Our climate initiatives strive to prevent temperature increase beyond 1.5 degree celcius compared to pre-industrial levels. But in March, 2024, the world has already surpassed that threshold. It is imperative to re-think strategy now.

The current endeavours focus entirely on decarbonising the atmosphere, by reducing CO2 rich emissions emanating from use of fossil fuels. CO2 traps the incoming sunlight, exacerbating global warming. Switching to non-fossil fuels like BioFuels, Hydrogen, Solar power, Nuclear power etc. is the panacea that world is pursuing… but failing miserably.

Here, it’s important to appreciate that using any kind of fuel releases heat energy, and part of that heat energy becomes resident within our atmosphere. Switching to cleaner or renewable energy sources is welcome, but still ends up releasing heat energy into our system. What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away. We curb “emissions”, while amplifying energy generation within our ecosystem. This contradiction is a self-fulfilling prophecy of our doom.

Actually, Global warming has been naturally and routinely taking place every 50,000 years or so, since past eight lakh years at least, as per data from Antarctica stations and NOAA. Antarctic ice deposited since millions of years, was dug out and air bubbles trapped inside analyzed to make the following chart that shows air temperature and CO2 variations. This is the scientific historical proof that Carbon Dioxide and global temperatures go hand in hand - as evidenced by overlapping red and blue lines. This is proof also of natural cataclysmic cycles, that life naturally flourishes and perishes in cyclic manner since eternity.

The question is, before humans appeared on this planet, what caused these rhythmic cycles? Thats scientifically explained as Milankovitch cycles showing as ups and down in the chart. These are caused by cosmic level actors – cyclical changes in earth’s tilt, orbit’s eccentricity, wobble of its axis etc that re-distribute solar radiation between northern and southern hemispheres. Without going into technicalities, result is redistribution of water and ice, changing reflectivity of earth’s surface and changes in sponging ability of ocean to absorb CO2, and more. That’s responsible for natural cyclic global warming and ice ages every 50,000 years or so – irrespective of human intervention.

Human actions have instead spiked temperature and CO2 levels to unprecedented highs – evident in far right of the chart, and that has disturbed the natural Milankovitch cycles. Humans have added too much heat into earth’s system by burning fuels, and that heat is not getting dissipated due to accumulation of greenhouse gases in atmosphere.

Our current initiatives towards Climate remediation, target only “emission control” and need serious course correction.

Our pursuits towards reduction in emissions need to be supplemented by reducing energy consumption per se. We need to address the root cause… the genesis… the wasteful energy consumption. We now need dual-pronged strategy – curb emissions plus reduction in energy usage.

“Reduction in energy usage” obviously doesn’t resonate with world’s business interests, viewed as “De-Growth” and reduced economic activity. Practical “Reduction in energy usage”, accepted politically and by society, is need of the hour.

Let’s talk population. The only unscheduled global cooling happened between 1492 - 1600 CE, when global temperature dropped by 0.15 degree Celsius due to depopulation of Americas after European contact. Nearly 56 million people perished due to imported diseases that natives were not immune to. Tragic, but this is solid proof that decline in population actually reversed the global temperature rise. Taking cue from this, we should add and incentivise “population control” as a potent Climate reversal strategy. Humans caused the spike in global warming, so it’s logical to reduce the pace of human addition on this planet.

Can Buildings cause global warming? Actually, Energy consumption and emissions from Residential and Commercial Buildings are ranked at the very top – a huge 17.5% of all emissions. Road transport – which is current focus of our initiatives - comes a distant second at 11.9% only! COP28 (UN Climate Change Conference) does propose sustainable cooling as a remedy, but that’s insufficient. We need to cut down on energy consumption in cooling and heating the buildings. We continue to install glass façade buildings that are huge energy guzzlers compared to brick building. Bigger the houses, more energy for air conditioning it consumes. Compounded by extreme weather in western countries, capita energy consumption shoots up in western countries as a result. For instance, Canada’s per capita energy consumption 14 times higher than India’s.

That brings us to Migration. When someone migrates from Asia to say Canada, that individual increases his energy consumption by 14 times! With this realization, where does it make more sense for the world to grow its habitat… in energy guzzling west or in the east? Human migration to west increases global energy consumption. Per capita energy consumption needs to be prominent within the parameters with which the UN Climate change body sets country-wise corrective paths.

Let’s take travel. To set the perspective… a single long-haul flight between say Frankfurt and Singapore, consumes a colossal 100 tons of fuel! Travel is extremely energy intensive. We need to reverse growth in long-distance air travel in favor of local travel. Let’s get over the itch to visit say… Reykjavík, rather visit places of beauty in one’s vicinity. Local travel serves country’s own economic interest, while serving as an essential tool towards climate reversal.

Public transport is much more energy efficient, everyone knows. Trains/Metros are more than four times more energy efficient compared to cars. Infrastructural developments towards public transport need to be encouraged and incentivised within world’s basket of climate strategies.

We must also be wary of plunging headlong into dangerous paths.

COP28 proposes to triple the Nuclear energy. Imagine adding new energy generation facilities while aiming to cool the world! Nuclear facilities unlock and irreversibly release the heat energy that was erstwhile bound inside atoms, manifesting as significant heat addition to our already heated planet.

Solar energy is generally viewed as the messiah. Deserts and rooftops are getting covered with solar panels. Deserts have a role to play, they reflect solar radiation. Deserts do not bind heat on to earth’s surface, that’s why deserts become freezing cold at night. Solar panels do the opposite – they absorb almost all the sunlight that falls on them. By covering our deserts with solar panels, we are reversing the function of deserts – from being reflectors to heat absorbers.

Recent craze to convert biomass into fuels is a similar story. Biofuels are like petrol and diesel, except they come from corn, molasses etc. Biofuels are arguably carbon neutral, as they consume CO2 during growing and release it back when burnt. Little do we realise that Biofuels are stressing our already limited phosphatic fertiliser reserves. Phosphatic rock will last only next 300 years or so. Phosphatic fertilisers will run out much earlier than energy. No phosphatic fertiliser, means no crop. That’s dire! Our limited phosphatic fertiliser supply should not be diverted to biofuels. Biofuels or fossil fuels, both heat us up equally.

Don’t get me wrong. Shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy is the right path. But all forms of energy – dirty or clean – heat us up eventually. Devil actually lies in wasteful energy consumption.

Impact of global warming is real. Morocco’s Al Massira reservoir dried to just 3% of its original volume in less than a decade. Mediterranean olive plantations are drying up due to difficult weather conditions. Saffron yields are reducing, to name just a few.

Its become critical to go beyond “emission reduction” narrative and take “reduce wasteful energy consumption” as the primary goal. Emission reduction will come automatically. Let’s explore energy reduction avenues that create alternative industries to minimise the impact on people and livelihood.

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