Global awareness dawned early:
After World War the second, various types of atmospheric pollution started drawing increasing public attention in the western world, both in the USA and Europe.
In Europe, the incidence of London’s ‘Great Smog’ in 1952 initiated the process of bringing in ‘The Clean Air Act’ in 1956. This Act is believed to be one of the first legislations on environment in the world. Similarly in the USA in 1969 ‘The National Environment Policy Act’ was passed by the US Congress.
As we know, globally environmental pollution takes place mainly through carbon emission related to various developmental activities like construction, manufacturing, mining, motor vehicles, aircrafts; combustion equipment etc. All such emissions are gradually assuming alarming proportions.
Though CO2 is absolutely essential for photosynthesis of plant life, its raised level through the above developmental activities, very often adversely impacts the protective ozone layer of the earth triggering the process of climate change.
Sustained increase in atmospheric CO2 has also been shown to critically affect the sea water by increasing its acidity level, which in turn could endanger the marine ecosystem.
The key question:
Therefore, the moot question now is how to balance various developmental activities related to social and economic progress of nations with the preservation of global natural ecosystems.
Top 10 environment polluters of the world:
As per recent reports the top 10 environment polluters of the world are as follows:
1. China: Emits maximum CO2 of 6,018 million tonne. However, in terms of per capita emission, with 4.5 tonne China ranks 44 in the world, Australia being at the top of the list with 20.58 tonne followed by USA, Canada and Saudi Arabia. China has now pledged to cut its carbon intensity goal by 40-45 per cent by 2020.
It is important to note that against the suggestion of Denmark, the BASIC countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) have refused to set a target of reduction of the global carbon emission by half, by 2050. BASIC countries emphasized that the developed nations should first work out an implementable model for emission cut before setting up any target.
2. United States: Emits 5,903 million tonnes of CO2 with a plan to cut the emission by 17 per cent from 2005 level by 2020. Per capita emission of CO2 of the USA, which ranks no.2 in the world, is 19.78 tonne.
3. Russia: Emits 1,704 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and agreed to cut emission by 25 percent, by 2020, if others also do the same.
4. India: Emits 1,293 million tonne of carbon dioxide with per capita emission of 1.16 tonne and agreed to cut emission by 20 to 25 per cent from 2005 level by 2020.
5. Japan: Emits 1,247 million tonne of carbon. It is important to note that last year in Japan CO2 emission came down by 6.2 per cent and the country agreed to reduce its CO2 emission by 2020 from its 1990 level by 25 per cent, if similar steps are taken by other developed nations of the world.
6. Germany: Emits 858 million tonne of carbon dioxide.
7. Canada: Emits 614 million tonne of carbon dioxide with per capita emission of 18.81 tonne. The country agreed to reduce its emissions by 2020 from 2006 level by 20 per cent.
8. U.K: Emits 586 million tonnes of carbon dioxide with a declining emission level. As compared to 1990 level, EU has agreed to a 20 percent cut in emission by 2020.
9. South Korea: Emits 514 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and agreed to reduce its emissions 4 per cent below 2005 levels by 2020.
10. Iran: Emits 471 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The country is worst hit by environmental pollution with marine ecology of the Caspian Sea is in great danger.
Besides recent Copenhagen Accord more practical and effective steps must be taken by the global community, especially by these top 10 environmental polluters, to ensure quick and more substantial reduction in CO2 emission to arrest the climate change. This is obviously not expected to happen, as said earlier, at the cost of development and economic progress of any nation. The issue of climate change can primarily be addressed with initiation of various energy efficient measures to produce clean energy with increased sense of urgency.
Greater use of existing technologies like solar and wind power, electric and hybrid cars together with integrated robust projects to preserve natural ecosystems could save the humanity from the disastrous consequences of global climate change.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.