Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Trends on Tuesday : I Love the Earth

I opened up the papers today and almost every page had a mention of Global Warming, its ill effects, steps taken to mitigate it and so on. I did a quick googling just to ensure today was not 'Earth Day' and not, it isn't Earth Day today. Then what's with all this hullabaloo?? And then I realized, it's a trend - and finally a trend worth its while!

Ok, first of all, Global Warming is a reality. Mumbai had winters touching 6 degrees in 2007. Last year winters hovered around30 degrees! 2005 saw Mumbai submerged. Ever since, we have seen scanty rainfall. Enya made an album called 'A Day without Rain', we seem to be moving towards a decade without rain. The met has predicted 87% rainfall, which spells doomsday for our agrarian economy. Do we then assume that the Rain Gods have effectively 'paani pherofied' (borrowing the traditional Hindi phrase) on all our growth plans? Certainly, we need to revise GDP estimates based on the degree of rainfall. If MRF rainday is missed, the BSE Sensex reacts badly! Given that almost the whole world, thanks to the recession, is betting on Chindia to lead us from darkness to light, doesn't it make more sense to ensure that we take care of the environment, and put a stop to these wild climatic swings?

Now, climate change and mitigation is the most hotly debated topic these days. Not just in political circles or on BBC, but also in grad schools, B Schools, and believe you me, even across coffee tables! Although everyone feels passionate about wanting to do something to protect the planet, no consensus seems to be arrived at as regards how we may go about doing so! A few key issues spring to mind though.

  • GDP calculations should be modified to correctly reflect the environmental footprint. Only then will steamrolling economies have enough incentive to not grow at the cost of a damaged Earth
  • The developed world cannot expect the growing economies to stand up and chip in monetarily for all the damage caused thus far by the world as a whole! Asking India to stop power generation from coal, is impossible to implement. We have way too much coal and not enough money to close down all those thermal power plants and make a fresh 'clean' start. That too with almost 70% of India without 100% access to electricity. These fledgling economies, if asked to bear the brunt of the damages wrought by the developed world in the past, would either refuse, fuelling conflict thus leading to status quo, or would end up paying, and grossly neglecting emission control in their own countries - There is only so much you can do with available money, right? - I'd written a bit on this point before here
  • There have to be sops for industries, essentially entrepreneurs to go ahead and invest in renewable energy. A friend of mine recently bought a humongous SUV. I asked her why she didn't choose a hybrid. She said that the hybrids were expensive, and she had no incentive other than the greater good of humanity to buy a hybrid. She'd pay more, and the amount she'd pay in taxes would be higher too! So why should she spend on a hybrid, when she'd rather use the extra cash to pay down the mortgage? Well, our industries would have a similar idea, if Government, and markets did not actively encourage investment in renewable energy. The Indian Government's decision to invest 1 trillion rupees into renewable energy initiatives looks like a step in the right direction.

So, climate change and the associated aspects seems like the newest trend of the 21st century. Hope we keep the steam and save this planet. Save trees, cut emissions, use car pools, save the tiger, Heal the world....

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