India’s Solar Man calls for immediate action on Climate Change

Prof Chetan Singh Solanki, popularly known as the Solar Man of India, called for immediate actions to address the rising threat of Climate Change. Prof Solanki was delivering a key address on ‘Energy Swaraj – An Essence of Sustainability’ at the ONGC Office, Deendayal Urja Bhawan, New Delhi on 16 March 2021. He asserted that climate change is a ticking time bomb and added that a public movement is required to make drastic changes to address the issue.

Prof Solanki delivering address on ‘Energy Swaraj – An Essence of Sustainability’
Prof Solanki delivering address on ‘Energy Swaraj – An Essence of Sustainability’

The Solar Man of India is on an 11-year-long Energy Swaraj Yatra to raise awareness and call for action to mitigate climate change. Dr Solanki, who is a Professor at IIT Bombay, will travel around the country in a solar-powered electric vehicle as part of the yatra. During his travel, he will deliver talks, hold meetings, awareness rallies, etc to strengthen Energy Swaraj as a public movement.

Prof Solanki being welcomed by Director (HR)
Prof Solanki being welcomed by Director (HR)

Prof Solanki was delivering an address at ONGC Delhi as part of the yatra. He was welcomed by Director (HR) Dr Alka Mittal and Director (Onshore) Anurag Sharma. Director (Onshore) introduced Prof Solanki as the solar expert who has been associated with several leading projects and achievements. He listed out his achievements including SoULS (Solar Urja through Localization for Sustainability) project, which aims to provide solar study lamp to every child in rural India as part of its ‘Right to Light’ mission. Director (Onshore) also mentioned that the SoULS project implemented in Rajasthan received the Prime Minister’s award under ‘Innovative Project’ category in April 2017.

Speaking on the occasion, Prof Solanki challenged the common perception that prosperity comes with growth (economic or financial). He said that economic growth has witnessed reduced happiness and increased tensions. Raising a question on what can be termed as growth, he said, “We are destroying the nature which nourishes us and polluting the air we breathe in the process. This problem started around 150 years ago with the beginning of industrialization.”

Dr Solanki’s address underway
Dr Solanki’s address underway

The Solar Man of India said that before 1850s, almost all the energy consumed was solar. “With easy access to high-carbon energy fuels, misuse of energy has increased.” Pointing out that energy is an essential commodity, he advocated for sustainable use of the same. “Every time we combust hydrocarbon to get energy, it takes away precious oxygen and increases carbon in the environment,” he said.

Prof Solanki said that global warming of 1 degree Celsius has already taken place and reiterated climate scientists’ warnings that we need to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degree Celsius. If this threshold is exceeded, climate change will become irreversible, he said. The Professor underlined that even with 1 degree Celsius change, havocs have been unleashed around the globe in form of massive forest fires, heat waves in the Middle East and rising sea levels. He said that rising sea levels is already the leading cause for migration from low-lying areas in Bangladesh.

The Professor warned that the planet can only afford 300 billion tonnes of carbon emission, but also pointed out that we are already emitting 10,000 tonnes of carbon per second and hence 41 billion tonnes per year. According to this projection, he estimated that the planet has a little over six years before irreversible damage is done to the planet – the time bomb.

Visuals from the event
Visuals from the event

Noting that the countries around the globe are taking several initiatives, he said that government work alone will not be enough to stop climate change and called for a public movement. He said 99 per cent of the population is unaware of this looming threat. Prof Solanki said that the handful of people opting for solar energy are doing it for economic reasons, and not for the environment.

Prof Solanki shared two fundamental laws of existence – (i) limited consumption and (ii) localized production. Explaining the two points, he said that resources are finite and advocated for limiting the consumption. He further said that the resources should be equally distributed among the masses to ensure distributed production is not centralized. He also gave an “AMG rule” of energy consumption -- Avoid use of energy as far as possible, even solar, Minimize use of energy and Generate solar energy.

He urged everyone to leave cleaner air and water for the next generation instead of accumulated wealth. The Gandhian said if nothing is done about climate change, global warming will increase to 3 to 6 degree Celsius in the next 80 years or the end of this century. Homo sapiens may become the next dinosaurs, Prof Solanki said.

Responding to queries after his lively talk, Dr Solanki said that only increasing actions and policy changes will not help; “It’s time for action now. And each one of us who is contributing to the pollution, need to act.”

Director (T&FS), Dr Solanki, Director Onshore and Director HR next to Solar Bus (left to right)
Director (T&FS), Dr Solanki, Director Onshore and Director HR next to Solar Bus (left to right)

After the address, Director (HR) Dr Alka Mittal, Director (T&FS) OP Singh and Director (Onshore) Anurag Sharma and other senior officers visited the solar bus, in which Prof Solanki has been living and travelling for the past 110 days. The Directors explored the solar bus with its living, kitchenette, study and washroom. They interacted with Prof Solanki about his travel and vision for the yatra.