By Darshan Goswami, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Clean air and a livable climate are inalienable human rights. And solving this crisis is not a question of politics. It is a question of our own survival.
Climate change is real. Global warming is the root cause of climate change. Far too often climate change is dismissed as an issue for the future. Numerous studies have shown that the earth’s temperatures are rising, and that’s already harming countless humans.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is responsible for the premature deaths of over 7 million people worldwide per year. “Pollution kills more people every year than wars, car accidents, and homicides combined,” Arnold Schwarzenegger has noted.
Climate change is having devastating impact on the lives of children in poorer countries like India and Bangladesh — whose childhoods are being washed away. Over 50 children in the age group of one month to 14 years die of cancer every day in India, according to a recent study which also highlights the significant monetary burden of the disease and lack of advanced treatment options in the country.
A number of cities in the Persian Gulf region may be unlivable by the end of the century due to global warming if humans do not curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research. Every year, we’re seeing new and undeniable climate events, droughts, intensifying extreme weather events, Greenland ice sheets melting at unprecedented rates — and all decades ahead of scientific projections. Our oceans are acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from the ocean floor. And unless we reverse course regarding the fossil-fuel-burning path chosen, there will be even more such early deaths attributed to the igniting of these fuels. Climate change is our single greatest security threat. Pollution control should be the top priority for India, as well as other countries.
The answers to climate change are very simple. The world needs to create a future powered by renewable energy. Renewable energy (especially solar and wind) is a game-changer for most countries in the world. It has the potential to re-energize the world by creating millions of new jobs, achieving energy independence, and combating climate change. Even providing 100% renewable energy is not a fantasy for someday, but a reality today. Many countries have already set a target to reach 100% renewables in the very near future.
World leaders have it in their power to make a real and measurable difference putting the planet on track. What is needed now is a new focus and global efforts by governments, corporations, citizens, and nonprofits to comply with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). I urge them to do so now. It is our moral and ethical obligation to prevent this human tragedy because it is totally preventable. I remain unwaveringly convinced that if the air-pollution crisis is resolved, we resolve the climate-warming issue in the process. I call that a win-win proposition for humanity.
Actions Needed to Reverse Climate Change and Global Warming in India
What we need in India is a bold new climate and energy policy. And we need a whole new set of social and technical knowledge to get us there. We need transformational thinking and new policy tools. We also need major legislation such as putting a price on carbon. However, we also need to know if those steps will even be enough to keep us below the scientifically endorsed and aspirational goal included in the Paris Agreement to limit global average temperature increases between 1.5°C and 2°C by 2100. We need to immediately find solutions to solve these pollution problems.
1. Introduce a carbon tax: Capturing carbon and planting trees could help slow and eventually reverse global warming trends. A carbon tax could be used to deter more emissions and some of the cash could then be put into important solutions on the other side of the coin, such as capturing carbon and planting trees.
2. Exponentially increase the deployment of renewable energy: Aggressively expand large-scale deployment of both centralized and distributed renewable energy — including solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and geothermal — to ease the strain on the present transmission and distribution system — and to allow more off-grid populations to be reached. Provide incentives to kickstart renewable energy programs for massive solar rooftops — over 100 million — and with home energy storage batteries.
3. Develop a national renewable energy (RE) policy: Enact and deploy a comprehensive new energy roadmap with innovative RE policies. In addition, set National RE Standards such as 20 percent by 2020, 40 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050 — to create demand, new industries and innovation, and a new wave of green jobs.
4. Electrifying transportation: Expedite a move to electrify transportation by encouraging expanded use of electric vehicles (EV) and plug-in hybrids, alongside deployment of solar-powered EV charging stations around the country. Develop and implement time-of-day pricing to encourage charging of vehicles at night and other times when peak demand is low. Adopt nationwide charging of electric cars from solar panels on roofs, carports, and solar-powered EV charging stations around the country. In addition, like China is doing, launch the public transportation system of the future with “zero-emission” battery-powered electric buses in all major cities. India must make a massive shift that will lead to widespread adoption of EVs in the next 5 to 7 years.
5. Energy efficiency: Promote energy efficiency in the economy, notably in industry, transportation, buildings, and appliances. Make energy efficiency a high priority by expediting the development and implementation of cost-effective energy efficiency standards. To reduce the long-term demand for energy, engage states, industrial companies, utilities, and other stakeholders to accelerate energy efficiency investments such as large-scale, nationwide use of LED lamps, etc.
6. Utility-scale projects: Plan for the long term — phase out conventional energy subsidies and develop a long-term plan to replace fossil with utility-scale renewable generation. We can no longer ignore the effect of pollution and climate change on health of our citizens.
7. Renewable Innovative Financing Solution: Provide innovative financing (e.g., tax-free solar bonds or green infrastructure bonds, etc.) to instill more confidence from potential investors and decrease the cost of financing for renewable energy projects. Create and fund a national smart infrastructure bank to accelerate local demand for renewable energy.
8. Decentralized energy: Avoid future fossil fuel investments in India and, instead, emphasize nationwide deployment of community-scale solar projects and microgrids with storage. India’s present 40 GW solar target should be extended to include photovoltaic panels on the rooftop of every home in India, generating enough power to reduce the country’s massive dependence on fossil fuels.
9. Microgrids: Aggressively invest in a smart, two-way grid and also microgrids. Invest in smart meters, as well as reliable networks that can accommodate the two-way flow of electricity.
10. Solar Roadways: India should also take advantage of its vast network of roads across the country and the sun that beats down on them and turn them into energy-creating solar superhighways. The idea of solar panel roads is to replace traditional asphalt roads with glass-based “solar panels that you can drive on” in a bid to turn roads into sources of renewable energy.
11. Develop energy storage: This includes thermal storage, grid battery storage (e.g., Tesla Powerwall home battery backup), compressed air/gas, vehicles-to-grid/home, pumped hydro, fuel cells or other hydrogen storage, flywheels, superconducting magnets, and supercapacitors. Develop a “Hydrogen Economy” plan. India can export sunshine around the world by converting solar energy into “Liquid Hydrogen Fuel.”
12. Transform India into a global solar manufacturing hub: Establish R&D facilities within academia, research institutions, industry, government, and private entities to guide technology development.
India has the technical potential to meet its current power needs more than 10 times over with solar energy alone. There are no insurmountable technological or economic barriers to tapping India’s vast potential to achieve 100% renewable energy.
India can easily build a 100% renewable energy system at costs comparable to or less than what it would have to spend to continue its reliance on fossil and nuclear power. There is no downside to this transition. We can make India the world leader and superpower in renewable energy, and eliminate the suffering of millions of people in Delhi and many other cities from pollution problems.
Darshan Goswami has more than 40 years of experience in the energy field. He worked as a Project Manager for Renewable Energy, Micro-grid and Smart Grid projects at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Pittsburgh. Earlier, he was a Chief of Renewable Energy (Head) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, DC. Mr. Goswami is a registered professional electrical engineer with a passion and commitment to promote, develop and deploy renewable energy resources and the hydrogen economy. In dedication to his life-serving humanity and poor people, the author supports: India Foundation for Children Education and Care, Inc. (http://www.ifcare.org/).
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