Climate Change: 21st Century’s Grand Challenge

Till now, “Climate change” was a featured Hollywood subject, many movies and stories has been shown to all of us. Be it in form of “Day After tomorrow” or “2012” etc. Currently observed, unprecedented Climate shifts is attracting a lot of attention on the back on Amazon fires and Australian fires. We all are cognizant of the fact that our climate is hanging a delicate balance. So, how can we fight it ?

Let’s think of some inventions that help fight climate change. What came to your mind first? I bet you thought of solar panels and wind turbines. In my experience, that’s what people point to when they think about reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Whilst, you’re not wrong. Renewables sources of energy are getting cheaper and many countries and communities are committing to rely more on them and less on fossil fuels for their electricity needs. That’s good news, at least in places that get a lot of sunlight or wind. Everyone who cares about climate change should hope we continue to de-carbonize the way we generate electricity.

Do you think that is enough? Unfortunately, it isn’t. Let’s see where these greenhouse gases are coming from.

According to the survey from “United States Environmental Protection Agency [US-EPA]” the following are the chief contributors to greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

  1. Electricity Generation (25%): Although there has been progress in usage of renewable sources of energy, still there are leaps and bounds to be covered before we completely de-carbonize our electricity generation processes. Simultaneously, one needs to work on an efficient grid designs and systems to efficiently deliver electricity at the doorstep. This implies, if we magically produce world electricity demand without producing a single ounce of carbon, we will be only solving for 25% of the problem.
  2. Agriculture and Forestry (24%): Surprising, isn’t it!!. Greenhouse gases and emissions from this sector comes from cultivation practices, livestock and deforestation. In addition, deforestation—clearing land for crops, for instance—removes trees that pull CO2 out of the air, and when the trees are burned, they release all their carbon back into the atmosphere.
  3. Industrial Activities (21%): Look around yourself, the plastic, metal, textile and organic material requires a lot of energy from fossil fuels and they do release a lot of carbon as by-product which adds on the carbon bill of the world.
  4. Transportation (14%): Again, fossil fuels burnt for various modes of transportation be it cars, planes, ships or even railways. With advent of e-commerce and affluence of middle class, transportation emissions have increased materially over time.
  5. Buildings (6%): Do you live or work in a place with air conditioning? The refrigerant inside your AC unit is a greenhouse gas. In addition, it takes a lot of energy to run air conditioners, heaters, lights, and other appliances. Things like more-efficient windows and insulation would help. This area will be more important over the next few decades as the global population moves to cities. The world’s building stock will double in area by 2060. That’s like adding another New York City every month for 40 years

 

Bill Gates calls “Climate Change” as one of the grand challenges of 21st century. As we all know, the world’s middle class has been growing at an unprecedented rate, and as you move up the income ladder, your carbon footprint expands. Instead of walking everywhere, you are now driving. Eventually, you can travel farther from home to work a better job and afford to send your kids to better schools. Your family eats more eggs, meat, and dairy, so they get better nutrition. You’re in the market for a refrigerator, electric lights so your kids can study at night, and a sturdy home built with metal and concrete.

Such new consumption does translate into tangible improvements in people’s lives. It is good for the world overall — but it will be very bad for the climate, unless we find ways to do it without adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

The challenge in front of all of us is, how energy isn’t just what runs your house and your car. It’s core to nearly every part of your life: the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the home you live in, the products you use.

To stop the planet from getting substantially warmer, we need seismic breakthroughs in how we make things, grow food, and move people and goods—not just how we power our homes and cars without impacting the delicate balance of environment.

So, What’s expected from you and me? What can we really do?

 

  • Talk about it more often – Talk to your friends and families about this topic more often. Due to repetitions, this might lead of change in behaviour in daily lives. 
  • Pursue Vegetarianism – As you know, a chicken which feeds 2 people for 1 meal eats 25-30kg of grains. These grains can easily feed a family of 4 for a month. So, if you try and change your eating habits it will help your health and solve for food crisis and energy crisis.
  • Use of sustainable infrastructure – To reduce the CO2 emissions from buildings – caused by heating, air conditioning, hot water or lighting – it is necessary both to build new low energy/green buildings, and to renovate the existing constructions.
  • Energy Efficiency: Producing clean energy is essential but reducing our consumption of energy and water by using more efficient devices (e.g. LED light bulbs, innovative shower system) is less costly and equally important.
  • Promote Renewables: While renewable energy is getting cheaper day-by-day. One would expect to move away from fossil fuels for energy requirements.
  • Plant more trees: Fix the aerial carbon in form of trees which helps to clean the air.

 

What is the dream?

Not sure, will I be alive to live the dream. The dream is:

  • Humans completely move away from burning fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy forms gifted from the heavens.
  • Everyone plants trees on their birthdays and anniversaries to commemorate the special occasions.
  • Architects and builders can develop and deliver sustainable and energy efficient infrastructure
  • Scientific community can seismically innovate to significantly change the human lifestyle
  • Humans can reduce the meat consumption and rely more on plant-based diets for nutrition.

 

Nihit Mohan

 

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Who is Nihit Mohan?

Nihit Mohan is a banker, author and a TEDx speaker. He was born & raised in the cradle of cultural diversity of India, & currently resides in Singapore. He did his education from seven schools spread across multiple cities & cultures. He is an engineer by education & has made a successful career in the financial services industry. He hails from a family of engineers, bureaucrats & academicians.

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