Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Global warming - A reality

Al Gore and Rajendra Pachauri were awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace prize for their efforts in fighting global warming. This was a bold move by the Nobel committee and has highlighted with enough significance the importance of tackling this anthropogenic problem. Up till now this issue was floating around in different round table meets, different international conventions. Nothing major has happened with US and China - the two biggest contributors to global warming - not taking any serious decisions or efforts to reduce their emissions.

But is this an issue where decisions/actions have to be taken only by the heads of countries or international organizations. No it is not. On the contrary, this issue calls for the concerted efforts of all the citizens of planet earth. One might ask how he/she can make the Chinese Premier take a positive stand regarding this. No you might not and you need not. All you have to do is play your part in fighting this problem.

Now what are the ways in which you could be contributing to CO2 emissions?. Simply put, every action you perform and every resource you consume costs the environment in terms of the amount of CO2 emitted due to your action or emitted during the production of that resource. There are two ways in which people contribute to CO2 emissions. By increasing the amount of CO2 emitted(positive CO2 emissions) - say for example by burning fossil fuels. The second way is by reducing CO2 absorptions - for example when you cut down a tree you reduce the total CO2 absorption capacity by as much as what a tree can absorb.

Consider for example you taking the elevator. Elevator consumes energy and producing that energy would have resulted in some CO2 emissions. You might argue that the electricity came from hydro-electric power. But every unit of hydro electric power you consume takes out as many units of clean energy available for use by everybody and puts a demand of as many units of non-clean energy that resulted in CO2 emissions while being produced.

Take another example - automobiles. In this case the translation to CO2 cost is more direct as you emit CO2 directly when you drive your automobiles. As with the elevator, wherever you consume energy there is a CO2 emission associated with that. Now coming to tangible items - when you use a sheet of paper you are contributing to global warming by having created that demand for that extra sheet of paper that created the requirement to cut down a tree somewhere on earth and contributing to negative CO2 absorptions. If you argue that the paper was recycled the counter argument would be that recycling takes up energy that in turn has a CO2 emissions cost.

Like paper, any other resource you consume/use/dispose (eg: food, clothes, plastic) has a CO2 emission cost. Even if you recycle resources there is still a CO2 emission cost, although it would be much lower than the cost of creating the resource in the first place. So what is the solution? What are the ways in which a common man can play a role in fighting global warming?

Effectively every human action contributes in one way or another towards global warming. This is the problem and the solution is also in this statement. Moderation is the simple way in which anybody can fight global warming. Moderation in terms of consumption of energy and resources. Increasing efficiency of processes, reusing & recycling resources are auxiliary steps that can help in this fight. We cannot altogether stop consuming energy and resources. But we should try to limit our consumption as much as possible.

Contrary to the theory of consumerism, an application of moderation would be the most beneficial aspect to global economy as a whole. The cost of global warming will become too high to be negated by any levels of economic growth resulting from crass consumerism.


  1. Hi Anoop
    Good to see your blog articles coming regularly. I look forward to reading them. Reg global warming , even some very minor things, which if done consciously will contribute when the cumulative effect is taken on a global scale.
    My friend , Krishnadas's favourite topic is the power consumed by today's PC's. He is of the firm conviction that for the tasks performed by 90% of the PC users, the old 486 PC with 32 MB RAM is more than enough. It consumed only 150W (SMPS Capacity). Just see the SMPS capacities of the minimum configuration PC's sold today and you can see the effect of his argument.
    And switching off PC when not in use will save so much when taken cumulatively (I have seen in many households where the PC is simply left on for hours together).
    Hope people wake up before it is too late in our own lifetime.



  2. Srikanth
    Thanks for the encouragement.
    Regarding the power savings with PCs - yes it makes sense. The only real problem would be with the reluctance by the common man to move back to anything they think is technologically inferior, even if it is not going to make any difference to their usage.
    But the switching-off/stand-by/hibernation options should be something that could make a real impact. The same concept applies for other electronic/electrical devices like lights/fans/TV/radio etc.

    This article says that 40% of the global energy usage is used by equipments in standby mode. I am not too sure about the 40% part but yes that is definitely a waste that can be cut down.