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Climate change 'can't be fought' with fancy issues: re-engineering cities, green energy

By Shankar Sharma* 

"The Hindu" has carried a discussion paper in the form of an interview, Can poor countries afford to go green?
Many such articles/ opinion pieces are making the grievous mistake of ignoring a fundamental question: what is the true cost of climate change (CC), and can poor countries, or for that matter any community, afford not to do all that is feasible to address the threats of  CC; instead of wasting our time and resources in endlessly deliberating on the so called "financial/economic costs" of the much needed transition.
Such articles seem to focus only on high profile / glamorous/ debatable stuff, and ignore the basic issues which we all can do something or the other to minimise the impacts of CC in the short-term, and which may probably lead to long term solution. The opinion pieces/ discussion, as above, are guilty of conveniently ignoring the basic question: what is the fundamental cause of CC?
The answer should be: the unsustainable demand for materials and energy at the global scale. If various sections of the global society make honest efforts to effectively address this basic problem, we can have a remote chance of averting or minimising multiple disasters of CC.
But such articles focus only on high profile/ fancy issues: re-engineering our cities; more people using public transportation; reducing air travel; using green energy etc. which in most cases depend on government policies, and which in turn depend on powerful lobbies, and which will take years/ decades to implement on a global scale. The question that needs to be asked in this regard is: will such efforts bring about the necessary changes and in the time frame required?
They may be able to bring about some cosmetic changes; that too many decades later not to be of much use. But the overall demand on materials and energy will not come down by the necessary magnitude in 2-3 decades, if we continue with the demand increasing at the rate at which they are growing now.
For example, the complete transition to green energy at the global scale itself may take a few decades. But will even that be sufficient, if the total energy demand keeps increasing as is happening?
Can the material resources of the earth support this massive demand, say by 2050? Transitioning from the over dependence on fossil fuels, as it is now, to massive energy production through renewable energy sources cannot be the answer we should be looking for.
The unwavering focus for all sections of the global society, starting from now, should be to honestly make efforts to minimise our demand for materials and energy; and to launch relentless pressure on local, regional and national governments to implement the enabling policies/practices.
---
*Power & Climate Policy Analyst

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