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Zero-emission car to hit roads soon

TOKYO: The world's first mass-produced zero-emission minicar, the "i-MiEV", is all set to debut in Japan next month, which promises to usher in a

new age of driving that does not require fossil fuel.

Developed by the Mitsubishi Motors Corporation, the car has neither an engine nor a muffler and does not need an internal combustion engine because it runs on a motor charged with electricity.

The i-MiEV can travel 160 kilometers on its lithium-ion battery pack, but it will take 14 hours to fully recharge the battery from a 100-volt household power outlet.

It emits no carbon dioxide. Even when taking into account CO2 emissions at the power plants that generate the power needed for charging the car, it emits only about one-third of the CO2 of a gasoline minicar.


Think twice about 'green' transport, say scientists

PARIS: You worry a lot about the environment and do everything you can to reduce your carbon footprint -- the emissions of greenhouse gases that drive dangerous climate change.

So you always prefer to take the train or the bus rather than a plane, and avoid using a car whenever you can, faithful to the belief that this inflicts less harm to the planet.

Well, there could be a nasty surprise in store for you, for taking public transport may not be as green as you automatically think, says a new US study. Its authors point out an array of factors that are often unknown to the public.

These are hidden or displaced emissions that ramp up the simple "tailpipe" tally, which is based on how much carbon is spewed out by the fossil fuels used to make a trip.

Environmental engineers Mikhail Chester and Arpad Horvath at the University of California at Davis say that when these costs are included, a more complex and challenging picture emerges.

In some circumstances, for instance, it could be more eco-friendly to drive into a city -- even in an SUV, the bete noire of green groups -- rather than take a suburban train. It depends on seat occupancy and the underlying carbon cost of the mode of transport.

"We are encouraging people to look at not the average ranking of modes, because there is a different basket of configurations that determine the outcome," Chester said in a phone interview.

"There's no overall solution that's the same all the time."

The pair give an example of how the use of oil, gas or coal to generate electricity to power trains can skew the picture. Boston has a metro system with high energy efficiency. The trouble is, 82 percent of the energy to drive it comes from dirty fossil fuels.

By comparison, San Francisco's local railway is less energy-efficient than Boston's. But it turns out to be rather greener, as only 49 percent of the electricity is derived from fossils.

The paper points out that the "tailpipe" quotient does not include emissions that come from building transport infrastructure -- railways, airport terminals, roads and so on -- nor the emissions that come from maintaining this infrastructure over its operational lifetime.

These often-unacknowledged factors add substantially to the global-warming burden.


West not playing its part to tackle climate change: India

NEW DELHI: Industrialized countries are nowhere near meeting their legal obligations to combat climate change and are trying to muddy the waters by saying the global problem cannot be tackled unless developing countries do more, says Shyam Saran, India's chief negotiator at the climate treaty talks.

As the world stumbles towards a climate treaty scheduled to be inked this December in Copenhagen, a key preparatory meet is on in Bonn (June 1-12). Negotiators from around the world are poring over the "negotiating text" expected to lead to the treaty.

Saran, who is the Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Climate Change, said as the negotiating text stands now, "some parts of it do not correspond to the parameters laid down by the Bali Action Plan and several elements go beyond the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It should not include such formulations".

"The current exercise is not to renegotiate the UNFCCC but to see how we can enhance it" to tackle climate change more effectively, Saran told IANS in an interview.

Climate change - caused by an excess of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere - is already affecting farm output, leading to more frequent and more damaging droughts, floods and storms and raising of the sea level, with India among the worst-hit countries.


Paint your roofs white to slow global warming, says Obama's energy adviser

LONDON: US President Barrack Obama's energy adviser has suggested that as part of efforts to slow global warming, all the world's roofs should be painted white.

According to a report in the Telegraph, Professor Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, said that the unusual proposal would mean homes in hot countries would save energy and money on air conditioning by deflecting the sun's rays.

More pale surfaces could also slow global warming by reflecting heat into space rather than allowing it to be absorbed by dark surfaces where it is trapped by greenhouse gases and increases temperatures.

The Professor described climate change as a "crisis situation", and called for a whole host of measures to be introduced, from promoting energy efficiency to renewable energy such as wind, wave and solar.

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist said the US was not considering any large scale "geo-engineering" projects where science is used to reverse global warming, but was in favour of "white roofs everywhere".

He said that lightening roofs and roads in urban environments would offset the global warming effects of all the cars in the world for 11 years.

"If you look at all the buildings and if you make the roofs white and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of colour rather than a black type of colour and if you do that uniformally, that would be the equivalent of reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars in the world by 11 years - just taking them off the road for 11 years," he said.


Indian spiritual leaders go green

Indian spiritual sects are using their wide reach to promote green causes, using the fact that preservation of natural elements is at the country's spiritual core.

Less than a week ago, nearly 1,000 Buddhist monks, nuns and followers set off on a 400-km spiritual trek from Kardang in Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh across five high Himalayan passes to promote protection of environment and sustainable lifestyles in the region.

The 40-day trek is to say no to plastic bags, a major pollutant in the fragile ecological zone.

The trekkers, led by the head of the 800-year-old Tibetan Drukpa Buddhist sect, Gyalwang Drukpa, will distribute canvas bags to more than 100,000 villagers along the way as a symbolic gesture to shun plastic bags and switch to carry-bags made of cloth and other eco-friendly material.

The marchers will also raise funds - $30 per km - to spread education and sustainable eco-friendly lifestyle awareness in the Himalayan villages.

"This year, we wanted to promote something that purges pollution. Since plastic litter is one of the major eco-concerns in the region, we decided to teach the villagers healthy alternatives. We are in the wheel of a revolution and the way to carry it forward is to lead a clean life.

"Thousands of disciples who visit my monastery in Hemis in Ladakh every year from Europe and Japan requested that we do something in a sustained manner to turn the wheel of revolution so that more people can identify with the spiritual movement and can make their lives better," Gyalwang Drukpa, the head of the sect, said on telephone from Manali before flagging off the march.

The sect has also been given land along the Indus river on the way to Ladkah to create new woodlands by planting trees.

The trekkers will also champion the cause of "balanced education for children of the Himalayas" for sustainable livelihoods at the Drukpa sect's eco-friendly "Druk White Lotus School" in Ladakh that has won international acclaim as the best green school building in Asia.

"We want more children to study in our school and learn to lead balanced lives without losing touch with their culture and environment," the spiritual leader said.

"A clean environment is the cornerstone of a clean, healthy and strong India," says Ramdev, co-founder of the Patanjali Yog Peeth near Hardwar.

Ramdev is leading a campaign to clean the Ganga from its source in Gangotri to Ganga Sagar where it drains into the Bay of Bengal. He is working under the banner of Ganga Raksha Manch.

"The government has granted the Ganga national heritage status after our efforts for almost a year," the seer said. Ramdev, along with representatives of at least 25 religious organisations, is also opposing unplanned industrialisation along the river.

The Ganga - the ninth longest river in the world - is contaminated almost throughout its 2,500-km course. The campaign has managed to mobilise nearly 700,000 youths at the district level.

The cause has helped the Patanjali Yog Peeth identify itself to potential new disciples, especially the youths living in the villages along the Ganga, sources in the organisation said. "Most villages have Patanjali yoga and fitness cells," he said.

Protection of environment and mitigating the effects of global warming also tops the agenda of spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living, which has a global following.

"The only way to check environment pollution is to spread awareness. Many people in this world live without the knowledge of climate. They are immune even to changes in the cycle of seasons. They have to be educated," Sri Sri said.

The seer, who hosted a national environment summit in his retreat in 2008, has been campaigning against global warming and agri-pollution by promoting "organic farming", plantations and traditional farm technologies.

Youngsters identify with the campaign, says the guru, whose Art of Living Foundation headquarters on the outskirts of Bangalore is a model for sustainable ecological conservation and traditional farming.

Mystic and yoga expert Jaggi Vasudev, head of the Isha Foundation, a spiritual organisation in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, is known as a global tree planter.

His foundation entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2006 for an eco-conservation campaign, "Project Greenhand", which has planted 7.5 million trees in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Most of the foundation's members are young professionals.

 

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