Now that Donald Trump has pulled the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, concerned environmentalists are wondering if the conference goals can be achieved. Progressive states like California hopefully will step up to take actions where Washington is ducking out. Individual actions by folks like you and me are also important and may help make up for the nation’s lack of responsibility.
A lot of attention is being paid to what China will or won’t do … much less to another important living lightly on this small planet Earth Matters player – India. India, with well over a billion people, could soon compete with China for the dubious distinction of being the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gasses. The country is rapidly evolving from a place where few people had electricity to one where everyone enjoys the comforts of modern living.
Today, India badly needs a green revolution. Most of its electricity production is coming from coal. Coal is cheap and abundant, but the worst source of greenhouse gases. At present, about 120 coal burning power plants are being constructed there.
At the climate change conference in Paris, it was India, rather than the United States or China that was the bogeyman. If any scientist at the conference were asked to define the biggest threat to the global environment, he or she would automatically say “India.”
India’s pursuit of the China experience would be a nightmare scenario for global warming. China’s annual emissions per person are 7.1 tons. In India, it is only two tons. If India continues to go the coal route, they will catch up with China in terms of emissions in a generation or two.
Climate scientists agree that the success or failure to achieve temperature goals will depend more on India than on any other nation. Over 300 million Indians are not yet on the grid, but will be soon, one way or the other. Fortunately, India has good potential for developing power from wind and solar instead of coal and oil. All that they need is a trillion or so dollars of green development. India will have to up its game if it wants scads of private financing for wind and solar. It will need a fair tax structure, governmental incentives and land use policies designed to encourage renewables.
Indians, of course, have no interest in feeling guilty to please the developed world. They argue that North America, Japan and Europe have built their national wealth on the back of cheap oil and coal and that denying India that same opportunity would be morally wrong. But implicit in India’s argument is a pledge verging on blackmail … pay us or we will embrace a high-carbon future. They have less to lose than most other nations.
It clearly is in the interest of the developed world to help India go the route of renewables, rather than coal. Hundreds of billions of dollars in private or public funds will be required if that is going to happen.
Wouldn’t it be great if the United States and the other countries of the world that are spending massive amounts of money on weapons of war would realize that spending some of that money on solar panels and wind generators for South Asia would help save the world from the consequences of global warming?
This article first appeared in the August 2, 2017 issue of the Rossmoor News. Author, Bob Hanson can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.