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New Delhi, 14 December 2006

       Disastrous Gas Emissions


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

reenhouse gas emissions by industrialized nations rose to the highest levels in 2004 since the early 90s and governments must do more to fight global warming, according to the UN climate change secretariat. Emissions by 40 nations, including bashers of caps under the UN Kyoto Protocol and outsiders, led by the United States, rose to 17.9 billion tonnes in 2004. There is a unanimous feeling that industrialized nations will need to intensify efforts to implement strong policies which reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The rise put overall emissions, mainly from burning fossils fuels in power plants, factories and cars, just 3.3 per cent below 18.6 billion tonnes in the Kyoto benchmark year of 1990. This was the highest since soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, defying efforts at cuts meant to avert disastrous changes such as more floods, erosion, heat waves and higher sea levels. It may be mentioned here that 35 countries have agreed to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol by about five per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12.

Meanwhile, a British government report has reiterated that global warming will devastate the world economy. Echoing this, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said unabated climate change would eventually cost the world the equivalent of between five and 20 per cent of global gross domestic product each year. He called for bold and decisive actions to cut carbon emissions and stem the world of the temperature rise.

The report emphasised that global warming can only be fought with the cooperation of major countries such as the US and China and represents a huge contrast to the Bush Administration’s wait and use global warming policies. According to Sir Nicholas Stern, government economist and author of the report, acting now to cut greenhouse gas emissions would cost around one per cent of global GDP each year.

The need for a low carbon economy has been very aptly recommended through measures, including taxation, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon trading. Meanwhile, the British Foreign Minister, Margaret Beckett, during her visit to India, pointed out that moving to a low-carbon economy does not mean stopping economic growth and/or condemning people to poverty.

It is a well-known fact that an unstable climate affects the basic building blocks upon which individuals and nations lay the foundations of their food, water and energy. Climate change could lead to a fall in crop yield in the Sub-Continent by as much as 20-40 per cent, dry areas experiencing massive increases in rainfall and warmer and more humid conditions. This has already been witnessed in many parts of India, leading to malaria in new areas and the worsening of infection rates in those already affected.


Scientists have now predicted, Beckett informed, that one billion people in the South Asian Sub-Continent were likely to suffer from the reduction in Himalayan melt-water and from changes in the monsoon that would make it “more variable, less predictable and more prone to extremes”. In this connection, she said that India had the technological capacity to move towards three clean energy markets-- wind, solar and bio-fuel plus fuel cells that were expected to grow four fold and reach $ 167 million by 2015.

A way of life which embodies exorbitance, waste and excess now bears upon providing resource-base. And, with the demands of the industrialized and also of Asian giants (Japan, China and India) no alternative concrete path has yet been crafted. Thus, these warnings to both the developed and the emerging economies need to examined as the future appears quite bleak if corrective measures are not taken now.

 Another very significant report of the WWF, Living Planet Report 2006, has revealed that nature is being stripped by humans at an unprecedented rate and will need two planets worth of natural resources every year on current trends by 2050. It has clearly stated that the footprint from use of fossil fuel, whose heat-trapping emissions are widely blamed for rising temperatures, was the fastest growing cause of strain. “Much will depend on the decisions made by China, India and other rapidly developing countries”, the WWF Director General, James Leape has observed. However, the promiscuous life styles of countries such as the US, UK, and Canada need to be checked to save the planet from its degradation.

The alternative strategy for a low-carbon economy has to be made mandatory not only to check greenhouse gas emissions but to save the planet. Already the population of many species, from fish to mammals has fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003. This is largely because of human threats such as pollution, contamination by 40,000 or so chemicals, effects on climate change, clearing of forests and over-fishing etc. It is not the salvaging of the social and economic system that should be at the heart of the current emergency but a reassurance that the resource-base upon which systems depends will be conserved so that it may provide a secure sufficiency for all humanity for an indefinite period.

Keeping in view these happenings the world over, the warnings have to be taken seriously and a sustainable development strategy evolved. As countries work to improve the well–being of their people, they should keep in mind that there is need to match development strategies with sustainable solutions. It is inevitable that any disconnect will “limit the abilities of poor countries to develop and rich countries to maintain their prosperity”. ---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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