Make Planet Earth Great Again…

As the world observes yet another global environment day, the events in the background paint a mixed picture. There is America opting to exit from the Paris Accord on climate change mitigation, signed in the year 2015 by 194 countries committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and restricting the rise in global average temperature to below 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels. The previous US administration had played a major role in facilitating the historical accord by committing to overdue emission cuts. Yet the gentleman now at the helm in America attributes his decision to ‘the unfairness’ of the deal, the special treatment for India and China. Regrettable a response and the height of irresponsibility one would think, coming from a country that presently is the second highest polluter, just a tad below China. The following table puts the figures in perspective:

Country CO2 emissions (kt) in 2015  % CO2 emissions by country Emission per capita (t) in 2015
 World 36,061,710 100%
 China 10,641,789 29.51% 7.7
 United States 5,172,338 14.34% 16.1
 European Union 3,469,671 9.62% 6.9
 India 2,454,968 6.81% 1.9
 Russia 1,760,895 4.88% 12.3
 Japan 1,252,890 3.47% 9.9
 Germany 777,905 2.16% 9.6
 Iran 633,750 1.76% 8.0
 South Korea 617,285 1.71% 12.3
 Canada 555,401 1.54% 15.5
 Saudi Arabia 505,565 1.40% 16.0
 Brazil 486,229 1.35% 2.3
 Mexico 472,018 1.31% 3.7
 Australia 446,348 1.24% 18.6
 South Africa 417,161 1.16% 7.7
 United Kingdom 398,524 1.11% 6.2
 Turkey 357,157 0.99% 4.5
 Italy 352,886 0.98% 5.9
 France 327,787 0.91% 5.1
 Poland 294,879 0.82% 7.6
 Thailand 279,253 0.77% 4.1
 Taiwan 279,174 0.77% 11.9
 Kazakhstan 267,978 0.74% 15.2
 Spain 262,683 0.73% 5.7
 Malaysia 245,371 0.68% 8.1
 Ukraine 228,688 0.63% 5.1
 Egypt 226,985 0.63% 2.5
 Vietnam 206,028 0.57% 2.2
 United Arab Emirates 199,253 0.55% 21.8
 Argentina 191,199 0.53% 4.4
 Venezuela 178,568 0.50% 5.7
 Netherlands 165,317 0.46% 7.8
 Iraq 160,623 0.45% 4.4
 Algeria 147,692 0.41% 3.7
 Czech Republic 111,092 0.31% 10.5
 Uzbekistan 109,845 0.30% 3.7
 Belgium 97,002 0.27% 8.6
 Kuwait 95,013 0.26% 24.4
 Turkmenistan 94,236 0.26% 17.5
 Qatar 88,825 0.25% 39.7
 Oman 78,446 0.22% 17.5
  Azerbaijan 38.000 0.30% 3.9

 (Statistics courtesy Google)

It must be noted that per capita emission is more important than percentage of emission as it is an index of the living standards of people. A higher per capita emission would point to higher consumption of amenities and utilities arising obviously from superior lifestyles. Whereas the (UK included) 28 member European Union with a population of 510 million, and America with a population of 326 million account for per capita emission that respectively equates to nearly four times and eight times more than India with a population of 1.34 billion, it is explicitly clear as to who the world’s biggest polluters are.

So was the previous US administration extending any special concession to India and China? Saner thinking would point to clarity that prevailed earlier in due recognition of economic and social development achieved by Americas and Europe through enormous consumption of earth’s resources and burning of fossil fuels the process entailed, a situation still largely continuing, and the consequent imperative of curtailing emission levels whilst prudently allowing populous and developing countries (read India and China) to viably pursue the path of progress using low cost energy such as coal and oil. While it is incumbent on developed economies (read USA and EU) to curtail carbon emission by migrating to cleaner forms of energy, it is certainly not fair to insist that developing countries also adopt the same path, as the sudden switch to clean energy requires huge investment which is not immediately feasible for many of the developing economies. Hence the Paris Accord is not a concession to India and China, it only accommodates a sense of fair play and the polluter-pays-principle while insisting all signatory countries to commit to stipulated emission controls, without legal binding.

The White House Rose Garden tirade of the present occupant against the Paris Pact has, therefore, no basis in fact. India did not make its participation contingent on receiving billions of dollars in aid from developed countries, other than insisting on realistic timeframes and targets based on judicious assessment of various constraints and compulsions of developing economies. Total foreign aid to India in the year 2015 was a meagre usd 3.1 billion, of which American contribution amounted to just about usd 100 million, which is being whittled down to usd 34 million. Interestingly, India buys Californian almonds worth usd 100 million every year, in addition to armaments equating to billions of dollars in value. India today is more of an aid donor than aid recipient and offers ample opportunities for investments with availability of qualified and skilled manpower, and demographic dividend quantifying to 650 million people below 25 years of age, apart from being a huge domestic market for consumer and capital goods. No other country holds similar advantages. The other hyperbolized US claim is that the Green Climate Fund (GCF) is of usd 100 billion whereas the actual corpus is only usd 10.3 billion. All contributions to GCF are voluntary, thus it obligates neither US nor any other country for finances. The gentleman in the White House is reportedly contemplating on giving his consent to renegotiate for a re-entry into Paris Deal, but the reality is terms of the agreement signed by 194 countries around the world cannot now be renegotiated. Does anyone want to waste time talking to a gentleman who does not believe in documented scientific data, who does not believe that Arctic ice sheets are melting, summers are getting harsher and winters more extreme?

There is no truth in either India or China planning massive investments in coal based energy plants as several major cities in both countries are reeling under high pollution levels and perforce need to migrate to clean energy. Despite its developmental challenges, India is rapidly increasing its renewable energy capacity. The goal is to achieve a forty percent reduction in emissions in planned forward time horizons. While Kochi, my home city, already boasts of the first fully solar-power operated international airport anywhere in the world, my home state of Kerala with a population of about 33 million is commemorating world environment day by planting 10 million saplings, thereby committing every third person in the state to becoming part of the Green Kerala Initiative. Including Kerala, many states in India are planning the gradual shift to electric vehicles to replace diesel run vehicles in public transport services.

On the macro front, the US exit may well catalyze a new EU-Asia axis to pursue emission targets set forth in the Paris Accord. It is not also as if all states in America are united behind the exit. Atlanta recently became the 27th city in the US to pledge going totally green, committing to transition all its buildings to clean energy sources by year 2025 and 100 percent renewable energy by year 2035. It means that even if US administration is not in the Paris agreement, individual states and cities in the US may remain supportive of the deal. The other encouraging trend is the price of solar and wind energy equipments are declining, giving further traction to enterprises of countries driving the shift to clean energy. The recent study by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) corroborates that climate protection and sustainable development can go hand-in-hand. The report estimates that on an average usd 6.3 trillion of investment in infrastructure is required annually between year 2016 and 2030 to meet development needs worldwide, with an additional usd 600 billion a year over the same period to make these investments climate-compatible, a relatively small increase considering the short and long term gains in terms of productivity, growth and well-being.

With global response strengthening against the threat of environment deterioration, the momentum is bound to swing towards safer and sustainable practices whereby coal and oil interests are destined to find themselves out of sync. It may as well be a human response to a long overdue love and compassion to earth, with an abiding concern for future generations. The compelling necessity is to work towards abundance and rejuvenation epitomized in the seed dissolving into the womb of mother earth to spring forth as flowering plants and fruiting trees with a profusion of seeds to drive home the message of giving, and multiplying unconditionally, a gesture that humans have hitherto been gleefully exploiting without limit. The question is if it can at this late stage be reciprocated in some measure by the world coming together to make planet earth great again? Or, will it continue in mindless greed, and insanity as reflected in the words of Hubert Reeves: “Man is the most insane of species. He worships an invisible god and destroys a visible Nature. Unaware that this Nature he is destroying is this god he is worshiping”.

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24 thoughts on “Make Planet Earth Great Again…

  1. Dear Raj,

    On behalf of most Americans I apologize for the shallow, ignorant behavior exhibited by Big Baby Bully, current resident of the White House (or possibly Mar-a-Lago). The U.S. could have an airport entirely powered by the sun, like Kochi, but we don’t. Despite renewables being good for people, planet, and business, Trump wants to please the fossil fuel industry.

    On the positive side, two things. 1) Donald Trump is irrelevant. 2) Renewable energy systems have advanced enough by this time to be cost effective, to generate good jobs, and to create excellent business opportunities.

    Peace and love, JoAnn

    • Your response, dear JoAnn, is keenly acknowledged as not only a token of appreciation but also a reassurance of how right-thinking Americans feel about the entire issue. It serves as a glimmer of hope that, regardless of many aberrations in the present, things will certainly straighten out at yours by another three-and-a-half years down the line. Good luck and warm regards your way too…

  2. Its hard to fathom the workings of some leaders except they continue to line their own pockets.. I think everyone was shocked at the Presidents withdrawal of this vital alliance to at least try to protect our Earth from pollution

    A great post Raj, and interesting table of facts of pollutants ..
    Wishing you well my friend.
    Sue 🙂

  3. It is hard to imagine the disappointment that the majority of US citizens are feeling regarding the actions of this very unpopular president who once again has chosen to step backward, to intimidate, to criticize rather than to look for solutions to the problems that the world is facing. It is alarming…our governors and many large corporations are standing firm with the Paris Accord, taking it on themselves to regulate polluters in their areas. Hopefully brighter days are ahead here. We do not plan to go down with this narcissistic and incompetent man whose base will be the ones who suffer most under his agenda.

    • Thanks, Holly, for sharing your thoughts on an issue that is not about a person or a country but about totality of life on earth. My sympathies are with the blue-collar constituencies in the US accounting for his support base as they have been neatly conned by jingoisms of ‘America First’ and ‘Making America great again’ and sold on hopes of uplift in fortunes. After all, what is any country in a larger perspective? Just a piece of planet earth that itself is in jeopardy. Saner entitities are hopefully grouping together to preserve the canvass so portraits can continue to be created…

    • Profuse thanks, Val, for your note of appreciation. The most commendable initiatives on environmental conservation have come in from leading states in European Union. Unsurprisingly some of the most well preserved geographies are in Europe, serving as role models for rest of the world. In this regard, it is heartening to see the presence of leaders of the calibre of Angela Merkel recently joined in by another liberal such as Emmanuel Macron. I hope the upcoming election in U.K. throws up another liberal face who will retain the country in EU. Please make it happen. Warm regards and best wishes…🤗

  4. Ohgosh, you do know that ‘basis in fact’ is no longer a requirement for a President in this country? This is a person who is addicted to provocation, not reason or anything even close to sanity. Shameful does not begin to describe this debacle.

    Every time I travel outside our little island Paradise, I am stunned at the consumption. We live in a small farming/gardening community where people eat largely from the land and sea. There is still far too much rubbish by the roadside – marks of mass consumption and the carelessness that comes with it – for my liking. Still, it absolutely pales in comparison to what I witness on the mainland US. Australia was cleaner when we visited recently, though recycling seemed a distant concept there, at least in Sydney. Ireland was clean and seemed a bit more conscientious in that regard. And these are but indicators, such a small part of much larger issues.

    Thanks for posting the statistics, such as they are – unsurprising but important to note. And your closing quote is close to my heart. Aloha, Raj

    • Thanks Bela for lending your voice to the anti-Trump chorus. Whether anyone likes it or not, the gent is going to be around for another forty odd months so the world is, regrettably, still only at the beginning of his caprices. All the more reason for committed people and organisations to show greater dedication to cleaner and environment-friendly practices. In this regard, I read an article today in a local newspaper about the experience of a lady who has lived for a long time in Altavilla Silentina, a small town in Italy’s Salerno province. On the day of her arrival, she goes to the local town office to register her domicile. The authorities verify her documents and, finding it satisfactory, present her with the ID card, followed by an instruction manual, a chart, and four buckets of different colours. As per given instructions, all households / commercial houses are required to segregate waste at source to be deposited into the buckets, with organic waste, paper and plastics, empty bottles and ceramics, used medicine strips, aluminium foil, sanitary pieces and damaged toys, going neatly segregated into different buckets and these are collected on scheduled dates of the week by municipality. At public places too buckets of different colours are placed and it is mandatory for the local people to deposit litter into buckets designated for the particular type of waste. Anyone found guilty of littering is promptly apprehended and penal fines imposed. The entire town is spick and span as societies are guided by high civic standards laid down and strictly administered from the time a resident sets up domicile in the area. The organic waste collected by municipality is composted for manure and biogas production, while plastics, glass, paper, aluminium foils, damaged toys etc are recycled and residual balance incinerated to also generate thermal and electrical energy. The Alta villa example may be a model for communities everywhere. Indeed the philosophy of clean energy and environmental conservation must percolate into our daily lives and become a mass movement, almost like a spiritual practice as it seems to be with you. There is no other way to go. With warm regards and wishes…,🤗

      • This is how I grew up! The glass and metal guys came, the papers were bundled and collected and the trash truck was separate. Rudimentary compared to your example, but it was done! Very heartening example, too 😌Aloha, Raj.

  5. I wanna new President. SOON!!!!

    I’m hoping that American businesses who want stability will go ahead and create their own goals to limit emissions. Rumor has it that that might happen. Hope so!

    • The soonest realisation of new presidency may be another 42 months away… The US corporates, many of them with multi-national operations, may all be supportive candidates.

  6. Very real topic that you touched upon, Raj. You are right – emission per capita usually is the more eye opening figure. Even Australia is right up there with America and the UK. I don’t think Australia is savvy when it comes to creating a sustainable environment. Mining is still a big industry in Western Australia. It has been that way for many, many years and many Australians seem to think that this is a great resource that will last forever. Same goes to the fact that there is a large ozone hole over Australia and not many of us seem to be concerned with that. Over the last few decades, standard of living has become better in Australia but in a way I think we are getting complacent about how lucky we have it. Not all of our resources will last forever, and the city centres are becoming much more congested and polluted.

    • Australia, together with Canada, are two countries with large area and sparse population as of now. But the numbers in both countries are set to grow with steady flow of immigrants as much more skilled people are required to realise the development potential. The only concern is it should happen in a sustainable manner without environmental degradation. Australia has enormous reserves of coal but time is now overdue for the country to move away from coal and get on the path of clean energy and sustainable development. In this context, it is really surprising that the country is still inviting foreign investments into its coal mine projects. An Indian billionaire is investing usd 16.5 billion in Australia’s Carmichael Coal mine project., which is not a happy situation at all from an environmental standpoint. Large parts of Australia are beautiful with pure air and water. One hopes it stays that way for future generations. Thanks, Mabel, for bringing your views into the discussion here.

      • Yes, the Carmichael Coal mine project did ruffle some feathers with quite some media coverage. Environmentally it is an issue, but also as you mentioned, Australia is relying so much on this resource to sustain itself. Australia does have a lot of sparse land, but development these days is still focused on improving densely populated areas. More needs to be done. Always appreciate the thoughtful, current affairs issues you post, Raj.

  7. OH Raj as I was looking at the table you present at the start of the post, I couldn’t help but grown as the per capita emission of Canada, where I live. My heart sunk as I really did think we were making more headway here than we are.. in reality we’re not much improvement over the U.S. Well, aside from Trump’s backward, ignorant thinking about the environment 😦 I think many people stick their head in the sand when it comes to the problems on planet Earth but we ARE all humans an ought to work together. It has to start at the individual level but requires government support and guidance, as well as education. Hugs for such a timely, well-written post!

    • Thanks Christy, for your feedback on the issue. Canada is still one of the countries with probably least degradation and large tracts of virgin land. Please be at the forefront of environmental preservation, and you will have my hugs…🤗

  8. What an invaluable post! Raj, while I was reading your well-thought out, eye-opening thoughts, what kept reverberating in my mind is…“We don’t inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” Leaders come and go, paying a lip service to Mother Earth by holding conferences without actually doing anything worthwhile to control environmental degradation. Whatever little work has been done in this field is negligible if we look at the statistics! Unless concrete steps are taken, a day is not far when man would make another planet habitable to survive and begin polluting it afresh!!
    Thanks for highlighting this all-important issue.

    • Thanks Balroop for your keen thoughts on the subject. I agree with you that without change of outlook from consumption based lifestyles to one based on conscious living, abuse of environment will be a continuing feature no matter how many planets humanity ends up colonising riding on progressing science and developing technologies. Trump being up there is one of the many symptoms of a chronic disease.

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