Saturday, October 09, 2010

350 - Our Survival Buzzword


This isn't the kind of stuff I usually blog about, but it's high time I used whatever little reach I have from my blog to voice some collective concerns about our rising carbon footprint. Months back, I started following an organisation called 350.org. The premise is quite simple - our carbon footprint is increasing steadily at a rate of 2 particles per million (ppm) each year. We're already way above the healthy limit of carbon in the atmosphere - 350 ppm. Given our current reading of 392 ppm, in two decades we're going to see some pretty drastic consequences if we don't act fast. What could some of those consequences be? Let's take a look:
  • Rising sea levels are likely to wipe out little countries and islands like Maldives. That means several people displaced from their homes, several people dying.
  • The earth is going to be a far hotter and inhospitable place for life - the greenhouse effect
  • Melting glaciers and ice-caps are going to create several domino effects on our climate and bio-diversity.
  • The extreme heat is likely to cause an overheating of the earth's crust, leading to earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions and what not.
  • The extreme heat is likely to lead to the worst droughts imaginable. In 2008, Australia has already suffered one it's worst droughts in a 1000 years!
  • Forest fires are going to become more and more common, leading to a huge loss of flora and fauna.
We could keep going, but I guess it's safe to say that the potential effects are quite scary. Now we can argue that all of this is conjecture and I'll stand on your side if you say that - no problem. The question I still want to ask is -- will you risk even a small chance that your next generation will not be able to see and enjoy this world as you do today? Just as my grandparents did for my parents and my parents did for me, I want to give my children (not here yet) an opportunity for a better life than I lead. I for one, am not going to leave that to chance. So I'm putting my stake in the ground and taking a stance. And frankly, so should everyone else because at the very minimum it takes nothing more than making a little noise.

We can all do our little bits
In 2006, Al Gore talked about averting a climate crisis and urged individuals to do the little things that could make a difference. The fact is that the developed world needs to take a lead in this as the developing world tries to catch up. Even by looking at the good old 80/20 rule, we can tell that we need to put our effort where the highest impact is. An example here is that each US citizen puts out 20 tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year! That's a whopping amount considering that people in India and Africa don't even put out a ton each year. The global average is five tons per person!

But the point isn't about who's responsible. The point is more that we all should do our bit, simply because we can. Take a shower instead of a bath, ride a two wheeler instead of driving a four-wheeler, join a carpool, go solar where you can, buy fuel efficient lighting, buy carbon offsets when you travel, raise awareness through social media, create political pressure. Every little effort makes a difference.

We can Innovate to Zero Emissions!
Frankly, the technology is out there. Bill Gates pointed this out in his TED talk about innovating to zero carbon emissions by exploiting carbon free energy sources. This is a crucial bit of investment that developed countries need to make, so they can bring down their emissions and then set the tone for technology adoption in developing countries. That said, the governments will have no incentive to do this if we don't make enough of a noise about it. It's a fairly simple equation - the carbon footprint will keep increasing as more people have access to services. The widespread availability of technology is a good thing and we can ensure that our growth remains sustainable as long as we can fund the research that'll bring down carbon emissions substantially in the next three or four decades. Your voice counts in making this research funding meaningful for governments to invest in.
The reason I'm blogging about this today is because today's the Global Work Party. Starting now, people at 7347 events in 188 countries are getting to work on the climate crisis. You can join one of these events as well. It's never too late! Make people hear your voice, raise awareness -- here's your way to change the world in a small way!

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