Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
‘Negative Emissions’: Too much stress is not good
Human activities, the collective choices we have made to deploy fossil fuels and change land uses, are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and associated global warming. In 2016, the earth’s temperature was 1.3°C warmer than in pre-industrial times. More dishearteningly, even if countries take the action they promised at the Paris climate change conference in 2015, the world would be about 3°C warmer by 2100, well above the 2°C temperature limit to avoid dangerous climate change.
The current pattern of increasing emissions (which reportedly grew at the rate of 2.6% per year during 2000-2015) needs a rapid phase down. The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicates that the earth can stay below 2°C. The world would somehow make use of significant amounts of ‘negative emissions’. These are ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, or even change the earth’s radiation balance through geoengineering. These negative emissions in the models are used in addition to increasing use of renewables and improving the efficiency of energy services.
Methods for ‘negative emissions’:
Sequestering Carbon dioxide: Some of the approaches that could remove or absorb carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are better agricultural practices that leave carbon in the ground, use of biochar, undertaking afforestation and reforestation. One method that is bioenergy for fuel in combination with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). This involves the use of plants as fuel. The released carbon dioxide is then captured and safely stored indefinitely. Challenge: Competition for land for food and other purposes, and due to technological limitations, this approach is believed to be inappropriate for extensive use.
Other methods to suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and increase carbon dioxide absorption by the oceans are also being explored, but their long-term implications are not clear.
Some scientists have been discussing the possibility of injecting cooling aerosols at a large scale in the atmosphere, but these geoengineering technologies pose huge risks and are also not long-term solutions.
If approaches for negative emissions fail, we are likely to see a 4°C increase in global temperatures.
These models also fail to consider equity dimensions and social and technological barriers. As a result, they pose a severe risk to society, especially to the poorest countries, which will experience the worst impacts of climate change.
Negative emissions also create a moral hazard problem, where we expect (future) others to bail us out while we continue to lead profligate lives.
If negative emissions become feasible in future, they could help the world stay on course in reducing warming, but this cannot be assumed while we are running short of the carbon space available to dodge dangerous climate change.
Scientists need to speak openly and freely about the dangers of climate change without leaning on euphemisms.
Policies therefore to support practices that successfully keep carbon in the ground, prevent deforestation, support agricultural practice that sequesters carbon and promote sustainable land use practices that reduce emissions.
We also need a carbon tax.
‘Lifestyle’ and other consumption activities that may have hitherto been outside the radar of climate policy because they disturb the status quo or are difficult would have to be considered.
Policies should nudge especially the more prosperous communities towards less carbon intensive lifestyles, either through taxes or incentives or both.
Climate change is already in evidence all over the world with several seasons of intense storms, droughts, floods, fires and their aftermath, meaning that any further delay in reducing emissions would put at risk many more lives, livelihoods and investments for decades to come. Thus, priority action is needed to check GHGs emissions in the first place. Otherwise, today’s largely policies would merely shift current problems on to the shoulders of future generations.
Connecting the dots:
What do you mean by the term ‘negative emission’. Discuss why too much stress on it is not a good option and instead the focus should be on checking greenhouse gases emissions in the first place.
General studies 2:
Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
General studies 3:
Effects of liberalization on the economy, changes in industrial policy and their effects on industrial growth; Intellectual Property & Patent related issues
Making Indian an innovation hub: Protecting IP rights
The government has expressed desire to make India a hub of innovations at several for a. In PM Modis’s words: “Innovation is life. When there is no innovation, there is stagnation”. In his budget speech in 2015, the finance minister announced the setting up of the Atal Innovation Mission. But the progress in this respect has been tardy.
Efforts taken in past:
The UPA government, which constituted the National Innovation Council (NIC) in 2010 under Sam Pitroda, then adviser to the prime minister on innovations. The NIC’s key mandate was to draw a roadmap for innovations between 2010 and 2020. The council submitted three annual reports to the government, the last of which was in 2013. Sectoral innovation councils were set up in 25 major departments of the Union government, including in the ministry of agriculture. State Innovation Councils were also set up. The idea behind the setting up of these councils was to mainstream the idea of innovation in the functioning of the Union and state governments. However, it soon became evident that despite the government’s best intentions, there were hardly any innovative ideas which could be scaled up to the national level. This shows that government organisations are not ideally suited to devise game-changing innovations as they are mired in routine work. The work of the councils proves that innovations are designed in a supporting environment, irrespective of the size or nature of an organisation. The most important support that the government can provide is to protect the innovation itself.
The priority task for the government should be to create an enabling environment to safeguard the intellectual property of individuals, private and public companies that develop new products and ideas using their own investments.
Poor record on IP protection:
India is placed 60th among 127 countries according to the Global Innovation Index of 2017 — an index prepared by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Switzerland tops the list followed by Sweden, the Netherlands, the US and UK. Singapore is ranked seventh, Japan is at the 14th position, Israel is ranked 17th, and China 22nd. In the Forbes list of the 10 most innovative companies in the world, six come from the US. Interestingly, in a recently released International intellectual property (IP) index that studied 45 countries, India ranked a poor 43rd. It is this poor record on IP protection that is holding India back from being a leading nation when it comes to innovations.
Innovations in agriculture: A case study
One of the biggest innovations in Indian agriculture in the past 15 years was the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002. The innovation made India one of the top producers of cotton and the second largest exporter of the crop. Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, which released Bt cotton through its 40 or so odd licencees, wanted to release HT Bt cotton as well and applied to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). HT cotton is an innovation on Bt cotton, as it takes care of the problem of weeds at a cost much lower than that incurred by farmers in employing labour to take out weeds. But before Mahyco Monsanto Biotech could be granted permission for HT cotton, some unscrupulous elements pirated this cotton variety, probably from countries like the US and Australia, where HT cotton had already been released. These pirated seeds were multiplied in the country and this kharif season, several companies have sold an estimated 35 to 45 lakh packets of HT Bt cotton seeds. About 7 per cent to 10 per cent of the area under cotton in the country is now under this counterfeit crop. In view of the blatant violation of its IPR, Mahyco Monsanto Biotech withdrew its application in 2016. The government of the day did not take action to stop these activities.
India cannot aspire to be an innovation hub, if such clandestine activities flourish and innovators suffer. Stern and exemplary action is required in case of violation of IPR rights. Also, regulatory bodies need to clear applications for innovative products on time, lest they are introduced by pirates. Making India an innovation hub will become difficult if piracy is not tackled on war-foot basis.
Connecting the dots:
For India to become an innovation hub, protecting Intellectual Property Rights is a must. Critically analyze.
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