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change), is a participative process, working to alert global communities for consolidated action towards mitigating global warming in order to prevent catastrophic climate change. Hence there is a need for collective efforts for effective global level achievements.
Greater Pune, with about 8 million population by 2030, will be a sizably large community and its climate performance can make a very substantial contribution to India’s commitments. The ‘Climate Collective Pune’ is thus an effort to consolidate timely Climate Action in and around Pune region with a view to rapidly move towards ‘Net Carbon Neutrality’ by 2030 and thereby serve as a Role-model for other Indian cities.
The starting point for the desired collective action would be to enhancing ‘Climate Awareness’ across the city region to generate a peoples’ movement for a new focus on environmental preservation. This should reduce the ‘Ecological Footprint’ of human activities as well as the ‘Carbon Footprint’ across all important sectors such as Urban Planning or Constructions activities, Energy consumption sector, Transportation services, Water conservation, Waste management and Biodiversity Conservation.
While basic action must begin with every individual, proper awareness regarding what are the problems and what can be done at a household level or community level is the starting point for meaningful collective Climate Action. This Spirit should then get extended further to include educational institutions, communities, industries or commercial entities as well as local governments.
WHAT IS THE STATUS? WHY THE URGENCY?
Since the industrial revolution; and more so in last 50 years, human energy consumption has emitted enormous amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) like CO2 (equivalent), which accumulate in the atmosphere that has now reached alarming levels as opposed to known figures in the pre-industrial era. This is unprecedented in the history of mankind and signals an unknown area.
As recently reported by IPCC (Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change), there is need for urgent global action to slow-down further warming to limit the temperature rise to 1.50C above pre-industrial average to avoid certain tipping-points of Nature, beyond which island nations may disappear or become increasingly unliveable for humans and all human habitations will face some sort of Climate Change Impact.
As per the current pathway, it looks likely that Earth may be 30C hotter than normal by the year 2100. But there is still time to avert such a catastrophe by swiftly moving away from fossil fuels and changing to a low-carbon economy with new lifestyle practices; besides using technology and innovation for removing GHG from the atmosphere.
WHY CITIES MUST TAKE LEADERSHIP ROLE?
Major contributors to global warming are the urban population centres with high per-capita emission and hence, serious mitigation actions must begin there. As citizens and collective groups like neighbourhoods and city-dwellers, we play an important role by making the right choices and demands. As internet activist, Wael Ghonim quotes; “the power of the people is much stronger than the people in power.”
Citizen groups provide a healthy representation of people from different backgrounds, ages and expertise. They facilitate collective action and engagement by involving more people; helping everyone to be better informed and thus safeguarding the interests of the future generations, that would face very severe climate if we do not act now.
Climate Awareness and Collective Action is the only way forward to preserve Nature for the health and well-being of mankind and all other species in the future.
What Role do Governments play?
Firstly, any local, regional or national government plays an important role in influencing and inspiring citizens to take Climate Action i.e. to lead by example. This can be achieved only by adopting a comprehensive approach and designing policies that can encourage and support emission reduction and systemic resilience towards Climate Change Impacts.
Local governments play a crucial role in planning the infrastructure in accordance with necessary land-use, environmental and development regulations. This ought to be done taking into account the local expertise in city planning and citizen participation in policy decision-making etc. Local governments can provide most appropriate and targeted solutions to specific local issues to avoid randomly investing in general measures without knowing the output.
In order to complete and hopefully exceed the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) proposed by India at the Paris conference, all local governments will have to plan and execute policies supporting low-carbon practices.
The best chance to make city infrastructure carbon-friendly is by adopting a methodical approach of –
- Inventorying existing major sources of emissions
- Identifying emission reduction goals and identifying feasible targets
- Predicting challenges and changing strategies in case of failures
- Using Emission Calculators and Modelling Tools
- Monitoring enforcement of the declared policies
- Understanding and regularly tracking success of adopted strategies
- Attending to the economic support throughout the implementation
Long-buried fossil fuels from Arctic Lakes are being released into the atmosphere
It is known for few years now that arctic lakes are melting at alarming rates. In a study conducted in Alaska a stranger discovery was made. Some lakes are emitting methane in very large proportions as compared to the other lakes in the vicinity.
This is due to presence of carbon deposits in these lakes which are now being released into the atmosphere. Methane is much more potent than carbon dioxide in Global warming and hence will have tremendous impact if released in large proportions.
Scientists worry that emissions from such lakes will accelerate thawing of Permafrost, which will lead to more emissions of the methane gas which is currently trapped in it. It is known that high rise in temperature will lead to crossing of the tipping point beyond which human intervention will not help to avoid Climate Change or its catastrophic impacts. Updated on 29th Sept 2018
CLIMATE CHANGE: FACT OR FICTION
In a TED talk delivered by Bruce Wielicki at TEDxNASA, he effectively explains the importance of accuracy of scientific data, public information and policy-making for meaningful Climate Change Mitigation, Adaption and Resilience for a sustainable future. Updated on 24th September 2014