Global warming is the wolf at our door, huffing and puffing and threatening to bring our houses down. According to research by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on Earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880, with two-thirds of the warming occurring since 1975.
Why bother over a mere one-degree rise in temperature, you may ask. Well, a one-degree global rise is substantial, because to warm all the continents, oceans and atmosphere by one degree takes a huge amount of heat. One degree is significant when you remember that a drop of just 1-2 degrees in temperature had plunged the Earth into the Little Ice Age, while a five-degree drop had buried a huge mass of North America under a massive ice mound 20,000 years ago.
The rate of increase in temperature can be judged by the fact that 2016 has been officially declared as the hottest year on record, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001.
Additionally, levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere are higher than they have been at any time in the past 400,000 years. During ice ages, CO2 levels were around 200 parts per million (ppm), and during the warmer periods, they hovered around 280 ppm. In 2013, CO2 levels surpassed 400 ppm for the first time in recorded history.
The rate at which the earth is heating up is directly proportional to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Climate scientists have agreed that the amount of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere by humanity, chiefly from the burning of fossil fuels, is causing the planet to warm at a rapid pace.
Polar ice caps and glaciers are melting at an alarming rate and the earth is increasingly being beset by climate disasters such as heat waves, wild-fires, strong tropical storms and the like. Increasing temperatures will shrink the polar ice caps further, make large areas of the Middle East and North Africa unbearable to live in and accelerate what’s known as Earth’s “sixth mass extinction” of animal species.
Scientists agree that global warming and increased carbon dioxide emissions are the direct result of increased burning of fossil fuels- in industries, for transport and for electricity needs. Yet, these are essentials of the modern world, use of which is only going to go up.
So, is there a way out of this conundrum?
The answer lies in using renewable, green, carbon-emissions-free sources of energy for all our energy needs. Hydroelectricity, solar energy, wind energy, geothermal energy and biofuels- these are the sources of energy that are the way to a safe future for our planet. These green energy sources might save earth from its downward spiral into extinction.
Scientists agree that it is possible to meet all the energy needs of a country by these renewable sources of energy alone, given a strong political and social push. Technologically, countries like Denmark, Spain, Scotland, Costa Rica, Albania, Paraguay and so many more, have shown the rest of the world that it is quite possible to meet most of a country’s energy needs by renewable energy sources alone, the will being there.
In 2015, Costa Rica powered itself purely with renewable energy for 299 days total.
Time and again, Denmark and Scotland have been able to hit a high with wind energy production, powering the entire country with wind energy for entire days and with enough to spare.
In 2015, wind power produced the equivalent of 97% of the Scotland’s household electricity needs.
Uruguay is now 95-percent powered by renewables after less than 10 years of concerted effort. The country invested heavily in wind and solar with no subsidies or increases in consumer costs.
Albania and Paraguay fulfil 100% of their electricity needs from hydroelectricity.
Iceland also obtains all its energy from a mix of renewable energy sources- 72% hydro and 28% geothermal.
Norway obtains nearly 97% of its electricity from hydropower.
Germany, Kenya, Morocco, Spain and Sweden are some of the other countries with dedicated programmes to make their countries fossil-fuel free in the coming years.
If tiny nations such as Costa Rica and Albania can invest money, effort and time into making the shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy, why can’t an economic giant like India? With its huge land mass, vast coast-line and ample sunlight, India is naturally gifted with the raw materials required. It’s all about the will- of its people and the government.
With the ecological time-bomb ticking away, the time to act is now.