Tug of War over Future Emissions

An article that appeared in the Times of India a couple of days back quoted a comprehensive study and modelling done by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) which says that:

"Even if India grows by 8% every year with the current set of technologies and policies in place, its per capita emissions will not exceed 2.77 tonnes in 2031 — almost seven times less than the current per capita emissions of the US and almost four times less than the current per capita emissions of UK"

[Emphasis is mine]

This, even after taking into consideration the current and planned technologies and policies for the next two decades (infrastructure, industrialization, etc).


This report has now been taken as an excuse by India to oppose the “rhetoric” of developed countries that developing countries will overtake the developed ones in their emissions in the years to come. The article goes on to say that India and China along with other G77 countries have put forth a demand that since the rich nations have been historically the uber-polluters (ever since the industrial revolution), the rich countries should pay for the cost of any emission reduction measures undertaken by the poor and developing nations.


IMO, there are 2 “issues” here:


Excessive per-capita Emissions by developed nations

It is obvious that the developed nations are committing horrific environmental-crime as far as emissions go. What is worse is many of them are not ready to accept this fact and take measures to set them right. Instead, they are looking for ways to deflect the blame onto the developing countries.


I vaguely remember some summit (APEC i think) where, if I remember correctly, US and Australia refused to sign a treaty (which several developed European nations and several developing nations signed) which sought a commitment from signatory countries to work on containing their emissions. What was highlighted in this summit was the probable consequences (drowning of island countries, polar and Himalayan meltdown etc). In spite of pressure from others, 2 countries refused to sign.


[Disclaimer: The preceding paragraph has been written off the top of my head – I could be wrong about the second country which did not sign the treaty].


Whenever I think of this situation, the first thing which comes to my mind is a program which I had watched on Discovery or NGC (I dont remember exactly which one) about 5 years back. The 1 hour program was about the scenic and tiny South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. The first part of the program was about the culture and people of Tuvalu, while the second part turned towards the question-mark over its future. The country has an average height of half a metre above Sea Level. The program predicted that Tuvalu will be the first country to completely drown if global warming continues at current levels.


The natives were interviewed and it was very sad to hear them argue “Why should we pay for your emission excesses? Why should we drown to wash away your sins?” Many people have started migrating to New Zealand, Australia and elsewhere; while some people stand their ground and refuse to migrate. They say “This is our home – we will stay back; come what may”.


Who is answerable to Tuvaluans? Why should they face the consequences of heinous crimes committed thousands of kilometers away?



Increasing Emissions by Developing Countries

The NCAER report stresses on per-capita emissions. However, Mother Earth is worried about total emissions – or maybe regional emissions to a certain extent, isn't she? What difference does it make to the environment whether the ozone layer is being punctured by a billion people or by one person? Its the nett effect – that the ozone layer has a hole at a certain location - that matters, is it not? At the end of the day, the ozone layer is being depleted; or the Himalayan snow-cap is turning bald; or the Antarctic ice-shelf is shrinking; or the forests in India are disappearing – that's the issue.


The point I am trying to make here is that the developing countries should not sit back and relax just because their per-capita emissions are low. The fact that India and China have billion-plus populations is their own fault. So, the total emissions being spewed out by these 2 countries cannot be neglected. I think it is time for the developing countries having bloating populations to act and act quick to rein in their emissions.


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A note on the conclusion of the study:

“The study concludes that an imposition of carbon tax would also sharply increase poverty levels in urban as well as rural India”

Imposition of carbon tax on developing nations is definitely a very bad idea; but these countries MUST voluntarily take steps to reduce their total emissions.


Looking forward to a world which is sensitive to its strain on the Earth; and responsible enough to roll back its emission excesses.


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Disclaimer: This is my personal blog. All the views and opinions expressed on this blog are entirely my own and do not reflect the views of my employer, organization, relatives, friends, acquaintances or any other person/entity.