By Anuska Joshi

People from Dhe, a small community in the mountainous region of Nepal, became the first recognized case of climate refugees in the country. One can only imagine what it feels like to lose your home town, your culture and to be driven out to be dependent on others. But this is what the changing climate, fuelled by the fossil fuels, is doing to so many communities across the world. The fossil fuel, the coal, can never be clean, which is why the shift to clean energy is so important to prevent losing our home, our only planet earth and ourselves.

The main culprit of the climate change is carbon which is a bi-product of fossil fuels. That is where the importance of shifting to alternative energy sources lie. The switch to cleaner energy sources means avoiding the release of these harmful gases to the atmosphere. In the case of Nepal, our global carbon emission is negligible. Being among the least developed countries, Nepal lags behind in technological advancement compared to its neighbors. But while the emission from industries is relatively low, most rural population in Nepal depend on firewood for their energy source. The dependency on firewood creates deforestation, health hazards due to smoke emission in small kitchens and also poor eyesight. On the other hand, Nepal has a lot of potential for renewable energy like solar and hydropower. The year wise installation of solar energy has increased each year. Altogether 103,271 households were using solar energy as of 2016, according to the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre (AEPC). Similarly it has also achieved wind data from over ten stations from different potential areas of the country.

According to the Renewable Subsidy Policy, 2073 BS, (i.e. 2016), prepared by Ministry of Population and Environment, “Despite huge renewable energy potential, still around 85  percent of the total final energy consumption in Nepal is met by traditional biomass energy and around 28 percent of households in Nepal do not have access  to  electricity.  It  is  not  possible  to  significantly  improve  the  living  standard  of  the  low  income population living in the rural areas if their renewable energy demand is not met.”

Our sea level is rising, our mighty Himalayas and ice caps are melting, glaciers are retreating, water level is reducing, biodiversity is being lost, we are facing erratic rainfall, drought is some places and flood in other, and there is food insecurity. We are also facing problems of coral bleaching and salinization. Every year people lose lives and property because of weather extremes, and our livelihoods are changing. This is climate crisis. These are only some of the issues that we are facing. Climate change not only causes new problems, it worsens and exacerbates the already existing ones too. According to Kevin Trenberth from US National Center for Atmospheric Research, global warming is contributing to an increased incidence of extreme weather because the environment in which all storms form has changed from human activities.

In the 15 countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions, the damage to health from poor air quality, largely associated with the burning of fossil fuels, is valued at an average of 4.4 percent of GDP, as said in the ‘Better Climate, Better Growth: The New Climate Economy Report’ published in September, 2014. Switching from fossil fuel to alternative energy source is beneficial to the health of both people and the planet, and is always a win-win situation.

Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems, according to Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

J Eric Smith, the CEO of Swiss Re, says: “What keeps us up at night is climate change. We see the long-term effect of climate change on society, and it really frightens us.”

Switching to alternative energy is a very sustainable solution we have, to fulfill the needs and demand of people while ensuring minimum possible harm to the environment as well. By opting for renewable energy, we pose least possible pressure on our planet.

The fact that renewable energy is a feasible source of energy is also proven by the difference between the green energy projection and reality. In the year 2000, the projection was that worldwide wind capacity will reach 30 GW by 2010, by 2013 that goal was exceeded by a factor of 10X. The world’s largest offshore wind farm, the London Array, can power 470,000 homes. Mexico has invested heavily in wind, including building one of the world’s largest wind farms. On May 11, 2014, Germany generated 74 percent of its electricity from solar and wind energy. In September 2014, South Australia powered an entire workday with solar and wind energy. According to reports, enough solar energy reaches earth every hour to meet the power needs of the entire world for a full year.

The places that did not have electricity before can directly get these new solar or wind energy. Even in case of Nepal, the rural mountain villages that did not have any electricity, are now getting it from solar panel, which is also debunking the myth that trapping solar energy might be difficult in mountains.

While the world is trying to shift to solar and wind energy, the fossil fuel enthusiasts are already hurt and reluctant about having to leave so much of possible energy source under the ground. Because it is not only energy source for them, it is money. But while they continue to dig up the ground for the oil, millions of others pay the price. According to scientists, we need to let the remaining fuels remain underground for cleaner air and a lesser risky future. When we pay the fossil fuel industry, it is not just money. The cost of carbon is drought, famine, sea level rise, water scarcity, climate refugees, extreme events, dying corals, wildfire, retreating glaciers, species extinction, infrastructure loss, ecosystem and most of all, our way of life. As we are in the tipping point, and as we have already come a long way by trying to promote renewable energy, it is time to have a strict say about inclusion of fossil fuel industry in our decision-making processes and work further to revolutionize the clean energy sector.

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