Archive for the ‘climate crisis’ Category

Climate considerations in contemporary public work tenders

Sunday, September 12th, 2021



The current pre-tender public works procedure looks something like this: a primary investigation by the concerned department is undertaken to assess the financial and technical feasibility of the proposed project with approximate estimates, which when gets the consent of the department goes for a detailed investigation that if gets the technical approval comes out as the document for tender and work contract – including drawings, bill of quantities and specifications.

Nowhere in this two-stage investigation and approval process, ecological feasibility is examined as an independent factor in the work project. But this stage is quite crucial as the project once notified for tender almost never gets terminated and extensively revised for environmental reasons. Which is understandable because at this stage a lot of material resource, manpower, and political calculas has already been mobilized. Therefore, climate and environmental activists should focus on the policy framework determining the initial approval of public infrastructure projects.

Such a framework must become the law of the land – like the Climate Change Act 2008 in the UK. But given the fact that India is reluctant to even revise its climate goals that is a very difficult task. And even such a law with strict emission targets will not be sufficient to govern particular projects because the impact of a single work, especially small projects like single lane roads, is usually very low even over the infrastructure’s lifetime. But the cumulative effect of all projects in a region or of a megaproject with various sub-projects – like Sagar Mala do have a massive greenhouse impact.

Hence the need for planning. Planning will not only make the ecological assessment and hence the construction of a range of public infrastructure (and possibly private infrastructure) within the biophysical limits of the planet but also give the opportunity to make more just and equitable infrastructure – where the relationships of various projects and their relationship with society and classes within it is better scrutinized.

Climate Crisis: Some Relevant Graphs for India

Friday, October 11th, 2019

Part of my presentation on climate law at some university:

Saturday, July 27th, 2019

A question has been bothering me for quite some time now. The question is, whether it is better to do something – something that gives only an illusion of reaching a solution to a problem or, to do nothing about it? The paper was an attempt to clarify some issues around this problem.

What do I mean by actions “that only gives an illusion of reaching a solution” – by vacuous actions? I believe any solution that does not incorporate and take into account the core of the problem can never meaningfully solve the problem and hence are only empty posturing.

In case of climate change then, what are the core issues that any meaningful action must incorporate? There are several, but here I have only focused on four – three general and one India specific (but a derivative of a general issue).

The first one has to do with total global carbon budget. To keep global mean temperature below the catastrophic threshold of 2°C there is only a limited amount of greenhouse gases we can emitte. The global carbon budget for 2°C according to IPCC Working Group I is less than 700 GtCO2 and for 1.5°C is around 400 GtCO2.

But the divergence from this fact and core issue starts to appear in the IPCC itself when the Working Group III in it’s modeling assumes that we have a budget of around 1600 GtCO2 – almost three times the actual. All actions to mitigate climate catastrophe must take this fact into account.

The second part of the core of the climate problem has to do with carbon removal technologies. There are many variants of these technologies and the scientific community has been telling us again and again that none of them exist . Atleast they can not be deployed in the scale required in given time. But the IPCC Working Group I assumes these technologies in its modeling – this brings our global carbon budget significantly further down. This fact must also be taken into account in any set of meaningful actions.

Third, the recent IPCC special report on 1.5°C says that what is now required to avoid the worst possible catastrophe is a “rapid and far reaching transition in all aspects lf human activity” which is “unprecedented in human history”. It doesn’t recommend patching up older actions, policies and legislation.

And sadly, I haven’t came across any discussion of these issues in last two days in the conference. There is a limit to hiding behind the language of differentiated responsibility after which it morphs into irresponsibility.

The fourth point – about India. Using some older model I have tried to show in the paper that even in best case scenario, India has the carbon budget of around 40 GtCO2. Which means even if USA and the EU decarbonise rapidly and reach net-zero around 2040, to avoid climate cascade into an inhabitable planet India can only emit for 10 more years at current rate.

Any meaningful action in India must take this into account – otherwise it’s just a masquerade for business as usual.

What I have been trying to say is that we cannot negotiate with or fool laws of physics. And if we cannot do that, the only options we have are to either follow IPCCs recommendation of rapid and unprecedented transition in all aspects of human life or to embrace extinction.