Published: Saturday 30 September 1995

Hot search for coolants

Your issue dated July 15 made a wideranging survey of the issue of sustainability in European (and other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD) countries. The climate issue is the most vivid proof of over consumption. At the Climate Convention in Berlin earlier this year, the Centre for Science and Environment took a leading role in contending that a compensation should be defined, measured and paid by the countries which surpass their quota of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. Undoubtedly, every citizen's right to an equal share of the atmosphere is the cornerstone of any future democracy on our planet.

The ethical stand on the climate issue is that no country &uld feel free to emit, on a long term basis, above the world average per capita, multiplied by its own population. However useful it might be for strengthening the case of those Northern countries which argue in favour of self-limiting levels of material consumption, one cannot escape that this puts in sharp focus the intractable debate on what is a sustainable world population.

In 1990 the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (ipcc), stated that global emissions of carbon dioxide should be decreased by 60 per cent if the grave risk to climate is to be averted. In the past 4 years, experts have simply learnt that the world has stabilized its emissions, not by increasing efficiency, but only because the East, i.e. the economies in transition, experienced a huge GNP decrease. No big OECD country has made a strong enough effort towards reduction, fearing political backlash.

Take the French presidential elections in May 1995, for example. There was no debate on the issue of green taxes, despite the obvious need to find a way to take off the fiscal burden put on labour. Even the socialist candidate chose to stress the need to share lab6iir by shortening the duration of labour, rather than by shifting the tax basis' from labour to pollution. Indeed, the vote bank of the xenophobic, extreme right-wing National Front would leapif a new policy for directly decreasing our emissions had been proposed. So much so, that the moderate right wing majority has put an extra tax burden on consumption to help fight unemployment and poverty.

Whatever progress might be made through rationailising prices and other related policy decisions, there will remain a huge gap in meeting the target of the 60 per cent reduction desired by the IPCC.

The sulphate aerosol cooling effect has been investigated by scientists the world over. If, indeed, sulphate aerosols - most of it emitted due to coal and oil combustion - has been so long responsible for continuously cooling the earth's atmosphere, then there is an urgent need to look for an artificial aerosol which would help prevent the undesirable acid rains.

Innumerable scientific eiperiments seem to offer much hope for those wishing that some geo-engineering countervailing strategy might be designed to cool the earth's atmosphere. The sulfate aerosol cooling effect is indeed one of the most obvious candidates investigated by scientists to reconcile the observed temperatures with the higher results derived from the climate models without aerosols.

In fact, there is an urgent need to look for this, because if this is not found, policyrnakers will invariably press for limiting their efforts towards cutting down GHG emissions. The onus of proof will be shifted from those who wish to deny the climate risk, to those who wish to warn against the varima 'orstacles. The regional-global bring for sure, is one of the very interesting components of the future debates, From the ethical viewpoint, I hope chemical science experts and cli gists will provide rapid results shou-mg that such artificial aerosols can be designed.

Despite the Framework Conventne on Climat.

A true man of science

I thank you very much for the exciting story of Mohanlal Madan, who has raised the air filter of his autorickshaw and thus improved it (Down To Earth, August 15, 1995). He is really a scientist, and has true scientific temperament. Please induce him to take out a patent for his invention and use the money for his research work. Could you pleaw give me the address of Mohanlal Madan, so that I can congratulate him personally?

Your magazine is indeed a model and provides inspiration to many people who are interested in science.

Mohanlal Madan's address is:
F-42, Jawahar Park Deoli Road, Khanpur, New delhi-110 062...

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