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Read Current Affairs Topic: India’s Challenges Over Carbon Foot Print
Carbon footprint is the term used to explain the impact of greenhouse gases (GHGs), released in the atmosphere as a result of direct or indirect activities of the humans. These GHGs are responsible for the global warming which further leads to the climate change. The primary GHGs in the earth’s atmosphere are carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapour (H2O), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), ozone (O3) and chlorofluorocarbons. Of these six GHG gases, CO2 is the dominant one released into the atmosphere by power stations, vehicle emissions, fuel burning at homes etc.
The concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere has increased from 280ppm before the industrial revolution in 1750 to 406 ppm in 2017. CH4 is released by agriculture and land fill sites, is 25 times more potent per kg than CO2.
The increasing concentration of GHG in the atmosphere is increasing the mean temperature of the earth and according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), if the global mean temperature increased by 20C above the pre-industrial revolution levels, the damage will be irreversible and with the current rate of emissions, the threshold will be crossed not later than 2050. Therefore, the climate change and global warming is no more academicians pass time and it is a real threat which is going to affect each and every living being on the planet.
Today, all the countries across the world (except for Syria and the US), recognise the threat of global warming and have joined hands to collective deal with the climate change. India, which is a tropical country, will be one of the worst affected countries from the climate change. Global warming had already accelerated the melting of glaciers in Himalayas which resulted in increased frequency and gravity of floods and droughts. Melting of Antarctic ice will also led to the rise of sea level which will adversely affect the ecosystem of the coastal states. It is also an undisputed fact that disadvantageous sections of the populations, who have least contribution in the GHG emission, will be the worst affected from impact of climate change. As the widespread poverty still exists in India, the effects of climate change caused by increasing carbon footprints will be catastrophic.
What is more worrisome is that the fight against carbon footprint comes with exorbitant costs. The cost of clean technology is much higher than the traditional technology and if developing countries switched to new technology, their development plans would derail. Therefore, they are asking the developed world, which is historically responsible for the maximum carbon footprint, to share the cost. For instance, if India plans to remove all its coal based power plants, then it would have to part away with more than 50% of the power which will not only derail the economy but will also have a social cost because the rural electrification programme will be stopped and it would be mostly poor who would be left under the dark. Thus, the gist is, damned if you fight the climate change and damned if you don’t. Therefore, one should not be surprised if India goes jittery over the increasing carbon footprint.
Currently all the concerned developing countries are passing through this dilemma. While it is true that climate change needs immediate redressal, but its solution only lies in gradual transformation because sudden change will be more much more harmful for the human lives than carbon footprints itself. Nevertheless, collective as well as individual efforts of different countries have started showing some positive effects. In 2016, the global carbon footprint remained static and all the major emitting nations except India saw falling or static carbon emissions. However, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said keeping emissions flat was not enough to prevent global temperatures from increasing by more than 20 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
To fight the challenge of climate change, apart from the Government of India, around 50 out of the top 200 listed companies, have set voluntary reduction targets of carbon footprints. Indian Railways have set the target of producing 1GW of renewable energy by 2022. According to the former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, decreasing the carbon footprint of trains is not just good for the environment but good economics as well. Just by switching from diesel to electricity, a train like the Rajdhani Express can save up to INR 20 million a year. Indian Railways is currently the single-largest consumer of diesel in the country.
Now the foremost challenge for India is to gradually reduce the share of coal based power plants in total energy generation. Besides, it must also ensure the undisrupted power supply because use of diesel gensets not only causes pollution or carbon footprint for that matter, but also proves costly. Since, the power plants and vehicle emission are the two most dominant sources of GHG emissions, the government should also gradually promote the battery or electricity based cars. The UK is mulling a ban on new diesel and petrol cars in 2040. Though this idea currently seems unfeasible for India but it should try improve the indigenous clean fuel technology to reduce the carbon foot print.
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