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Environment

Reducing Short-Lived Climate Pollutants, One Brick at a Time

Maria Sarraf's picture

​The latest science, described in the World Bank report “Turn Down the Heat,” indicates that we are heading toward a 4° C warmer world, with catastrophic consequences in this century. While carbon dioxide (CO2) is still the No. 1 threat, there is another category of warming agent called short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs). Mitigating these pollutants is a must if we want to avoid the 4° C warmer future.

The main SLCPs are black carbon, methane, tropospheric ozone, and hydrofluorocarbons. They are potentially responsible for more than one-third of the current warming. Because SLCPs have a much shorter lifetime in the air than CO2; reducing their emissions can create almost immediate reduction of global/regional warming, which is not possible by reducing CO2 emissions alone. According to one U.N. report, full implementation of 16 identified measures to mitigate SLCPs would reduce future global warming by about 0.5˚C.

In this blog, we will focus on one SLCP – black carbon. Black carbon is a primary component of particulate matter (PM), the major environmental cause of premature deaths globally. As a climate pollutant, black carbon’s global warming effects are multi-faceted. It can warm the atmosphere directly by absorbing radiation. When deposited on ice and snow, black carbon reduces their reflecting power and increases their melting rate. At the regional level, it also influences cloud formation and impacts regional circulation and rainfall patterns such as the monsoon in South Asia.

Washing Coal Could Save Lives in India

Muthukumara Mani's picture

Coal has been a mainstay of Indian energy. It accounts for 63% of India’s energy consumption, and demand is set to grow dramatically over the coming decades. Coal use for electricity generation is projected to grow 2% every year, almost doubling its share of India’s generating capacity by 2030. According to the International Energy Agency, India is likely to become the second-largest consumer of coal, surpassing the United States in the next five years.

Because coal is both cheap and abundant domestically, it may seem like the perfect solution to India’s energy and electricity woes. However, using coal comes with severe health, environmental, and economic effects. As quality of life improves for most Indians on one hand from economic progress, many could be subject to the vagaries of this dirty pollutant. Also, as the world moves closer to a consensus on climate change, using coal at this growing rate may become untenable.

Two recent studies shed light on the huge environmental damage that is done by coal-fired power plants in India. Professor Maureen Cropper and her co-authors at the University of Maryland estimated premature cardiopulmonary deaths associated with air emissions from 89 power plants from all over India. Last week, Professor Cropper presented their analysis in a World Bank seminar. Their study attributes on average 650 deaths per plant per year to directly emitted sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate emissions from coal plants.

Another recent study published by Greenpeace and authored by Sarath Guttikunda and Puja Jawahar presents more dramatic results than the Cropper study. It suggests that in 2011-2012, emissions from Indian coal plants resulted in 80,000 to 115,000 premature deaths and more than 20 million asthma cases from exposure to particulate pollution with an associated cost of $3.3 billion to $4.6 billion.

India's Air Pollution Woes

Muthukumara Mani's picture

The World Health Organization’s recent Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Assessment estimates that outdoor air pollution causes 620,000 premature deaths per year in India, a six fold increase since 2000. The main causes are growing emissions of particulate emissions (PM10) from transport and power plants. GBD in this analysis has ranked air pollution as the sixth most dangerous killer in South Asia and fifth leading cause of deaths in India.

Also, according to the WHO, across the G-20 economies, 13 of the 20 most polluted cities are in India and over 50% of the sites studied across India had critical levels of PM10 pollution. A recent rapid survey by Delhi based Center for Science and Environment revealed that almost 75% of respondents considered air pollution as a major cause of concern and as responsible for respiratory illnesses.

Voices of Youth: Green Dreams, Making Cities Serene

Sunera Saba Khan's picture

At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.

Without taking care of the environment we are shaving digits off GDP and, therefore, limiting our very potential for the future.

Economic growth in South Asia is driven primarily by exports which has led to expanded production requirements needed to fuel an ever increasing amount of trade. This has accelerated the environmental degradation of many countries in the region. Gradual environmental degradation, climate change and diminishing natural resources create extra pressure to adopt different approaches in supporting the export-driven economic activities. The past axiom of “grow first, clean up later” cannot run more in a region which has limited natural resources and a rapidly growing population directly dependent on natural resources. These countries are now shouldering an increasingly greater share of regional and global environmental production-related burdens.

Can Carbon Taxes Be Effective?

Muthukumara Mani's picture

Arne Hoel/World BankIt was heartening to attend the recent Partnership for Market Readiness (PMR) forum at the World Bank, where countries renewed their commitments to testing and piloting market-based instruments for greenhouse gas emission reduction. The PMR is country-led and builds on countries’ own mitigation priorities. Focus is placed on improving a country's technical and institutional capacity for using market instruments to scale up climate change mitigation efforts.

Voices of Youth: Toward a Green South Asia from India

Shruti Lakhtakia's picture

At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.

The creation and expansion of urban centers has been a hallmark of the development process. As per capita incomes in South Asia have increased, urbanization has expanded from 18% in the early 1970’s to 30% in 2010. This will continue to expand as people are drawn to cities for the opportunities to realize their aspirations.

These large urban communities, however, provide significant challenges, such as a high density, pollution and traffic congestion, all of which reduces the quality of life for its residents. By designing cities with the environment in mind, we will be able to reduce energy use and limit waste. Green growth in the cities of the future will minimize the ecological footprint and improve living standards

What will it take to make this dream a reality?

Like the Kumbh, Every Day

Onno Ruhl's picture

Kumbh Mela at the banks of Ganga,( photo by: Martje van der Heide)

When we got closer I saw that the bridge at the confluence was not a bridge:  It was a line stitched together from hundreds of little boats full of people.  Our own little boat went straight for it and docked at what looked like a slightly more important boat.  I then realized this was the place to take a dip…

Voices of Youth: Towards a Green South Asia from Pakistan

Kanza Azeemi's picture

At the 9th South Asia Economics Students' Meet on Green Growth, participants shared their vision about South Asian cities of the future. These are their innovative ideas.

South Asia, home to 1.3 billion people, houses some of the world's largest cities: Delhi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Karachi and Mumbai. As urbanization increases, the region will experience a hike in demand, consumption and production. Today, in Bhutan, 34% of the population still lives without electricity. With urbanization and development, carbon emissions from electricity generation and usage are bound to rise. Historically, it can be seen that the more developed a country, the greater its carbon emissions; USA's and Canada's drastic emission rates corroborate this. Although South Asia currently contributes much less to the carbon footprint than the more developed nations of the world, it is imperative to plan development so as to reduce its impact on environment.

Revitalizing the Waterfront

Parul Agarwala's picture

A thriving and active waterfront has been a common thread for great cities and urban centers, though the relationship of cities with their waterfront has undergone a series of transformations. In the industrial era, manufacturing and maritime activities such as shipyards, warehouses, and heavy industries dominated properties along the water, which served as an important transportation corridor. Today, in the post-industrial era, many cities are realizing the potential of reinventing waterfront properties.

In a webinar on January 10 hosted by the World Bank’s South Asia Urbanization Flagship Project in collaboration with the East Asia and Pacific urban team, speakers and participants from around the globe discussed challenges, strategies, and successful practices in waterfront redevelopment through a series of case studies. Five essential ingredients emerged:

Turbo-Charging Green Growth through Knowledge

Mabruk Kabir's picture

Flooding in BangladeshHot on the heels of Hurricane Sandy, Typhoon Bopha lashed the shores of the Philippines earlier this month, leaving 900 dead and 80,000 homeless. Extreme weather is becoming the norm. The World Bank-commissioned report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4°C Warmer World Must be Avoided” found that scientists are unanimously predicting warming of 4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The social, economic, and environmental consequences will be devastating. Over the past 20 years, over half of South Asians – more than 750 million people – have been affected by natural disasters, with the loss of life estimated at more than 60,000, and damages above $45 billion.

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