Given the climate emergency our planet earth is facing, with accelerating global heating and devastating biodiversity loss, any initiative by a government which proclaims its aim as “greening the economy” deserves critical examination for both its importance and limitations.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s announcement, on India’s 75th Independence Day, of the government’s plan to launch a National Hydrogen Mission is one such initiative by an emerging economic power in the global economy.
Its stated purpose was to make India a production and export hub for green hydrogen. This is also believed to be linked to India’s aim to reduce its reliance on oil from Russia and the Middle East which has come into the limelight during the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
That hydrogen is a problematic green energy resource as an alternative to fossil fuels is not generally recognised. This obfuscation characterises Indian government’s “green” hydrogen mission too.
Different types of hydrogen
Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but for commercial use on earth it is produced either (i) from fossil gas, usually by steam reformation, or (ii) by the electrolysis of water. Electrolysis technology splits the hydrogen from oxygen in water.
More than 98% of hydrogen used commercially is “grey” – produced from gas. Left-over carbon is joined with oxygen and released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. Global hydrogen production’s carbon footprint is about four-fifths the size of the aviation sector’s.
The climate crisis is leading to massive social rifts. Politics-as-usual will tend to accentuate the problem rather than solve it – and effective adaptation calls for radical transformations that push beyond the existing system. By Ulrich Brand, Barbara Fried, Rhonda Koch, Hannah Schurian, and Markus Wissen
Imagine a summer heatwave in Berlin in 2050. For weeks on end, the temperature fails to dip below 20 degrees, even at night. The heat builds up in poorly renovated, heavily populated residential areas—while neighbourhoods with green areas and private gardens are up to ten degrees cooler.
This is a just a single glimpse of the kinds of inequality produced in a world shaped by climate change—and it is far from the most distressing one. By mid-century, far more serious environmental crises will interfere with living conditions in many regions of the world, or even render them unbearable.
Yet, even in Germany, heatwaves will claim lives. Preparing for the coming increases in extreme weather and environmental crises demands massive action—however, this need continues to be ignored. Even a rich country like Germany is failing to take the measures that are necessary to adapt.
The price is being paid primarily by those who have access to the fewest resources and bear the least responsibility for the climate crisis.
Climate adaptation is a social question, conceivably the social question of the coming age. But even on the left it is often pushed aside.
To speak of adaptation suggests a posture of defence and resignation, and fails to inspire assent. And anyway, wouldn’t we be better off directing all of our efforts toward mitigating climate change than already starting to reconcile ourselves to the consequences?
The opposite is true. If we take climate prognoses seriously and consider what, concretely, a two-degree rise in average global temperatures will mean, we will see all the more clearly that a radical fight against climate change is urgently necessary in order to prevent an even worse fate.