The physical problem underlying climate change is very simple: dumping carbon dioxide and other greenhouses gases into the air raises their concentrations in the atmosphere and causes gradual warming. In the several decades since climate change has been an important international political issue, the necessary solution to this simple problem has been viewed as equally simple: the world must radically reduce its emissions of carbon-carrying gases.
Here we explore a different perspective, and a different type of solution.
Carbon dioxide is a waste product; dumping it into the open air is a form of littering. Dumping can be avoided or cleaned up with technological fixes to our current infrastructure. These fixes do not require drastic reductions in energy use, changes in lifestyle, or transformations in energy technologies. Keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is a waste management problem. The rapid mixing of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere simplifies this waste management problem compared with others, such as sewage or municipal garbage, where local buildup of waste is deleterious and therefore requires the disposal of the specific waste material as it is generated. By contrast, carbon dioxide does not create local damage, and it does not matter where carbon dioxide molecules are removed from the atmosphere as long as the amount removed equals the amount added.
Waste management was introduced for other effluents because uncontrolled dumping caused serious and irreparable harm. For example, the introduction of sewer systems in European cities in the nineteenth century was driven by the recognition that cholera and typhoid were caused by water contamination. Introducing sewer systems had to overcome arguments that they were too expensive and that the causal relationship between waste and disease was not fully understood. As cause and effect became clear, sewer systems were built.
Nobody can buy a house today without a sanctioned method for sewage handling, and household garbage must be properly disposed of. Residents typically pay a fee to their local government to cover the costs of sewage removal and treatment. In many locations, private companies collect household garbage. Their successful business models rely on the fact that simply dumping garbage on the street is societally unacceptable, recognized as deleterious to health and well-being, and therefore illegal.
Even when the consequences of ignoring waste streams are not as drastic as with sewage, a majority of people may still agree on the societal value of cleaning up. For example, in modern societies, littering along highways is unacceptable. The consensus is visible in the fines established for littering.
For global climate change, a change in primary focus from emissions reduction and resource conservation to waste disposal, changes the approach to the carbon problem. Current policies tend to encourage and reward reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. If the world were to consider carbon dioxide like sewage, this would not be the case. Rewarding people for going to the bathroom less would be nonsensical. Low-flow toilets would certainly be encouraged, but the reduced flow must still be properly channeled into a sewage system. Similarly, the alternative to littering is to properly dispose of (or recycle) trash, not to expect that people let trash accumulate in their cars. The focus on reducing emissions to address climate change has typically included with it a moral judgment against those who emit. Such a moral stance makes virtually everyone a sinner and makes hypocrites out of many who are concerned about climate change but still partake in the benefits of modernity. A waste management perspective makes it unnecessary to demonize or outlaw activities that create waste streams. It’s okay for people to use toilets and generate garbage; society in turn provides appropriate means of waste disposal to protect the common good. From a waste management perspective, carbon dioxide emissions represent the metabolic by-product of industrial activities on which billions of people depend to survive and thrive. Now we must learn to safely dispose of this and other domestic by-products.
Domestic waste aside from decomposing and letting off unfriendly gases also portends very serious epidemic. Health matters must be an issue of concern towards a better waste disposal system. Waste not properly disposed as seen from our intervention sites are precursors for uncontrolled runoffs and overwhelmed drains. This itself is a great environmental hazard and must be addressed seriously and effectively. As part of Climate Change intervention as seen from the above narrative, Delta NEWMAP set out to provide waste disposal bins for the five gully sites. The purpose of this is to reduce the direct menace posed by improperly disposed domestic waste to the environment and even ongoing construction works and investments.
Essentiality of Project
- To prevent pollution and its associated localized environmental impacts
- To prevent burning waste which over time can result in respiratory diseases caused by smoke and smog
- To prevent diseases and infection caused by vermin and effluents of decomposed waste that may be spread through water, rain or insects.
- To provide for additional household income through waste sorting and sales as recyclable products.
- Prevent hazards that may arise from blocked drains. Block drains are precursors for uncontrolled and misdirected runoffs.
Delta NEWMAP as part of Climate adaptation activities funded by SCCF, provided waste bins for her five intervention communities to ensure that above listed essentialities are taken care of. Each community provided with waste bins were admonished to adhere to waste disposal and sorting training that they received during the Catchment Management Plan capacity building. It is believed that with the establishment of CIGs, waste handling and disposal will be further addressed conclusively.