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Investigating Climate Change On The Face Of A Global Pandemic

by Samiran Ghosh

With the world amidst a pandemic, most people have seen the devastating effects of the crisis up close and personal, having lost a loved one, a family member, work colleague, friends, or at the very least, someone they know. But what people don’t realize is that there is a silent killer, much more lethal and toxic than the pandemic climate change. While it is not in your face like the coronavirus, it creeps up on you, slowly yet steadily year on year, killing five times more people than the pandemic at its peak![1]

As companies reassess their processes and revamp their systems to adapt to a new norm, they need to seriously consider shifting to green production methods to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which directly impacts climate change. With a developing country like India, the dilemma lies in the green premium the extra costs to implement green production methods. Some new technologies like electric cars cost only 15% more than petrol cars. But the production of cement using green technology costs 75% more than existing methods.

Simultaneously, we need to consciously redefine consumption patterns to focus on what we need rather than what we want. David Wann, who has received many awards for his substantial contribution to sustainability says,

“Reducing our levels of consumption will not be a sacrifice but a bonus if we simply redefine the meaning of the word success.”

The need of the hour is capital investment, more innovation, and collaboration to reduce the green premium to a negligible level. The government must create incentives to encourage the corporate sector in this direction. India must make this shift, as it is one of the world’s worst-affected countries, being close to the Equator.

How do we get emissions down from the current 51 billion tonnes per year to zero? Is this even possible or too ambitious? While there are no easy answers, the sustainable technologies tried and tested by a few companies give us hope. HFS Collective is one such family-owned company in Los Angeles that makes masks from upcycled materials. Even the straps are cloth, so no elastic is involved.

“Disposable masks are the new pollution problem of this day and age.”
World Economic Forum (@wef) / Twitter, 06 August 2020

The consumption of these masks has increased by 20k percent globally, having a devastating impact on the environment.

A more remarkable invention is that of physicists at Wake Forest University, North Carolina, who have designed clothes that recharge our cell phones. The clothes take advantage of human warmth and the difference in the heat created on the garment, transforming it into energy, so you can recharge your mobile phone. Meanwhile, in Korea, designer Jeon Hwan Ju has invented a printer that uses residuals of coffee and tea instead of ink, thus saving oil and emissions of inkjet printers. And in Brazil, Alfredo Moser has invented the light bulb that works without electricity. A two-liter bottle filled with water and bleach will illuminate your room up to 60 watts, depending on the sunlight’s intensity.

According to President of France, Emmanuel Macron:

“Never has science around the world been so abundant to meet the challenges that we have.”

Although the most impactful steps that we can take to avoid a climate disaster must happen at the government and corporate level, individuals do have the power to effect change in this regard. We can find ways to reduce energy consumption by driving an electric car or eating less meat. However, substantial change is possible only if there is a dramatic shift in policies to curb climate change. Thus, engaging in the political process is the single most crucial step that people can take in this direction. Make calls, write letters, attend meetings to ensure elected officials prioritize clean energy. Green energy needs to be cheaper, yet as accessible and reliable as fossil fuels to address the climate change challenge meaningfully.

“This will be the hardest thing we’ve ever done. If we waste any years, because we’re politically confused or our younger generation picks other priorities, I don’t think we’re likely to make net-zero emissions by 2050”
– Bill Gates on Climate Change

Meanwhile, Greta Thunberg, the child environmental activist was upfront about the urgency of climate change when she challenged international world leaders saying; You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. “How dare you!”

Thus, it is high time that each one of us takes full ownership of the climate change problem and consciously tries to tackle it.

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