Stuff I Do

Experiences and Encounters in Pune

Living a Low Carbon Life

Posted by Sanskriti on November 11, 2009

Read Online on kidsRgreen

Online Game: Carbon Busters and Boosters


Who needs to be low-carbon?

India needs more energy to provide basic services and livelihood opportunities to all.But the atmosphere will get further destabilized with addition of more carbon; it does not care whether more carbon is coming from the US or India! So, all countries and communities have to shift to energy sources that are low carbon or no-carbon.

Vinayak Patil drew this for Earthcare

Green Jobs

New ways of energy production and use means that new jobs are being created. Courses on Energy and Environment Management are already offered by some universities. Professions such as that of Energy Auditors and for certification of green buildings are emerging.

Recycling is ‘green’ but work conditions need support

Many existing green jobs need encouragement. Waste collector Rebecca Kedari says she is already engaged in a green job and her work needs to be supported. She said, ‘builders make enough space to park cars and even before the flats are built. In the same way, housing complexes and the whole city should make space for storage of recyclables, composting, and segregation for recycling.

‘Recycling is ‘green’ but that work conditions are very poor. Green jobs need to be decent jobs-offering good wages and income security, safe working conditions,  dignity at work,  and adequate workers’ rights.’ (State of the World 2009)

India’s Advantage

Now that it is clear that future development has to be no- or low-carbon, we can pick a good and clean path. No need to go the dirty polluting way of earlier development.

‘India has an easier route. We have a shortcut. We can go to the eco-society straight, rather than through the route of classical industrialization’.

Mr. Mahesh Zagade, IAS, Municipal Commissioner, Pune

EarthCare page in Sakal Young Buzz (see archive for older pages)

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2 Responses to “Living a Low Carbon Life”

  1. Sanskriti said

    Ashok says he likes the cartoon but is not so sure about ‘farmer growing biofuels’. See here a WRI report on biofuels. It says ‘They have the potential to play some role in meeting future energy demands. But since large-scale carbon displacement would require significant destruction of global forests, the benefits of biofuels would likely be outweighed by the costs with respect to forestry, agriculture markets, and economic hardship for the world’s poor.’

    What is the potential of biofuels for decentralized, off grid power plants in Indian villages? Kapil suggests that oil from say mahua is anyway used, and the cake remaining after extraction could be used for a biogas plant.

    So …. Maybe the next EarthCare page can carry a feedback from Ashok and Kapil, and also the cartoon in a more visible size!

  2. Azhar said

    Please cut-paste and pass on to others by email to educate as many as you can about carbon reduction, BUT WITH THIS ENTIRE FIRST PARAGRAPH (IMPORTANT), IN ADDITION (I REPEAT, IN ADDITION) TO THE LETTERS I HAVE JUST TYPED OUT IN BOLD.
    Copyright: The New York Times, 2009. Source:


    December 1, 2009, 9:30 pm
    Betting on Copenhagen

    Olivia Judson on the influence of science and biology on modern life.
    Tags: carbon dioxide, Copenhagen, global warming


    Setting: A casino in a luxury space cruiser currently in the vicinity of the star that Earthlings call “The Sun.”

    Characters: Four rich aliens from different planets in the galaxy; they are standing by a window, looking out at the Earth.

    First alien: What a beautiful planet! Don’t you like the way the clouds swirl? Aren’t the oceans a gorgeous color? I’m so glad we’re going to be stopping here for a few days; I must get some postcards.

    Second alien (paging through “Wild Guide: Milky Way”): Yes, it’s home to an interesting set of life forms, too. [Pauses at a picture of a human.] Pity about these semi-intelligent bipedal apes — the place is simply swarming with them.

    Third alien (with a chuckle): It soon won’t be, not with the forces they’ve set in motion.

    First alien: Don’t be so silly. They’re not going to go extinct. Weren’t you at the lecture last night? The speaker said the bipeds know they have a problem. Apparently they’re having a big meeting about it in the next few days — at a place called [produces a notebook and reads out] “Copenhagen.”

    Third alien (hooting with laughter): Meeting, schmeeting. Haven’t you read the reports by the Intragalactic Council? Carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere are now at 387 parts per million — up from around 280 parts per million just 200 years ago. Do you know the last time they were as high as they are now? Fifteen million years ago, that’s when. And 15 million years ago, that [he points at South America] was an island.

    Second alien: And? On Anafraxion we’ve been using carbon dioxide as a climate regulation mechanism for eons. It works rather well.

    Fourth alien: Sorry, fellow life forms, but could you explain to me why carbon dioxide matters? My kind have been space-farers for so long, I don’t really remember how our planet worked.

    Third alien (rolls one of his many eyes): The Earth’s climate is affected by many factors — methane gas, volcanic eruptions, ocean currents, the planet’s orbit, that kind of thing. But by far the most reliable way to affect the climate is to fiddle with the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. When that rises, the atmosphere traps more of the sun’s heat, and the planet warms. When it falls, the reverse happens.

    Fourth alien: So what you’re saying is, a change in carbon dioxide from 280 to 387 parts per million must change the climate?

    Third alien: That’s right.

    Second alien: But is it really a big deal? It says here [points at guidebook] that for the last million years, the amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere has been low by historical standards, and that for much of the last 600 million years, it’s been higher than it is now.

    Third alien: That’s true. But these bipeds have been pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at an insane rate; if they keep it up, they’re going to go the same way as the bean-heads of Zarg.

    First alien (shudders): Oh, come come — it won’t be that bad.

    Third alien: You know as well as I do that what matters for the stability of a place, is not how much carbon dioxide there is in the air at any given time, but how fast it changes. Two hundred years for a change that big — that’s incredible.

    Second alien (thoughtfully): Yes, I see. If carbon dioxide levels are indeed changing as fast as you say, that’s bound to have consequences.

    Fourth alien (sounding nervous): Like what?

    Third alien (sounding jolly): For the bipeds, it will be bad news. Islands will disappear as sea levels rise; glaciers will melt; deserts will spread; storms will get bigger; fresh water will become scarcer; diseases will become rampant. The retreating glaciers will lead to more volcanic eruptions. Many of the places where the bipeds now live will become uninhabitable. It will be harder for the bipeds to grow their crops, and many of them will starve. Many other species will go extinct.

    First alien: No, no, it won’t be so bad. That’s an absolutely worst case scenario; it assumes they won’t get things under control and stop the carbon dioxide levels from rising more.

    Third alien: They won’t.

    First alien: Oh, I think they will. I think they’ll sort it out at this big meeting they’re having.

    Third alien (in disbelief): Which planet are you from? Don’t you see — the bipeds are in denial. I mean, some of them still think they can add as much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as they want, and have no effect. It’s like thinking you can eat as much as you like of whatever you like whenever you like, never take exercise, and still lose weight! It’s ridiculous!

    First alien: For their level of intelligence, they’re unusually cooperative and empathic. Capable of atrocious violence, of course; but actually quite nice creatures. I think they’ll pull together.

    Third alien: You want to bet on that? I mean — do you realize how poorly they’ve done so far? They keep underestimating the planet, and overestimating themselves.

    Second alien (waving the book): Listen to this: “During the past eight years, the bipeds increased their carbon dioxide emissions above their own worst case projections — and this during a period when they had pledged to bring them down!”

    Third alien: Sea levels are rising faster than they expected; ice is melting faster; the oceans are absorbing less carbon dioxide than before. I tell you, the place is a mess and going to get messier.

    Fourth alien: What can they do about it?

    Third alien: Well, they’d have to completely reorganize their society to stop emitting carbon dioxide, and they’re running out of time.

    Second alien: Do you think they’ll try and paint the clouds whiter, like the quoozles we saw on Niwrad?

    First alien: If they do, I hope it works out better for them—the quoozles miscalculated badly, poor things! But I still don’t think it’ll come to that here.

    Third alien: Like I said, want to bet?

    First alien (pauses, then speaks): O.K. I’ll bet 40,000 galactic dollars.

    Fourth alien whistles, impressed.

    Third alien: Done.

    For a moment, they all fall silent, and stand contemplating the Earth.



    The Intragalactic Council got its current estimate of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere from NASA. The estimate of carbon dioxide levels 200 years ago comes from Etheridge, D. M. et al. 1996. “Natural and anthropogenic changes in atmospheric CO2 over the last 1000 years from air in Antarctic ice and firn.” Journal of Geophysical Research 101: 4115-4128. The claim that it’s been 15 million years since carbon dioxide levels are as high as they are now comes from Tripati, A. K., Roberts, C. D. and Eagle, R. A. 2009. “Coupling of CO2 and ice sheet stability over major climate transitions of the last 20 million years.” Science, early online publication in Science Express, DOI: 10.1126/science.1178296.

    The third alien’s account of factors that affect the Earth’s climate is largely drawn from pages 281-283 of Morton, O. 2007. “Eating the Sun: How Plants Power the Planet.” Fourth Estate. See also Zachos, J. et al. 2001. “Trends, rhythms, and aberrations in global climate 65 Ma to present.” Science 292: 686-693; this paper also describes wide-spread species extinctions in the wake of the more rapid changes in climate.

    The idea that carbon dioxide levels have been higher for much of the past 600 million years appears to be widely accepted. The third alien’s apocalyptic view of the Earth’s future is inspired by Lynas, M. 2008. “Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet.” Harper Perennial; by Walker, G. and King, D. 2008. “The Hot Topic: How to Tackle Global Warming and Still Keep the Lights on.” Bloomsbury; and Lovelock, J. 2006. “The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back, and How we can Still Save Humanity.” Allen Lane. See also this. The idea that retreating glaciers could cause more volcanic eruptions comes from Huybers, P. and Langmuir, C. 2009. “Feedback between deglaciation, volcanism, and atmospheric CO2.” Earth and Planetary Science Letters 286: 479-491.

    The first alien’s belief that humans are unusually cooperative appears to have come from Fehr, E. and Fischbacher, U. 2003. “The nature of human altruism.” Nature 425: 785-791.

    The second alien’s statement that human carbon dioxide emissions have risen faster than the worst case projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change comes from here; for faster melting sea ice and the other problems described by the third alien, see the full report of the Copenhagen Diagnosis, which you can read here. The idea that it would require great efforts, as well as social reorganization, to change human carbon dioxide emissions is agreed on by climate change deniers and climate change proponents alike; what is disagreed on is whether it is pressing, or necessary at all.

    The second alien’s suggestion about painting the clouds whiter was inspired by the Royal Society of London’s recent report on geoengineering.

    Many thanks to Dan Haydon and Gideon Lichfield for insights, comments and suggestions.


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