Monday, July 30, 2007

Look Out! Your 'Carbon Footprint' Is Showing

The catastrophic effects of global warming have started sinking gradually among people all over the world as more and more irrefutable scientific evidences pour in. Greenhouse gas emissions mostly consist of carbon dioxide have been identified to be responsible for playing havoc with the global climatic change. Hard facts are pointing fingers at developed nations to be worst offenders for contributing recklessly to global warming due to their extremely high level of carbon dioxide emissions compared to the developing nations.
Data pertaining to the year 2004 published in newspapers are found to be fully in line with the above inference. The carbon dioxide emissions in million tonnes for the year country-wise are: USA - 5912, UK - 580, Japan - 1,262, Russia - 1,685, China - 4,707 and India - 1,112.
If the total emissions data are unsavoury for the developed nations, the picture is even more revealing about individuals of different countries. Those who live in large houses, occupy big office spaces, travel by cars and planes frequently and use more electric power for air-conditioning and heating are the ones contributing more dangerously to the cause of global warming as in such cases more fossil-fuel burning is warranted giving rise to higher carbon dioxide emissions. A person using bicycle or public transport and living in small house, lighting his house by CFLs and travelling by trains instead of planes would be a 'green' hero whether he or she adopts such a lifestyle by choice or compulsion.
So, even in the developing countries, there are offenders albeit those belonging to the richer classes whereas the poorer masses have to bear the brunt of global warming despite their 'green' lifestyles. Such awareness among the 'haves' and 'have-nots' is bound to ignite social dissention just as striving to usher in change in carbon footprints of the rich is going to be a Herculean task. Global warming , however, cannot discriminate based on the economic or social status while punishing the inhabitants for ravaging the environment.
After all, Death is the greatest leveller, is it not?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Global Warming: Dubious Ways For A Noble Cause

It has finally dawned upon people all over the world that the apocalyptic disaster due to global warming can no longer be wished away and it is waiting as sure as death to strike the Planet Earth. With resigned acceptance by people and media coverage, the awareness about the lurking danger is fast spreading. The initiatives of Al Gore's Life Earth have already resulted in big musical shows in Tokyo, Sydney, Shanghai, London and Hamburg drawing huge crowds. More are being planned all for the noble cause of fighting global warming. Tens of thousands of music lovers thronged the venues in their cars with the aim of fighting the menace and added more greenhouse gas emissions instead. It turned out to be a case where the remedy is worse than the disease. Moreover, with celebrities like Madonna championing the cause, the effect could just be the opposite. Her 'carbon footprint' (with limousines, private aircrafts and luxurious lifestyles in tow) is not going to inspire the common man even as fans in these concerts have been reportedly urged to sign a seven-point pledge designed to change behaviour and put pressure on political leaders in every country.
But fans love to imitate the lifestyles of their favourite celebrities. So, those, like me, who want the whole business of fighting global warming to be serious one, would raise eyebrows at yet another well-publicised campaign titled 'Global Cool' which is being kick started by Hollywood star Sienna Miller with Bollywood superstar Amitava Bachan. The ostentatious wedding ceremony the superstar Amitava recently arranged for his son-actor Abhishek must have caused equivalent to a few thousand times 'per capita' greenhouse gas emissions. Unless the idea is merely to create media hype for the campaign, it is doubtful if any actual benefit would be bestowed to the cause by choosing such dubious ways.
Yet another striking example of celebrities being drawn to the bandwagon is that of Salman Khan. The actor was arrested for killing rare birds while on a film shooting spree in Rajasthan and the case is still under trial. How can such a person inspire the general public to protect the environment? Let us neither pay lip-services to fighting global warming nor make it a farcical musical soiree.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Let Us Make 'Green' Steel

India is already the seventh largest steel manufacturer in the world making 44 million tonnes of steel during the year 2006 and is aspiring to catapult to the second position by the year 2020 with a production capacity of 180 million tonnes. While such targets have caused excitement and euphoria, little has been heard or talked about what impact the massive steel industry expansion would have on the environment.
The whole world has accepted the contention that development should never take place at the cost of environment; it is high time that such issues are discussed and settled here too. Due to stringent environment laws prevalent in USA and Europe, steel units have fallen from grace of general public as one of the main culprits for environmental degradation and have closed down unable to make steel economically.
While India has got an enviable iron ore reserves which ought to be exploited fully for its own economic growth and providing job opportunities to the millions of jobseekers, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the environmental issues while planning to boost steel production capacity four-fold within a span of just 12 years.
The environmental damage can be somewhat controlled if steel is brought under eco-labelling umbrella. A license is granted to a product based on a basket of criteria including sources and types of raw materials used, judicious use of natural resources, energy-saving production processes, waste management and the product's bio-degradability. Though the general public is somewhat aware of ISI mark as a sign of quality assurance given by Bureau of Indian Standards(BIS) to a wide range of products such as consumer products, consumer durable products and iron and steel products, it is still not known to many that BIS also issues EcoMark which is an eco-labelling scheme. There are already 16 product categories covered by it which includes electrical goods, lubricating oils, textiles and plastic products but not steel products so far. Interestingly, BIS does not charge anything for EcoMark for those manufacturers who have licenses for ISI mark.
For the sake of protecting environment, let our steel manufacturers produce 'green' steel with with EcoMark labels. Merely making steel to IS specifications will not suffice to vouch for their social responsibility to protect the environment. The new generation steel consumers may insist on buying only 'green' steel as the awareness grows and everyone's 'carbon' footprint is closely watched.