#ShortNow -Together, We Can Make Pune Carbon Neutral

Carbon Neutral City
Image used for representation only

The Inter-government Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in their report last month, warned that we have only ten years left to contain the global rise of the temperature by 1.5 degrees centigrade.

According to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperatures has increased by about 0.8°C since 1880.

As a consequence of this global climate change, we are already experiencing increasingly warmer periods, increasingly unpredictable rainfall, increasing ‘extreme weather’ events like cloud bursts, hailstorms and cyclones, increasing failure of crops, slow migration of forests towards the poles, disappearing shorelines, and mass migration of humans and animals to cope with the climate change.

Increased concentration of atmospheric Carbon causes the sun’s radiation to be trapped in the atmosphere causing a rise in the ambient temperature.

Atmospheric carbon increases as we combust fossil fuels to meet our energy needs for satisfying our consumption of goods and services. It increases as we combust fossil fuels in vehicles that are powered by them. We use fossil fuels, and fossil fuel generated electricity to meet our increasing need to travel. It further increases as we increase the production of cement, steel, iron and many other chemical processes that release carbon.

Ordinarily nature ensures that atmospheric carbon is absorbed by plants, algae, fungi and their symbiotic associations known as lichens. Scientists have recognised this as an important part of the carbon cycle that maintains the atmospheric carbon balance and ensures that the earth is habitable.

The onslaught of industrialisation and the exponential growth of consumption that resulted from it, has increased the carbon emissions to support our ever increasing material standards of living.

The ‘Use and Throw’ culture with shorter and shorter lifetimes of the goods we consume, has compounded our increase in energy consumption. Naturally our carbon emissions are  ever increasing.

The concentration of the consumption economy in our urban spaces continues to fuel urban expansion and the need to source the materials for our goods from further and further away. It also fuels our need to travel further and further to seek our education, pursue a livelihood and seek services. This also means our need for travel has also grown exponentially.

As ever expanding urbanisation is taken for granted, we replace our forests, mountains, rivers, streams and even our urban tree cover with concrete. This has been causing an exponential decay in natures ability to absorb carbon.

The net result is that we are sliding further and further away, very rapidly, from nature’s ability to ensure the carbon cycle leaves the earth habitable and we have only ten years to make a difference from what the IPCC has said.

On October 2nd 2016 Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ratified India’s commitment to reduce India’s carbon emissions and increase its ability to absorb atmospheric carbon. Specifically he committed to increase India’s ability to absorb atmospheric carbon ten fold by 2030. He committed to decreasing the carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

It is already well over two years while we wait for the commitment to translate to action in every village and city across the country.

Without a plan to make every habitat carbon neutral, or to ensure no more emissions than natures ability to absorb them, we will be too late to leave the earth habitable.

In order to become carbon neutral, every habitat will have to estimate its carbon absorption capacity based on its standing tree cover. It will need to initiate an action to ensure at least a ten fold increase of its tree cover, and mostly even more depending on the age and species of its trees as their ability to absorb carbon increases with their age.

It will need to restore its fresh water streams and rivers to ensure the ground water table can support the tree cover and to allow niches for algae, fungi and lichens that absorb carbon.

Every habitat will need to estimate the carbon emissions that result from their economic activities. It will need to set incentives to reduce consumption levels and transportation needs to ensure the resultant carbon emissions do not increase beyond its carbon absorption capacity.

It will need to halt the ever expansion of its limits and ensure incentives to redistribute activities to minimise daily commute needs. Every project, particularly infrastructure project, will need to ensure it does not contribute to carbon emissions.

While we wait for wisdom to dawn on our industry leaders and civic fathers, we can start with our individual acts to reduce our consumption of goods, services and transportation.

We can consume local goods as much as possible. We can start by protecting every tree, river and stream in our neighbourhood.

We can work to increase the tree cover wherever it is possible. The time we have to ensure the rest of our life on earth will be on a habitable earth is running out…

Unless we move our focus from short term to the short-now, or the lifetime of a child born today, we may find ourselves completely out of control to ensure a habitable earth.

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#All views expressed in this column are the authors and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 

Anupam Saraph

Anupam Saraph

Dr. Anupam Saraph grew up in a Pune that was possibly a tenth of its current expanse and every road was lined by 200 year old trees. He’s committed to the cause of de-addicting the short-termers.

He can be reached @AnupamSaraph
Anupam Saraph

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