Understanding the Nuances of Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent: Impact and Way Forward is an Online International Monsoon School Program, a Six-Week Immersive Online Introductory Certificate Training Course from August-September 2023 by IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute.
Mr. T K Arun, a senior journalist and columnist from New Delhi, delivered a talk on ‘A Paradigm Shift in the Climate Discourse.’ He began by discussing unconventional and innovative approaches to addressing climate change. He emphasized the need to explore alternative solutions beyond the mainstream focus on reducing emissions.
He pointed out that the United Nations has raised concerns about countries not doing enough to contain climate change and the likelihood of missing the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Mr. Arun suggested that instead of solely concentrating on reducing additional emissions, there should be a focus on removing existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
He highlighted that there are already 2,400 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since 1850, and a significant portion of this was contributed by countries that now urge developing nations like India and Bangladesh to reduce their emissions. Mr. Arun questioned why there is not more effort to remove this excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, turning it into a productive economic asset rather than an externality.
He mentioned companies like Lanza Tech, which converts carbon dioxide into chemicals like ethylene, and Carbon Engineering, which captures and converts carbon dioxide into useful products. These innovations could be part of the solution to tackle climate change.
Importance of R&D in the Climate Discourse
Mr. Arun also stressed the importance of research and development in finding new ways to utilize captured carbon dioxide, including converting it into building materials or products like synthetic aviation fuel. He discussed the role of artificial intelligence and deep learning in predicting protein shapes and suggested that similar technologies could be used to create new chemistries for carbon dioxide conversion.
He raised concerns about the cost and limitations of renewable energy and advocated for considering nuclear power, particularly advanced nuclear designs, as a cleaner and more cost-effective energy source. Additionally, he mentioned the potential of nuclear fusion and its promise as a future energy solution.
He highlighted the following key points:
Carbon Dioxide Removal
Mr. Arun questioned why the focus is primarily on reducing additional emissions when there is a significant amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere. He suggested exploring the option of carbon dioxide removal as a primary strategy to halt climate change.
Innovative Carbon Capture Technologies
He mentioned companies like Lanza Tech, which converts carbon dioxide into useful chemicals like ethylene, and Carbon Clean Solutions, which converts carbon dioxide into valuable products. These innovations could potentially transform how we address carbon emissions.
Mr. Arun emphasized the need for a mindset change regarding carbon dioxide, shifting from viewing it as an externality to considering it as a valuable resource for economic activities.
R&D and AI
He called for increased research and development efforts, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI), to discover new chemistries and biological processes that can efficiently convert captured carbon dioxide into useful products.
Renewable Energy Challenges
While acknowledging the importance of renewable energy, Mr. Arun highlighted the hidden costs associated with integrating intermittent renewable sources into the grid. He advocated for exploring nuclear power and offshore wind as viable alternatives.
Nuclear Power and Fusion
Mr. Arun discussed the potential of nuclear power, especially small modular reactors, as a clean and efficient energy source. He also mentioned advancements in nuclear fusion, which could revolutionize the energy landscape.
Restraint in Consumption
Mr. Arun stressed the importance of curbing excessive consumption and demand for goods and services as a complementary approach to combat climate change.
Changing the Discourse
He urged a shift in the climate change discourse, moving beyond the sole reliance on renewable energy and exploring innovative ways to utilize captured carbon dioxide.
In his thought-provoking session, Mr. T K Arun, a seasoned journalist and columnist, has eloquently articulated the urgent need for a paradigm shift in the discourse surrounding climate change. His insights challenge the prevailing mainstream narrative that predominantly focuses on reducing emissions as the primary solution. Instead, he advocates for a broader, more innovative approach that centers on the removal of existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
One of the key takeaways from Mr. Arun’s address is the significance of carbon dioxide removal as a central strategy in combating climate change. With a staggering 2,400 gigatons of carbon dioxide already present in the atmosphere, he questions why more emphasis is not placed on harnessing this excess as a valuable resource for productive economic activities.
Furthermore, Mr. Arun underscores the vital role of research and development, particularly in the realm of artificial intelligence, to discover new chemistries and processes that can efficiently convert captured carbon dioxide into useful products. He also highlights the importance of considering alternative energy sources, such as nuclear power and offshore wind, alongside renewables.
In essence, Mr. Arun’s session challenges us to broaden our horizons, think creatively, and adopt a more holistic and forward-looking approach to climate change. It calls for a shift in mindset, where carbon dioxide is no longer seen as a mere externality but as a potential asset in the fight against global warming. Moreover, it stresses the need for restraint in consumption patterns and the pursuit of innovative solutions to build a sustainable and resilient future for generations to come.
Acknowledgement: Mansi Garg is a research intern at IMPRI.
Teaser Youtube Video of Understanding the Climate Change in the Indian Subcontinent Programme: https://youtube.com/shorts/gQp6CjxfykE?si=xySGyD1ZUWs7L_AP
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