Cars and Climate Change

The term ‘climate change‘ is parodied around by current global media outlets at a mind boggling rate. It’s become so frequent that it mostly bounces off the collective mindsets of commoners like me. However, it does affect the lives of billions of people on our planet. The issue is that we can’t link this up to our individual scale of existence and often pass it up. 

What is climate change ? To a layman like me it’s the mother term encompassing global warming*, CO₂ emissions**, air pollution and other such ills. Climate change extends over a longer period of time. Its the climate, dummy ! Not weather. It means disruptions in climate patterns caused by human factors such as CO₂ emissions.

So, here we go :- CO₂ emissions cause Global Warming and this leads to Climate Change. These are all intertwined together in a death like grip.

I would dare say that a lot of people make a living by foisting climate change and related issues on international forums. This is not bad per se, but action at the ground level remains woefully short of promises. One wishes otherwise, rather than the same old meaningless and drab summits with people vying for media photo ops. 

What is the trigger for this rant of mine ? I have plenty of beef spinach in this. Go vegan ! For starters I am very sensitive to vehicle emissions and to add to my woes, my nose can smell out the difference between clean and polluted air. That’s what our noses are for, isn’t it ? My troubles started during the nineteen eighties when I was a teenager living in various North Indian metro cities, but mostly New Delhi .  I remember going down with severe allergy symptoms almost regularly, usually worsening further into full blown severe cold and cough. Of late I have discovered that this was due to increasing levels of vehicular and industrial air pollution particularly from coal fired thermal plants which releases CO₂ and other harmful elements into the air. 

There is data to support this :-

The CO₂ emission data is now quantified in terms of per capita, and you can see from the chart in the link above that the per capita emission zooms off after 1978-79, with every Indian contributing nearly 2 tonnes of CO₂ emission as of 2016.

To cut a long story short, most of my life was spent in dealing with allergy and cold issues, till I discovered Ayurveda*** in Kanpur, my present city of residence. It wasn’t hard to link my condition to air pollution. By this time Air Quality Index statistics are available online for most of our Indian metros. We are now regularly crossing the hazardous air limit indices in metros of North India, with the rest of the country averaging poor or below average air quality.   Here is the latest addition to my cluttered room :- 


testAn air filter used with the filter already blackened after a few hours of usage. Seems like carbon soot formation on the filter, not sure. My city has air pollution levels that are well above the norm.

Air pollution to me then, is what ties us as individuals to climate change. Air pollution in my part of the world is mostly due to transport emissions, since industrialisation here is not significant. Thanks to our corrupt and inefficient bureaucracy, business and industry growth remains stunted in India. The result is that heavy industries which pump major pollutants into the air are few. For once we can credit our babus ( a term used here for bureaucrats ) to keep some pollution in check.

There are no large industrial units near my city, but we do have millions of vehicles plying our roads on a daily basis. Regarding other modes of transport, we don’t have a heavy duty airport nearby, and most of our railroad traffic runs on electrified power lines. So, I am going to narrow this down further to road transportation.

That brings us to the revised contribution chain in the context of my region, Road Transport pollution –> Air pollution –> CO₂ emissions –> Global Warming –> Climate Change i.e. road transport contributes to air pollution and that contributes to CO₂ emissions and so on.

Transportation is a major source of air pollution as well as that of climate change. This has been stated by environment agencies around the globe.****

Coming back to climate change, a major cause — global warming, results in rapid ice cap melting around the Poles, consequently rising sea levels threaten vulnerable sea island nations like Maldives and sea delta inundated ones like Bangladesh. Climate change has also impacted agriculture globally.^ There are national level data sets available online to study this impact.

The solution is to go green, reduce our carbon footprint^^ and chose lifestyles that lessen this downward spiral of worsening climate change. As for me, I have started shunning petrol/diesel driven cars/SUV’s as much as possible, with my multi terrain bicycle being a constant companion and a major source of transport. The influx of battery driven electric rickshaws here has been a welcome change and I often use these to move around. 

My best guess is this, if each one of us does make a modest effort in cutting back our carbon footprint, we will be making life much easier for ourselves and for our future generations. 



*Global Warming :- Gas emissions like that of CO₂ act like a blanket, trapping heat in the atmosphere contributing to a rise in global temperatures.

**CO₂ emissions :-  Happen from burning oil, coal and gas for energy use. 

***Ayrurveda :- An Indian medicine system that lays emphasis on diet, healthy living and medicines derived mostly from herbs and plants.

**** Carbon Pollution from Transportation :- via @EPA


^^Carbon footprint :- The sum total of Carbon emissions caused by our individual activity.

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