(Updated Aug 2016)
There is every chance that you have heard about climate change and global warming, and some of you would have also likely read something about it.
All the same, let me give you my take on it in a way that will (hopefully) stay in your mind.
As of Aug 2016, the average atmospheric CO2 levels were 402.24 PPM (parts per million). That is, for every million air particles, about 400 of them are CO2 molecules.
If that sounds like a real small number (400/1000000), there are many scientists who think otherwise.
Because CO2 belongs to a type of gas called greenhouse gas. When present in the atmosphere, these gases have the funny property of not letting out a good amount of heat radiated back from the earth. These gases hence essentially trap this heat and increase the overall temperature on earth. And because CO2, unlike many other greenhouse gases, stays put in the atmosphere for a long time, the trapped heat lingers around for a long time in our atmosphere too.
Most of us do not realize, but the overall world ecosystem is very delicately balanced. Even an increase in the overall temperature of a few degrees (2-3 degrees) can wreak havoc.
Havoc? What sort of havoc?
When our ambient temperature increases, all we normal sods feel is the heat on our heads and a good amount of sweat. These temperature increases you and I feel, while possibly reflecting global warming trends, are more at a local level and are likely to result only in relatively trivial problems.
But a warming, world over, has the potential to cause much larger damage. It can cause changes to rainfall and snow patterns, increase droughts and severe storms, reduce lake ice cover, melt glaciers, increase sea levels, and change plant and animal behavior.
Essentially, we are screwed even if some of the above happen. Some of our cities could have gone under water, those folks still having their land above water could either face severe rainfall or severe droughts, or worse.
In fact, many regions worldwide are already facing extreme conditions more frequently than they used to – severe droughts or severe rainfall. Just coincidence, or a confirmation?
At this stage, I must point out that there is a small minority who think that climate change and global warming are hoaxes, or at the very least, highly hyped-up challenges. They doubt any of the above listed alarmist scenarios will ever happen.
Well, I am no climatology expert, but I would rather be safe than sorry. What do you say?
In my opinion, we better believe that climate change is real, and have to somehow keep the CO2 levels in the atmosphere within certain levels.
So, what indeed is a safe number for atmospheric CO2? Without getting too much into the science, the safe number for CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is said to be 350 PPM (about 50 PPM less than what was recorded in Aug 2016).
Now, what is a really dangerous number for CO2 PPM in the atmosphere? There does not seem to be any consensus on this, but suffice to say that many scientists are alarmed at the level of 400 PPM alone.
Leaving aside these stats banter, the real catch is this: Reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by any level appears to be a herculean task, given that the world is actually seeing an increase in the amount of CO2 released to the atmosphere every passing day. This is because our lifestyles and businesses over the past hundred years have been built around processes and technologies that emit huge amounts of CO2.
So the question we have to ask is: How the heck do we manage to reduce the CO2 emissions? This is where the field of cleantech comes in. This is also one of the key themes that is discussed in many posts at the Cleantech Guide.