In an earlier protest Greenpeace activists project a message to stop climate change on a cooling tower of the National Thermal Coal Plant.In an earlier protest Greenpeace activists project a message to stop climate change on a cooling tower of the National Thermal Coal Plant.

The morning after Cyclone Phailin struck the east coast with all its fury, the newspapers had terrible pictures and stories to tell of the disaster. One of them had a picture of a badly battered house. A family must have lived there once I imagine; a young son who would venture out in the sea with his father every day while the mother stayed behind to cook. The thatched roof house would have once been small and renovated to fit a bigger family after the son might have married and raised his own family. It must have taken the fisherman and his son 20 years to raise a family and kids, build their lives and their new home. And it must have taken the cyclone a mere 20 seconds to wipe out their existence. What wrong did this family do to invite such a tragic end to their home? Or what wrong did the other 2 lakh families do whose houses have now been destroyed?

I can't help but feel sorry that it is because of our actions that innocents are being killed. The recently released report on climate change by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change blamed human action for the disasters that keep happening. It blamed our excessive greed to burn fossil fuels like coal and gas for heating up the atmosphere and slammed us for refusing to correct our current ways that are damaging the climate beyond the point of no return. In the last one year, India has burned 465.2 million tonnes of coal. Between 2010 and 2013, India has considerably increased its carbon emissions to become the world's third largest carbon emitter.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in one of his public addresses in August noted that "India will be most seriously hit by climate change". Yet, as per UN projections, by 2017, India driven by its growing economy and energy needs will overtake US in terms of coal consumption. It is no wonder then that we are paying a dear price for the disasters that we are creating. It was only four months back in Uttarakhand that thousands had died. During the monsoon season, Bihar grappled with drought and now as the winter season approaches, the state faces a flood situation due to the cyclone. Thousands of more families are now in the line of nature's fire as their homes and means of livelihood wait to be destroyed by the looming disaster.

Climate change is a scary reality and it is killing us with increased frequency and fury than ever before. We must intervene immediately if we want to buy some more time to save ourselves and other innocent lives. We must invest ourselves into renewable energy, which is clean and sustainable, if we want to secure our future.

India has a huge clean energy potential to the tune of 140,000 MW but the sector faces significant infrastructure challenges and policy hurdles. The country at present suffers from an electricity shortage fuelled by a coal shortage. Renewable energy can thus help India meet its electricity crisis without the ill-effects of coal consumption and in turn keep the climate change at bay. We can prevent future disasters like Uttarakhand, Bihar or Phailin from happening but it all depends on when we make the right start. All I hope is that we don't figure it out too late as someone wise once said, "only when the last river has been polluted, and the last tree been cut down, and the last fish been caught, will we realise we cannot eat money."