Monday, December 7, 2015

Climate Change and Development

“Delhi and Beijing have the worst air quality in the world! Nine of the hottest 10 years on record have happened since 2000.” These are some of the headlines that have been widely viewed especially with the buzz surrounding the 2015 Paris Climate Summit reaching a crescendo.

India and many other countries are heavily dependent on thermal energy for electricity and power, which ironically are the largest sources of air pollutant. Going forward we all know that fossil fuels are non-renewable and it would be difficult to replenish them. Before we look into the cause and effect and impact of climate change let’s look at the different sources of fuel available on our planet.

Sources of Energy/Fuel

There are 5 main fossil fuels:

1. Coal: A black or brown sedimentary organic rock, mostly comprising carbon and typically found as layers;
2. Natural gas: A combustible mix of hydrocarbon gases, consisting mainly methane;
3. Oil: mostly known as crude oil and is the source of petrol, diesel, kerosene, gasoline and LPG;
4. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): LPG is heavier than natural gas and stored under modest pressure in liquid form;
5. Wood: Comprises charcoal and is a major source of fuel in rural parts of developing countries.

Then there are alternate fuels like Shale oil, Biogas, Nuclear energy, Alcohol fuel, Compressed Natural gas, etc.. However, an increasing number of countries are investing in Renewable sources of energy like Wind energy, Hydel and Tidal energy and Solar energy.

Damage to the Environment 

According to NASA global climate change has had observable effects on the environment in the form of shrunk glaciers, rising average temperatures, intense summer heat, flooding and drought. This has raised heated debates among developing countries that are facing the brunt of climate change effects. That humans are adaptable is a known fact, its agriculture that will go through some changes, new diseases will evolve, too much population on Earth will lead to higher carbon emissions, all of which will impact us economically as well as prove hazardous to our health.

Paris Climate Change Summit 2015

A total of 121 nations have converged in Paris to talk climate. India has taken a moral high ground at the Climate Change Summit and has support of all emerging economies, whose contribution to carbon emission is lesser than the developed countries. In view of this, a major paradox has emerged, and this has been the focus of discussion at the Summit. Narendra Modi has been rather upfront in stating that it’s “morally wrong to shift the burden of reducing emissions on developing countries like India, asserting that poor nations have a right to burn carbon to grow their economies”. There have been of course many progressive discussions and negotiations under UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have been rather encouraging.

India’s current power generation capacity is 230 GigaWatts, and is projected to increase to 820 GW in 2030. We have about 400 million people without access to electricity. New Delhi has proposed an ambitious ramp up of renewable energy capacity from about 40GW to 175 GW in 8 years. This implies that by 2030 40% of installed power generation capacity would be non-fossil fuels. New Delhi is also working with 120 nations to form an alliance that will facilitate economic viability of solar energy.

A similar stance taken by other emerging countries that seek technological and financial support for increasing usage of renewable energy will see the Earth become greener. It is a long and arduous journey, but a journey that has commenced and needs to reach its destination sooner rather than later.

-Ms.Monica Mor
 Sr. Faculty, INLEAD

Images Courtesy: Google Images 

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