Global Warming and What Can We Do About It?

Ever seen a greenhouse? They are the sheds with roofs and sometimes even walls made of glass and other transparent material. This lets a huge amount of solar heat in and warms the air which is trapped inside by the roof and the walls, keeping the temperature inside the greenhouse much warmer than outside. In cold climates this helps certain species of plants that prefer a more tropical environment to thrive.

The sun’s rays enter the Earth’s atmosphere and bring life and heat to the planet. However a huge amount of this radiation is reflected back by the planet. It’s a very delicate balance, because too much heat reflected would mean an ice age and too little would mean we would be a burnt toast!


Carbon Dioxide, Nitrous Oxide, Methane and Water vapour are called greenhouse gases. These gases form a layer in the atmosphere and prevent the reflected radiation from leaving the Earth. Just like a green house, this will make the temperature on the surface become steadily hotter.  This effect is called Global Warming.


1998 and 2005 have been the hottest years in recorded history! According to a study completed by researchers and scientists at MIT there has been a 100% increase in the intensity and duration of severe storms such as hurricanes and tornadoes since the 1970s. The study found that this is most likely due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.


The temperature of the Earth in the last 100 years has risen by 0.6 deg C and is steadily rising, and according to scientists will rise further by 1.1 deg C to 6.4 deg C this century! This may seem like insignificant figures, but if the global temperature falls by just 4 deg C, we will experience an ice age, Canada will be under a mile of ice! A 6.4 deg C rise in temperature could well signal the end of life as we know it!


Global Warming is insidious. It’s not like an earthquake or a tornado or a volcano. It’s a slow, steady march towards doom. And because it’s slow, we tend to ignore the threat. We just turn on the air conditioner and complain about the weather and more or less go on with our lives as if nothing major is really happening. This attitude is not going to help us for long.


Fortunately more and more people are becoming aware of global warming and are slowly accepting it as a serious problem, serious enough that they are willing to change their lifestyles. The top three causes of global warming are:


  1. Power generation
  2. The Meat industry
  3. Transportation

I would love to add another cause there, it’s the United States of America. They have 4% of the global population and contribute to 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions. More than India, China and Japan put together!


Can an individual really make a difference to this very alarming problem? The answer is a resounding Yes! After all, it’s just individuals who form the society. Each person makes life style choices every day. When each person starts to choose a greener more responsible way of living, then it’s still not too late to arrest planet meltdown.


Use less electricity. This is a no brainer. Turn off lights, fans, air conditioners, heater, etc. Remember to turn off the switch in the wall. Heating and Air conditioning are the two biggest power consumers. In cold weather, wear more clothes and insulate your house so you don’t need so much heating. Use a Solar geyser for heating bath water. In hot weather, keep the use of air conditioning to minimal and set the ac at 24 deg C or more.


Use energy saving devices, such as LED lights for lighting.


Don’t leave your computer on stand by or with a screen saver. According to the Clean Air-Cool Planet Website, One computer left on all day results in the emission of 1,500 pounds of carbon dioxide in a year. It would take 100 to 500 trees to absorb that amount of extra carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Multiply this by the number of computers on the planet and the results will be pretty phenomenal.


You will see that small actions, done with consistency and commitment will add up to a very big savings in the long run.


We all need to go places. But we can do it in healthy, responsible ways. Walk, run, bicycle, skate your way to places that are near. This not only reduces your ecological footprint, but also keeps the body healthy. Use public transport. And if you have to use a car at all then try to use the option of car pool.


If you are in the market for a new car, choose one that gives more Kms per liter of fuel, rather than one that just looks good. Lobby for getting hybrid and other energy efficient cars to be made in India. As far as possible, avoid flying.


Many corporations are choosing to have their employees work from home. This means a terrific saving in transportation costs as well as logistical costs of maintaining an office! Would you believe going green could help alleviate unemployment in India?


Here is a little known fact, one that many websites and even Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth) didn’t talk about. A meat based diet contributes to 40% more greenhouse gases than the pollution generated by ALL the traffic in the entire world put together! All the cars, buses, trains, planes and ships of the planet don’t pollute as much as the meat industry. They actually pollute 40% less!!


There are billions of animals being slaughtered every year. In the US alone, the number of animals being “processed” every year is more than 6 times the human population on the planet. Understand that these animals need food to eat and water to drink. They also excrete. The colossal amount of food and water that is pumped into this industry is enough to feed more than 50 times the current human population. In fact, if just 10% of the US population went vegetarian, there would be enough food for 800 million people and the entire world’s hunger problem would be solved!


If you ate a plant based diet, you would save so much water, that you could leave your shower on, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year and still save more water for the planet compared to a person having meat. A plant based diet is now accepted to be vastly superior for the human body than a meat based diet


The tremendous amount of resources needed to create meat translates therefore into billions of tons of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere…


Finally while you are combating global warming, by choosing to eat green, you also stand up for the meekest and smallest amongst us. Those helpless animals with no voice and no choice at all…


So at every meal, each person can make a greener, healthier, more humane choice: Eating vegetarian food!


The above choices when exercised made by more and more people on the planet will ensure more than anything else, the arrest and reversal of the very severe threat of Global Warming.




Khurshed Batliwala



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