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Rise in fossil fuel usageTornadoetsunamisuper bugssealevel riseFish deathFloodingEnvironmental refugeesDraughtbushn firesPresident Obama seized his ‘moment of truth’ when he announced his decision to cut carbon emission by 30% by 2030 in USA. His decision may not be popular in USA and in many parts of the world but it is the right decision. He was able to address to some extent ‘ the inconvenient  truth’ that has nagged him during his second term in office. He  introduced his decision through EPA (Environmental protection authority) effectively bypassing congress. In fact the purpose of creating EPA was to address the environmental issues but it failed in many ways and rest of the world followed such failures time and again. This has resulted in an accumulated carbon both in the atmosphere and in the sea in an unprecedented scale causing disease and environmental degradation world-wide.

Air pollution is costing the world’s most advanced economies plus India and China $3.5 trillion per year in lives lost and ill-health, with a significant amount of the burden stemming from vehicle tailpipes, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In the 34 OECD member states, the monetary impact of death and illness due to outdoor air pollution was $1.7 trillion in 2010. Research suggests that motorized on-road transport accounts for about 50 percent of that cost. In China, the total cost of outdoor air pollution was an estimated $1.4 trillion in 2010. In India, the OECD calculated the toll at $500 billion.

The costs were calculated based on survey data of how much people are willing to pay in order to avoid premature death due to ailments caused by air pollution. The method assigns a cost to the risks of emissions that decision makers can use in weighing public policy decisions.

In addition to the health cost the environmental degradation due to carbon pollution includes global warming resulting in mass extinction of species, causing  mega bush fires that are wiping out forests including rain forests, creating new bugs that are resistant to antibiotics, increasing sea level  that erodes coastal cities and submerge remote islands in pacific displacing millions of people as refugees, acidified oceans with massive extinction of species including fish stock. Such degradation is nothing but suicidal.

When a food or drug is introduced in the market it is subject to scrutiny by FDA (Food and drugs authority), but when it comes to environmental clearance to set up a coal-fired power plant or to set up a seawater desalination plant it is relatively easier to get such clearance from EPA. When  power plants emitted gaseous emissions initially EPA was able to limit the emissions of oxides of nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorous, soot and particulate matter , other organics including mercury and arsenic except carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide has been accepted as part of the air we breathe in; otherwise no power plant could have been approved because bulk of the emissions are only carbon dioxide. Had EPA acted timely in sixties or even in seventies to curb CO2 emissions an alternative  energy  would have emerged by this time.

Industries and economics were high in the political agenda and the environment was overlooked.  Many drugs were introduced during this period to cure diseases that were actually caused by environmental pollution such as carbon dioxide. Both power industries and drug industries grew side by side without realizing that environment is degraded slowly which causes chronic diseases.

Australia is the largest consumers of power in terms of per capita consumption in the world and yet the new Government in Australia is pushing a bill in the parliament to repel Carbon tax introduced by previous Government. They are also planning to raise revenue up to $ 26 billion for medical research over a time. On one hand politicians want to freely allow unabated carbon emissions into the atmosphere and on the other hand they want to introduce new drugs that can cure diseases  actually caused by  such pollution. It is an anomalous situation created by politics of climate change. Unfortunately carbon pollution has turned into an energy related issue and attracted political attention world-wide. The high cost of cleaning carbon pollution has turned many politicians into skeptics of science on carbon pollution and climate change.

“More than 170 nations have agreed on the need to limit fossil fuel emissions to avoid dangerous human-made climate change, as formalized in the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change .However, the stark reality is that global emissions have accelerated (Fig. 1) and new efforts are underway to massively expand fossil fuel extraction by drilling to increasing ocean depths and into the Arctic, squeezing oil from tar sands and tar shale, hydro-fracking to expand extraction of natural gas, developing exploitation of methane hydrates, and mining of coal via mountaintop removal and mechanized long wall mining. The growth rate of fossil fuel emissions increased from 1.5%/year during 1980–2000 to 3%/year in 2000–2012, mainly because of increased coal use.” (Ref : 1)

The coal usage continues to grow especially in Asia due to expanding population and industrial growth and demand for low-cost energy.  USA is expected to achieve energy independence by 2015 which means more fossil fuels are in the pipeline. India and China are planning more coal-fired power plants in the coming decade. Australia is planning for massive expansion of coal and LNG and Coal seam methane gas for exports. Fracturing and hydrocracking of shale deposits are adding to the fuel.

Countries are more concerned with economic growth than the consequences of climate change. Despite recent warning from NASA that the depleting arctic glaciers have reached a ‘point of no return’ and the predicted sea level rise up to 10 feet is irreversible, there is a little reaction from countries across the globe.

There is a clear evidence that shows Green House Gas  emission will continue to increase in the future in spite of growing renewable energy projects because renewable solar panels, wind turbines and batteries will need more power from fossil fuels.  It is critically important to reduce carbon emission with great urgency by substituting fossil energy with renewable energy. For example, concentrated solar power (CSP) can be used instead of large-scale PV solar to reduce carbon footprint.

Solar energy is the origin of all other energy sources on the planet earth and solar energy will be the solution for a clean energy of the future. But how fast solar energy can be deployed commercially in a short span of time is a big issue. The increasing growth of fossil fuel production dwarfs the growth of renewable energy exposing the planet to catastrophic climate change. The GHG emission can be contained only by an aggressive reduction of CO2 emission into the atmosphere as well as by drastic reduction of fossil fuel production. This is possible only by using renewable Hydrogen. The cost of renewable hydrogen is high  but this is the price one has to pay to clean up the carbon pollution before the climate is  changed irreversibly. The obvious method to reduce carbon emissions is to tax carbon in such a way that it will no longer be economically viable to emit carbon to generate power or to transport. Paying carbon tax will be cheaper than paying for diseases and environmental degradation and natural disasters. Clean environment is the key for the survival of our planet and life on earth and one cannot put a price on such a life.

Ref 1:  Citation: Hansen J, Kharecha P, Sato M, Masson-Delmotte V, Ackerman F,et al (2013) Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature. PLoS ONE 8(12): e81648. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081648

 

 

 

The Carbon emission in the atmosphere is steadily increasing.  The latest statistics indicates that it has reached a staggering 35.6 billion tons/yr, a 2.6% increase over the previous year, thanks to the growth of China. It is becoming clear that there is a relationship between the Carbon emission, global warming and erratic weather patterns around the world. According to ‘The Guardian’,

“The chances of the world holding temperature rise to 2C – the level of global warming considered “safe” by scientists – appear to be fading fast with US scientists reporting the second-greatest annual rise in CO2emissions in 2012. Carbon dioxide levels measured at Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii jumped by 2.67 parts per million (ppm) in 2012 to 395ppm, said Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The record was an increase of 2.93ppm in 1998.

The jump comes as a study published in Science on Thursday looking at global surface temperatures for the past 1,500 years warned that “recent warming is unprecedented”, prompting UN climate chief, Christiana Figures, to say that “staggering global temps show urgent need to act. Rapid climate change must be countered with accelerated action.” Tans told the Associated Press the major factor was an increase in fossil fuel use. “It’s just a testament to human influence being dominant”, he said. “The prospects of keeping climate change below that [two-degree goal] are fading away.

Preliminary data for February 2013 show CO2 levels last month standing at their highest ever recorded at Manua Loa, a remote volcano in the Pacific. Last month they reached a record 396.80ppm with a jump of 3.26ppm parts per million between February 2012 and 2013. Carbon dioxide levels fluctuate seasonally, with the highest levels usually observed in April. Last year the highest level at Mauna Loa was measured at 396.18ppm. What is disturbing scientists is the acceleration of CO2concentrations in the atmosphere, which are occurring in spite of attempts by governments to restrain fossil fuel emissions. According to the observatory, the average annual rate of increase for the past 10 years has been 2.07ppm – more than double the increase in the 1960s. The average increase in CO2 levels between 1959 to the present was 1.49ppm per year.

The Mauna Loa measurements coincide with a new peer-reviewed study of the pledges made by countries to reduce CO2 emissions. The Dutch government’s scientific advisers show that rich countries will have to reduce emissions by 50% percent below 1990 levels by 2020 if there is to be even a medium chance of limiting warming to 2C, thus preventing some of climate  change‘s worst impacts.”The challenge we already knew was great is even more difficult”, said Kelly Levin, a researcher with the World Resources Institute in Washington. “But even with an increased level of reductions necessary, it shows that a 2° goal is still attainable – if we act ambitiously and immediately.” Extreme weather, which is predicted by climate scientists to occur more frequently as the atmosphere warms and CO2 levels rise, has already been seen widely in 2013. China and India have experienced their coldest winter in decades and Australia has seen a four-month long heat wave with 123 weather records broken during what scientists are calling it ‘angry summer’. “We are in [getting] into new climatic territory. And when you get records being broken at that scale, you can start to see a shifting from one climate system to another. So the climate has in one sense actually changed and we are now entering a new series of climatic conditions that we just haven’t seen before”, said Tim Flannery, head of the Australian government’s climate change commission, this week. Earlier this week the Met Office warned that the “extreme” patterns of flood and drought experienced by Britain in 2012 were likely to become more frequent. One in every five days in 2012 saw flooding but one in four days were in drought”.

The biggest question now is how to put this Carbon genie back into the bottle? renewable energy may be an answer to curtail future Carbon emissions but what about the existing coal-fired power plants that constitutes 60% of the existing power generation in the world? There is no easy solution. But the “Law of conservation of mass” gives us a clue.The Carbon we dig from the earth in the form of coal, combusted into the atmosphere as Carbon dioxide may be captured and recycled back into the system in the form of a fuel.By this way, we may not need fresh coal to be mined.To achive this feat,we need Hydrogen from a renewable source.The renewable Hydrogen can be combined with Carbon dioxide captured from the coal-fired power plants to generate synthetic natural gas (SNG).The SNG generated by this method can be used for future power generation, substituting Coal and future carbon emission can be recycled in the form of SNG. This approach will open up a range of possibilities and potentially cut the carbon emission to zero.Annual CO2 growthAtmospheic Carbon increaseCO2 emissionsGlobal Carbon emissionHydrosol cycleHydrosol thremocycle

Many companies round the world including DOE (Department of energy,Govt of USA) are trying to develop an economically viable method to generate Hydrogen with an estimated cost of poduction at  $ 2.50 /kg of Hydrogen. One potential method is to generate Hydrogen by splitting water using a thermo-chemical process using concentrated solar therml energy developed by European Union called “Hydrosol cycle”. The method by which Hydrogen is generated should be free from any Carbon emision. To clean up  1 Kg Carbon dioxide one will require at least 0.2kg Hydrogen. For example, a 100Mw coal fired power plant emitting about 2256 Mt CO2/day will require about 451 Mt of Hydrogen/day, costing about $1,127,500 per day.It will cost roughly $500/Mt of C02 to  put the ‘ Carbon genie’  back into the bottle! One can imagein the cost of cleaning up  35.6 billion tons of Carbon dioxide  from the atmosphere.Only a Carbon free Hydrogen derived from water can save the world from a potential catastrophe.

Those who studied chemistry and conducted laboratory experiments in universities will be familiar with precautionary measures we take to avoid  accidents. Aprons, gloves, goggles and fume cub-boards with exhaust fans are some few examples of protective measures from flames, hot plates and fumes. The blue color of the flame represented the degree of hotness of the flame from Bunsen burner; the pungent smell pointed to the ‘Gas plant’ that generated ‘water gas’ for Bunsen burners. The familiar smells of chemicals would bring ‘nostalgic memories’ of college days. Each bottle of chemicals would display a sign of warning ‘Danger or Poison’. We could recognize and identify even traces of  gases or fumes or chemicals immediately. Those memories embedded deeply in our memories and I vividly remembered even after few decades I left university.

I could smell traces of Chlorine in the air even at a distance of 20 miles from a Chloroalkali plant in sixties, when air pollution controls were not stringent. People who lived around the factory probably were used to live with that smell for generations. Many families had not breathed  fresh air in their life time, because they have not breathed air without traces of chlorine.They lived all their lives in the same place because agriculture was their profession. Many people developed breathing problems during  their old ages and died of asthma and tuberclosis.The impact of these fumes cannot be felt in months and years but certainly can be felt after decades especially at old ages, when the body’s immune system deteriorates. Bhopal gas accident in India is a grim reminder of  such tragedy of chemical accidents and how they can contaminate air, water and earth and degrade human lives. But we learnt any lessons from those accidents?

During experimental thermonuclear explosion in the desert of Australia by then British army, people were directly exposed to nuclear radiation. Many of those  who saw this explosion developed some form of cancer or other later in their life .They were treated as heroes then. After several decades of this incident, many exposed to this experiment are now demanding compensation from current British government. But have we learnt any lessons from those incidents? Many politicians still advocate ‘Nuclear energy as a safe and clean energy’. Yes, until we meet with an another accident!

We human beings identified the presence of  chemicals in Nature and used them for our scientific developments. We identified fossil fuels as ‘Hydrocarbons’ and burn them to generate power and to run our cars. We emit toxic gases and fumes every second of our lives, when we switch our lights on or start our cars.Imagine the amount of gases and fumes we emit everyday all over the world by billions of people for several decades. It is a simple common sense that we are responsible for these emissions and we contaminate the air we breathe. Nature does not burn Hydrocarbons everyday or every month or every year. In fact Nature buried these Hydrocarbons deep down the earth like we bury our dead.

Can people who breathed Chlorine for decades and died of asthma or tuberculosis prove that they died due constant inhalation of Chlorine emitted by the Chloroalkali plant? The Court and Authorities will demand ‘hard evidence’ to prove that Chlorine emitted by Chloroalkli plants caused these diseases. We use science when it suits us and we become skeptics when it does not suit us. They know it is almost impossible to prove such cases in our legal system and they can get away scot-free. The same argument applies to our ‘Greenhouse gas emission’ and ‘Global warming’.

We contaminate  our air, water and earth with our population explosion, industrialization and our life styles. Yet, major industrialized countries are not willing to cut their emissions but want to carry on their ‘economic growth’. But these countries got it completely wrong. In chemical experiments, one can draw conclusions by ‘observations’ and ‘Inference’. Inference is a scientific tool and not a guess work. From overwhelming evidences of natural disasters occurring around the world one can ‘infer’ that human activities cause these disasters. Nature is now showing this by devastating ‘the business and economic’ interest of nations because that is the only way Governments can learn lessons. They don’t need ‘harder evidence’ than  monetary losses. According to recent reports:

“The monetary losses from 2011’s natural catastrophes reached a record $380 billion, surpassing the previous record of $220 billion set in 2005. The year’s three costliest natural catastrophes were the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan (costing $210 billion), the August-November floods in Thailand ($40 billion), and the February earthquake in New Zealand ($16 billion).

The report notes that Asia experienced 70 percent, or $265 billion, of the total monetary losses from natural disasters around the world—up from an average share of 38 percent between 1980 and 2010. This can be attributed to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, as well as the devastating floods in Thailand: Thailand’s summer monsoons, probably influenced by a very intensive La Niña situation, created the costliest flooding to date, with $40 billion in losses.”

Globe is warming at an unprecedented rate since industrial revolution due to the effect of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere; according to a panel of scientists in IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).Thousands of scientists from 30 countries formed IPCC under United Nation to study the problem of global warming and reported to the world. IPCC published a detailed report and it gave an apocalyptic scenario about global warming. They warned that the carbon dioxide level in the atmospheres has increased from 316ppm in 1959 (13% higher than preindustrial level) to current level of 380ppm in 2005, which is 35% above preindustrial level. This dramatic increase in the level of CO2 is due to the human activities. The major contributing gases are Carbon dioxide, Methane, Oxides of Nitrogen, CFC (Chlorofluorocarbons) and Ozone present in the atmosphere. Bulk of the emissions is from power plants and automobiles using fossil fuels. Other process industries like cement plants are also major contributors of greenhouse gases. The enhanced effect of global warming is due to the absorption of invisible infrared radiation coming from the warm surface of the earth. On an average, sun’s light reaches the earth at the rate of 343W/m2 and about 30% of this value is reflected and about 70% is absorbed. The amount of invisible infrared radiation absorbed depends on the concentration of greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere.

According to IPCC their findings on global warming are unequivocal, and if the world does not act now, then, we will be facing dire consequences in the near future. Doubling CO2 emission will increase the global temperature from 2-4.5C. But many skeptics say the IPCC report is apocryphal and they have their own theories to support their skepticism. Many climate models proposed by various international institutions projects an average temperature rise  of 3.4C above  year 2000 level if we do nothing and carry on the “business as usual”. The consequences of global warming are far-reaching. An increase of 3C rise in temperature will result in sea level rise up to 4 to 6 mts in the next few thousand years.

About 10% of the world population lives in less than 10 mts above sea level and majority of population lives within 10km of sea level. We have already witnessed few islands in pacific (example, Bougainvillea, Sulawesi) inundated with seawater. Maldives and Bangladesh are good examples.

They predict shortage of fresh water in many parts of the world and severe draught and flooding in other parts of the world. We have already witnessed these incidents in Northern Queensland in Australia and in Europe, and prolonged draught in Texas, bushfires in Australia and in Russia. Majority of Indian subcontinent is suffering from lack of drinking water. Unscrupulous exploitation of ground water for agriculture purpose has made the situation worse. Many plants, animals and species will face greater risk of extinction. An increasing acidity in seawater due to excess absorption of carbon dioxide will affect aquatic organisms such as shell, coral and shellfish. We are already witnessing bleaching of corals at Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Global warming will displace millions of people due to draught and flooding and consequently leave millions of children malnourished. Water borne diseases and infectious diseases will affect many people. Tropical diseases such as dengue and malaria will be widespread.

These consequences are real, if the world does not act on greenhouse emissions. One need not be a rocket scientist to understand that human behavior and activity has caused irreversible damage to the plant earth for several decades. We unearthed fossil fuels and converted them into plastics and dumped them in every water ways, parks and beaches. The exponential growth in population and industries has driven many animals, tropical forests into extinction. Each and every one of us who are 50 years and above would have witnessed the unfolding consequences of environmental degradation in our life time. What kind of plant earth we will be leaving behind for our future generations?

Every religion on earth has predicted the future of humanity and the last days and hours with deadly consequences for their actions. All native people whether they are Indians from Americas, Aborigines of Australia or Shamans of Indonesia or Natives of Alaska, have time and again raised their voice against indiscriminate destruction of land, water and air in the name of science and industrial growth. But no Government listened to their voice and we are here still struggling with unemployment and poverty.

Mayan civilization is a well-known civilization in ancient world and their seven prophesies are matters of great debate in the recent past. Their prophecy is ominously similar to what IPCC panel predicts except the “end of the world in Dec 2012”. I quote third, fourth and fifth prophesy out of seven Mayan prophecies here, which are relevant to global warming:

“The third prophecy states that there will be change in temperature, producing climatic, geological and social changes in magnitude without patterns and at astonishing speed. One of them will be generated by man in his lack of conscience to care for and protect natural resources of the planet and other generated by sun, which will increase its activity due to increasing vibrations.”

“The fourth prophecy says that anti-ecological conduct of man and greater activity by sun will cause melting of ice in the poles. It will allow the earth to clean itself and green itself again, producing changes in the physical composition of the continents of the planet. The Mayans left a register in the Desdre codices that for every 117 spins of Venus, the Sun suffers new alterations and huge spots or solar eruption appears”.

“The fifth prophecy says that all systems based on fear, on which the civilization based on, will suffer simultaneously with the planet and man will make a transformation to give way to new harmonic reality. The system will fail and man will face himself and in this need to recognize society and continue down the path of evolution that will bring him to understand creation. Only one common spiritual world for all humanity that will end all limits established among many ways to look at God will emerge”.

Perhaps, Jesus too expressed his displeasure with human behavior according to the Gospel of Thomas:

 Jesus said, “Perhaps people think that I have come to cast peace upon the world. They do not know that I have come to cast conflicts upon the earth: fire, sword, war.  For there will be five in a house: there’ll be three against two and two against three, father against son and son against father, and they will stand alone.”

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