Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kalapatthar, Copenhagen and Climate Change

In their “concern” for global warming, hence climate change, caused by increasing emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), there have been a spate of steps taken by all and sundry. Highly publicized was the “under water cabinet meeting” held in Maldives, as that is where (under water) most of Maldives will end up if the incremental emission of GHGs at higher rate continues unabated. This globe is able to absorb GHG emission only to an extent through its myriad system, including forest and vegetation. The GHG emissions beyond this level exacerbate global warming and cause climate change.

Receding snow line
In the case of Nepal, direct impact of global warming has been seen in the receding snow lines as well as naked Himalayas (which is expected to be laden with snow). The receding snow line has created many a glacial lakes that can potentially cause glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) and ravage downstream areas. We already have had a couple of GLOFs. The threat posed by Tsho Rolpa glacial lake was mitigated in late 90s by cutting a channel through to let the water flow out of the lake such that its pressure on the moraine dam is released and the risk of GLOF is mitigated to an extent.

Adverse impact on tourismTourism industry becomes vulnerable with Himalayas becoming bereft of snow. As snow capped peaks of Nepal is great attraction to the tourists of the world. No snow will mean no, or reduced, tourists – one of the principal convertible currency earner of Nepal.

Population growth due to immigrationNepal is also vulnerable to the increasing sea level, not just Maldives. Politicos, bureaucrats and even quite a few “environmentalists” don’t seem to be aware of this threat. It doesn’t impact Nepal directly, though, as Nepal is a landlocked country. However, with the increase in the sea level and submergence of coastal areas of Bangladesh, the “environmental refugees” from that country will start migrating to higher altitude and Nepal will be a logical and safe haven for them. During “East Pakistan” war too, Nepal had to face migration of “war refugees” from there; quite a few of them have even settled down here. This will accelerate population growth in Nepal thus increasing pressure on sectors that Nepal is highly susceptible and vulnerable like food security, public services, infrastructure, et al.

Don’t exacerbate
In this backdrop global citizens are required to refrain from doing anything that will exacerbate the problem. Certain level of incremental growth of GHG emission is unavoidable to sustain economic growth, as economic growth feeds on increased energy consumption which fuels GHG emission (unless clean energy sources are increasingly used). A prudent policy is to hold down incremental GHG emission growth to a level the globe can sustain which is not a case any more. Another level of less prudent policy is to put a cap to incremental GHG emission growth rate; entailing abstaining from undertaking any nonessential activity that will thwart an attempt to cap the incremental GHG emission growth rate.

Activities showing concern for climate change – meeting in Kalapatthar
GoN aped (pun definitely intended!) Maldives in holding a cabinet meeting in Kalapatthar, with great pomp and ceremony (pride, too!), and announced certain measures thought to mitigate the problem. But to do this, in the considered opinion of this scribe, a nonessential trip to Kalapatthar was undertaken by 200 odd people as the same decisions could have been taken without exacerbating the problem of climate change. How did they succeed in exacerbating the problem?

In the name of this cabinet meeting these “environmentalists,” the “people” concerned for the environment of the world and Nepal in general and for the pristine environment of Sagarmatha in particular, added 14,485 kg of CO2 unnecessarily and they don’t seem to realize this. They should have at least not undertaken any activity that resulted in incremental emission of GHGs as such unnecessarily.

I have arrived at this incremental GHG emission by doing following computation. The distance from Kathmandu to Kalapatthar, as the crow flies, is about 170 km. But they flew to Lukla and were then ferried to the base camp in helicopters. Therefore, I have assumed the effective one way distance to be 200 km. CO2 equivalent emission per capita/mile in short haul flights is 0.2897 kg. and CO2 equivalent emission per capita for the flight from Kathmandu to Kalapathar comes to about 36.2125 kg and two-way is 72.425 kg. Therefore, CO2 equivalent emission for the trip by 200 people is 14485 kg. In other words, these “environmentalists” added 14.485 tons of CO2 for the meeting that could have been held in Kathmandu, unnecessarily.

Carnival in Copenhagen
It is said that over 600 people participated in Copenhagen jamboree from Nepal; comprising of many nonessential people (some enjoying even second honeymoons!). If these people were really concerned for the climate change only a couple of people should have undertaken the trip so that only a marginal amount of GHG could have been added. But the trip has happened and for this nonessential trip 971.8995 tons of GHG have been emitted and added to the globe thereby exacerbating the problem instead of mitigating it.

I have arrived at this incremental GHG emission by doing following computation. Flight from Kathmandu to Copenhagen can be deemed long haul flight but for the fact that we don’t have direct flight thereto. With the increase in the frequency of take off and landing the fuel efficiency takes a nose dive and intensity of CO2 emission increases. Therefore, I have used the carbon emission factor for medium haul flights of 0.2028 kg per mile. Distance between Kathmandu and Copenhagen is 3993.67 miles. Therefore, CO2 emission by one person during the trip is 809.9163 kg; two-way is 1619.833 kg. Hence CO2 emission by 600 persons during the trip comes to 971.8995 tons.

PS: I have taken the help of http://whatsmycarbonfootprint.com/ to do above computations.

Financial burden
I have not collated data on financial burden due to these trips undertaken in the name of mitigating climate change problem.
Ratna Sansar Shrestha

1 comment:

rajesh said...