Are we aboard a giant Titanic ship the size of Earth, which has collided with a mountain called Global Warming in the middle of the ocean and is now left to sink? Can the ruling politicians, entrepreneurs and officials overseeing the arrangement of this ship do nothing more than deny the issue and leave it for a long time and look around? If we look at the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s largest government body that measures environmental change, it seems something similar.
Focus on ‘Net Zero’
Three working groups of the IPCC have been working in this regard since 2016. The first working group says, based on 22,000 worldwide studies, that the changes we are seeing in the environment can no longer be reversed, they can only be slowed. What are these changes? Arctic sea ice is currently at its lowest level in the last 1000 years. A recent study showed that the Kara Sea, a part of the Arctic adjoining central Siberia, has seen more rainfall in India just before rabi sowing due to the absence of ice for a large part of the year. Due to this the yield of wheat-barley, gram-pea and mustard decreases.
The rate of shrinkage of glaciers is the highest in the last 2000 years. The native aspect of this is that the contraction of the Gomukh glacier will make the Ganges a rainy river in some year of the current century itself. The sea level has gone up in the last hundred years as much as it did not in the last 3000 years. This has doubled the incidence of coastal submergence since the 1960s. We see this disaster in the desertification of the Sundarbans. There may not be any permanent settlements there for the next decade.
In such a situation, the only question remains that what can be done as soon as possible. The government’s job is to play cheeks, they will continue to play. No one votes in the name of stopping global warming. If they go out to do something, there is a danger of getting angry with the entrepreneurs, the funding of the party may be reduced. If someone closes the factory on the plea of increasing the expenditure, then there will be an allegation of increasing unemployment, the defeat in the election will be confirmed. So it happens that the departments engaged in environment and wildlife protection are taken to the shore and told that if there is any obstacle in any project, they should not put it. Votes are obtained by expanding the scope of cities, building roads, railways and ports. Trucks move, new cars come out, factories smoke a lot, so growth is visible.
This is Titanic Management. Nothing can be done about it. But the IPCC report is very clear on this. By the end of the century, if the average temperature of the world increased by one and a half degrees or less than in 1850, there is some hope, if it increases by two degrees there is no hope. Some independent reports are saying that there is no longer any talk of controlling the temperature increase by one and a half degrees. Think of ways to keep it below two degrees. But the IPCC is a government body created by 195 governments. It has not been formed to spread hopelessness. It clearly says – bring net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. Net emissions means that even if some carbon dioxide is released, then take measures to absorb it.
It is useless to expect anything in this regard from governments and entrepreneurs who are compelled by the greed of power and profits. There should be a coincidence that reducing carbon emissions increases profits, like setting up solar power plants has become a profitable business now, or people get so upset that instead of caste-religion and other nonsense, they vote to reduce smoke and increase forest. So governments and entrepreneurs will also adopt the agenda of stopping global warming. But the only good thing that has happened in this regard in the last twenty years is that technologies that create alternatives to carbon emissions have become much stronger and cheaper. Some of these effects are already visible and hopefully by the middle of the next decade we will see their miracles.
In such technologies, one gets to read something new every day on solar, wind and tidal energy. Areas with black roofs are beginning to appear in the southern rural areas of Europe and America. These roofs are made of solar panels that convert up to 20% of sunlight into electricity and, once installed, last for 20 years. Techniques involving wind power and tidal energy are showing good results in the north-east shallow seas of Britain and China. In two-four years, there will be no need to burn coal or gas for electricity not only here but also in their neighboring areas.
Fusion energy will come
The biggest commercial action is seen in battery-powered trucks and cars, which Tesla currently has a monopoly on. Its owner Elon Musk makes fun of hydrogen fuel. But green hydrogen made from sea water and solar energy is about to hit the market. As its quantity increases, the joke will come on Musk himself. The world is waiting for the production of fusion energy by 2035, for which the basic structure of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) was built in 2020 and will be ready in 2024.
So sharp cuts in carbon emissions by 2050 are not impossible. The next task is to plant billions of trees each year and suck up carbon dioxide by chemical means. The Biden government is subsidizing $85 per ton of carbon recycling. Other governments should also give.
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.