Archive | August 2015

Choice is Clear–Survival or Extinction

Choice is Clear–Survival or Extinction

By Chaitanya Davé

There have been five extinctions of living species in the past. The last extinction occurred 65million years ago when the dinosaurs went extinct. This was caused by a meteorite striking Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Today, 97% of the scientists who have weighed in on the issue believe that climate change is a human-caused phenomena. According to many of them, today we are already into the sixth extinction. Unlike the past extinctions which were caused by nature, this one is different. It is anthropogenic.

We the humans are adding billions of tons of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere every year by our out of control usage of fossil fuels, and our reckless destruction of forests around the world. The carbon thus emitted warms the atmosphere absorbing more and more sunlight and that in turn warms the oceans.

Another grim milestone for an ever-warming planet has just been marked last month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration revealed recently that for the first time in recorded history, global levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere averaged over 400 parts per million (ppm) for an entire month, the month of March, 2015. At the pre-industrial times, the CO2 levels were 280 ppm. Constantly burning fossil fuels, we humans have added 120 ppm more.

The strength and frequency of major storms around the globe are increasing year after year causing vast devastation and human suffering. Scientists at Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—a UN appointed panel—believe that we have less than 14 years left to rein in carbon emissions or we’ll need new technologies which are not yet in existence and which may not be effective.

If carbon emissions from fossil fuels continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at the current rate, the prediction by scientists is very clear. Humanity itself along with rest of the species will perish from the planet. There is no doubt about it. It is also clear to the scientists that if we burn all the fossil fuel that is still buried in the earth, the earth will burn and we the humans and all other species will burn to extinction.

Animal agriculture is especially responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all worldwide transportation—cars, trucks, planes, trains and ships—combined. Livestock and their waste and flatulence account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. Crops grown for feeding livestock consume 96 percent of the water used in the United States. Some eighty percent of the world’s soy crop is fed to animals. Most of this soy is grown on cleared lands where once existed rain forests. This is happening while some 6 million children globally die from starvation and hunger and starvation affect additional I million people. Staggering amount of natural resources are gobbled up to produce minimal amounts of animal products—to produce 1 gallon of milk, 1,000 gallons of water is used. To produce 1 pound of beef, some 10 pounds of grains are needed.

According to an April, 2013 report by the Insect Pollinators Initiative, insect pollinators such as bees provide pollination for up to 75% of crops and enable reproduction in up to 94% of wild flowering plants including most fruits, vegetables and nuts. Bees, along with other pollinators like moths and hoverflies are in serious decline around the globe since last few decades of 20th century. Their current decline greatly “threatens human food supplies and ecosystem function” around the world. Though it is unclear why, scientists suspect it is from a combination of new diseases, changing habitats around cities and increasing use of pesticides.

Forests are the lungs of the earth. According to Rainforest Action Network: We humans are destroying forests at a rate of 375 sq. km each day. As per Amazon International Network, close to 93,000 square miles of Amazon Rainforest—an area as large as UK–was destroyed by deforestation between 2000 and 2010. Bulk of this deforestation—84.3%–is occurring in Brazil. The world has already lost some 80% of its original forests. 1.1 billion acres of tropical forests were cleared in just thirty years between 1960 and 1990.

At the current rate, 5-10% of tropical forest species will go extinct every decade. 80% of all the fish stocks of the world are either already exploited, over-exploited or recovering.27% of coral reefs are extinct and 70% of earth’s coral reefs will cease to exist in next forty years. Half of the world’s coastal wetlands including mangrove swamps and salt marshes are already lost. One fifth of all species alive today will become extinct in next 30 years and 12% of all bird species are threatened.

Marine biologists have warned that ocean acidification is now one of the most worrying threats to the planet. Billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide that we emit each year lingers in the atmosphere causing it to heat up driving global warming. But around 30% of that gas is absorbed by the oceans where it is converted into carbonic acid. That has started killing coral reefs and shellfish beds while threatening other fish stocks. Very little can live in oceans which are too acidic. Caribbean has already lost about 80% of its coral reefs to bleaching. The amazing coral reefs of Australia will be the things of the past in a few decades.

U.N. scientists believe that in order for the earth to avoid the worst consequences of global warming, global temperature should not be allowed to rise above 2 degree Centigrade by 2080 but to achieve this goal, global emissions must be reduced from 56 billion tonnes annually today to 44 billion tonnes by 2020. These scientists said that the faster emissions are cut now, the easier it will be later to hold temperatures steady. “To hold temperatures to no more than a 1.5C rise, a figure which more than half the world’s countries are pressing for, would need annual 4-5% cuts in emissions after 2020,” said UN chief scientist Joseph Alcamo. China and the United States are by far the world’s biggest polluters.

These statistics are not just numbers. They are alarming facts. Every responsible person who reads this article should be extremely alarmed and worried. This worry should turn into action. We must act, not for anybody else but for our own children and grandchildren.

Melting glaciers worldwide, rapidly melting arctic ice-sheets, cyclones, major floods, typhoons, and heavy rains in some countries while drought and forest fires in others, mother earth is crying and telling us in no uncertain terms to change our ways.

The choice for us humans is very clear: Act now, start reducing GHG emissions quickly now or face extinction from this beautiful planet.


An Open Letter to Prime Minister Modi

Open Letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi: Nuclear Energy a White Elephant

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting with Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper at Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Canada, April 15, 2015, during which India signed an agreement with the Canadian company Cameco, which will supply 3,000 tons of uranium over six years — enough to power 1,700 megawatts of India’s 5,780 MW of nuclear-power plants. (IANS/PIB photo)

Posted: Friday, August 7, 2015 8:30 am

RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — The following is an open letter I have sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi:

“I am an environmentalist, so I am rather dismayed at your signing several deals with USA, Canada and Australia for the items related to nuclear plants. After the Fukushima disaster in Japan, many nations have realized that not only are nuclear plants too costly to build, they are outright dangerous. Over the years, the world has seen nuclear disasters like Chernobyl in Russia, Three Mile Island in America and Fukushima in Japan. These are three famous ones, but there have been many more accidents around the world. Nuclear plants are not only unsafe but are very costly and take at least 10 years to build. In addition, the nuclear fuel uranium is also a limited resource which will one day be gone.

“Many countries of the world are now moving rapidly towards renewable solar and wind energy. Denmark is a leader in green energy field. It is pursuing the world’s most ambitious policy against climate change. It plans to stop fossil fuel use totally by 2050. More than 40% of their power comes from renewable energy today which mainly consists of wind power. They are planning to go 50% renewable energy by 2020.

“After the Fukushima disaster, Germany has shut down all its nuclear plants and shifted massively towards solar and wind energy. Germany is now moving rapidly towards total renewable energy by 2050. Today, it meets more than 27% of its electricity demand by solar and wind energy.

“Not to be outdone by other countries, China, USA, and UK are also moving rapidly towards energy independence from fossil fuels. USA TODAY reported last February that the American state of California inaugurated the world’s largest 550-megawatt solar plant, in the town of Desert Center, California where it will generate electricity 365 days a year producing zero carbon emissions. A recent report in Global Possibilities pointed out that Scotland generated 49.8% of its electricity from renewables, effectively meeting its target of generating half of its electricity demand by the end of this year. Their plan is to generate 100% of its electricity demand by 2020.

“Japan has almost done away with nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster. So has Germany.

“Dear Prime Minister, all the industrialized countries are rapidly moving away from nuclear energy, as it is dangerous, costly and non-sustainable. Nuclear plants are accident-prone and costly to maintain. India has to request other countries to supply us uranium at a heavy cost. The worst part of it is no country to date has found a solution for the safe disposal of used nuclear fuel, which is radioactive for a hundred thousand years or more. America, Russia, and France possess millions of tons of used nuclear fuel which they do not know where to store, let alone where to dispose of it. The case is the same with Japan, UK and China. Then why should India go for such a dangerous source of energy when solar and wind power are forever and so abundant especially in India. India gets intense sunlight some 200 days a year. Why can’t we install thousands of solar panels in Thar Desert, generating enormous amount of electricity? Why can’t we install thousands of mirrors generating many gigawatts of electricity from solar thermal power? We have 7,500 kilometers of coastline, one of the longest in the world. Besides thousands of windmills on shore like you have done in Gujarat, we can install hundreds of thousands of windmills offshore like they have done in Denmark and Scotland or UK.

“Today, over the last decade, solar and wind power produced electricity is constantly getting cheaper to produce and is closing in price compared to coal or nuclear powered electricity. Coal fired power plants are the worst polluters in the world. Considering all these factors, sir, it makes no sense to go for nuclear power now.

“Prime Minister Narendrabhai, you can invite many of our big industrial power houses like the Ambanis, the Tatas and the Birlas to invest in these 21st century green energy ventures which will be sustainable forever. The solar plants and the windmills will create millions of jobs all across our country which will uplift millions of our poor. The country will become energy independent and will save billions of Rupees that we spend importing polluting Arab oil which is running out anyway.

“When I read your book on the environment, ‘Convenient Action’, that you gave me during our meeting at your residence in Gandhinagar on December 7, 2013, I learned how much you had done for the environment in Gujarat, mitigating the climate change.

“Today, Narendrabhai, you have the power, the will, the courage and the acumen to undertake this major game-changer shifting India’s power needs away from fossil fuels and nuclear energy to sustainable green energy on a massive scale. I am sure, 1.2 billion Indians are with you. More than 20 million diaspora are your avid fans today. Mr. Prime minister, you have the opportunity to change India forever into a developed country with a robust economy run by an energy source that is unlimited and everlasting.

“I very much hope that you will consider this superior option very seriously as I know that you are a very pragmatic man with an extraordinary vision.”