COVID-19, climate and carbon neutrality

Context: Environmental problems have profound public health consequences both in terms of morbidity and mortality and hence demand urgent actions in the post covid-19 world.

How are environment and public health inter-related ?

  • Human intrusions: Evidence has gathered that loss of biodiversity and ever-increasing human intrusions into the natural world have contributed heavily to the outbreak and spread of epidemic diseases.
  • The three Es: evolution, ecology and the environment will be key to identifying potential pandemics.
    • COVID-19 also reinforces the need to pay far greater attention to the biosciences that underpin agriculture, health and the environment that are going to be deeply impacted by the current pandemic.
  • Environmental problems such as air pollution, water pollution, chemical contamination, deforestation, waste generation and accumulation, land degradation and excessive use of pesticides all have deep public health consequences.
  • The traditional ‘grow now, pay later’ model is not only unsustainable in the medium- to long-term but also dangerous to public health in the short term.
  • A report of the Ministry of Earth Sciences called ‘Assessment of climate change over the Indian region’ points to the need for making our future science and technology strategy in different areas with an understanding of the impacts of climate change caused by continued emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • The depletion of the ozone layer has been fixed more or less, but HFCs are a potent threat from a climate change perspective since their global warming potential is a thousand times that of carbon dioxide.

What is carbon neutrality?

  • Carbon neutrality refers to that situation when carbon emissions are equal to absorptions in carbon sinks, of which forests are one.
  • Carbon neutrality, is a far bolder and worthwhile goal, the attainment of which has to be consciously engineered.
  • It will involve massive scientific invention and technological innovation especially when it comes to removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

Way forward

  • India can and should show to the world how the measurement of economic growth can take place while taking into account both ecological pluses and minuses.
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