India's Contribution to Global Warming

Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on December 16, 2009

How much does India contribute to global warming? And what role should India play in solving the problem? As climate change talks go down to the wire in Copenhagen, India is among the leaders among developing countries arguing that the U.S. and other wealthy countries should take the lead in paying to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. See, for instance, this Bloomberg News story on India’s top envoy in Copenhagen, environment minister Jairam Ramesh. “Because India has contributed little in the past to emissions blamed for global warming, Ramesh remains an unyielding figure at talks among 193 nations struggling to agree on ways to fight climate change,” Bloomberg News reporters Gaurav Singh and Jim Efstathiou Jr. write. “India endorses a proposal to limit the increase in global temperatures to within 2 degrees Celsius (3.7 degrees Fahrenheit) of pre-industrial times. The burden of meeting the target should fall on the U.S. and Europe, countries that have contributed most to historical carbon-dioxide emissions.”

What a great early Christmas gift for critics of President Obama, who get to beat up on China, India and the Democrats all at once. James Inhofe, probably the Senate’s leading denier of global warming, singled out China and India as villains in an article for Human Events today. The Oklahoma Republican warns “don’t be fooled” by any pledges the two Asian giants make on reduction of carbon emissions. “Whatever ‘agreements’ are made will merely reinforce business-as-usual for both countries. This is not a surprise.”

Since India is so vulnerable to the massive disruptions global warming could cause, it’s in India’s own interest to do more to back Obama in his fight against such climate-change skeptics. On the New Republic’s blog The Vine, Bradford Plumer today points out the Himalayas are warming at a higher rate than the global average. That’s potentially catastrophic for India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh because the region’s glaciers supply water for 500 million people.

And India can’t blame the Americans or Europeans for this problem. Plumer refers to a Scientific American story from Dec. 15 titled “Subcontinental Smut: Is Soot the Culprit Behind Melting Himalayan Glaciers?” The article describes a recent study by NASA scientists concluding that black carbon – i.e. soot – from word-burning stoves hangs in the sky over much of India and is contributing to the warming of the Himalayas.

Not everyone agrees with these findings: R.K. Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore) has warned against jumping to any conclusions about the role of soot in melting glaciers. Still, if India wants Obama and other Western leaders to take the heat at home from climate-change critics, it would be politically wise for New Delhi to make a timely announcement about how it intends to clean up its soot-filled skies.

Reader Comments

C. H. Ng

December 17, 2009 12:37 AM

China & India might be currently one of the biggest polluters in the world at the moment but the western nations cannot deny that they were the original polluters in the first place when they became industrialised earlier than other nations. I think there will not be any positive outcome from the meeting in Copenhagen (or subsequent meeting) when every nations are pointing fingers at each other & refusing to budge from their demands.

Since everybody is thinking her country is not guilty of contributing to the climate change & yet insisting on blaming others, why waste time talking?
We should in fact continue doing more damage to our environment until the day mother earth cannot take it anymore & start to create unnatural disasters which can kill as many of us as possible & cause massive destructions till the few surviving human races are back to stone age. Oh how nice it will be as there will be no more superpowers & only the fittest can survive.

Ben_s214

December 17, 2009 4:18 AM

Every human being is born with the sin of polluting the earth during his/her life span. To be fair to everyone, any control on carbon emissions must be on a per capita basis.

It seems that birth control programs like the one in China is the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions in the long one.

Salute to China.

Alex Lee

December 17, 2009 4:22 AM

You can think of it this way: the western industrialized countries have been peeing into the swimming pool for years. China and India decide that they will also pee now and the western industrialized countries are saying, "Wait! You can't do that! You'll make everything dirty! " There, is the hypocrisy...

MM

December 17, 2009 4:47 AM

Hypocrisy at its best. Obama wants to ensure that status quo is maintained & the American farmers driving Hummers continue driving them while Indian farmers living without electricity continue to live without it. Of course it is in India's best interest to live without electricity.

ANJ.D

December 17, 2009 6:08 AM

Rather than focussing on setting emission cut targets , the focus should be on developing viable technology that can reduce emmission. This is where the developed countries like the US can take the lead.
Developed countries need to promote such businesses which are involved in developing such technologies and share the same with the developing world.

kapil

December 17, 2009 6:26 AM

If all Chinese and Indians start consuming resources the way America/ EU does then studies reveal that we will not 4-5 more planets like earth.
All countries should be working together to ensure that there are technologies/ funding provided to developing countries so that they adopt a more sustainable way of development. This is the price that the west should pay for polluting in the past. Climate change is a problem for everybody in the world.

OkBasu

December 17, 2009 6:49 AM

The article doesnt disclose how much India contributes to global warming, it just announces big to do so. Per capita Indians contribute 4t, whereas USamericans contribute 20t per annum.So you must be kidding if you want the 800 mio Indians with less than 2$/day to cut on carbon emissions and having no light in the evening, just because an USamerican family might buy a third SUV

All

December 17, 2009 7:45 AM

I cannot understand and appreciate what the fuss is all about. Just because India did not contribute to the problem does not mean that it cannot be part of the solution. This is where I would Dr. Manmohan Singh and Jairam Ramesh to show leadership actually seize the initiative. Of course it is the politics that is holding up real action.

In fact this Copenhagen meet is a preview of what Tony Blair predicted three years back. By 2020 the world affairs will largely be dictated by how US, India and China get along. Others will only have to watch and pray that relationship between these three countries do not break down. It is already evident that countries like Australia, Denmark, Tuvalu, Germany, Japan and many others are being relegated to proxy participants.

Vijay Menon

December 17, 2009 8:12 AM

This is a good example of tendentious reporting. The Scientific American article raised a question. Einhorn seems to answer it with more certainty than the original authors!

The title of the Sci Amer article is:

Subcontinental Smut: Is Soot the Culprit Behind Melting Himalayan Glaciers?

And it ends thus:

Jeffrey Kargel of the University of Arizona, Tucson, said in a press conference Monday that the role of soot "adds a new wrinkle" to the story of glacier melting, but that in the big picture of climate change the main villains are still gases such as CO2. "I do want to make sure we keep our eyes on the 800-pound gorilla in the room, and that's greenhouse gases," he said.

Husin O'Bama

December 17, 2009 9:36 AM

Bush and Obama are two sides of the same coin.

Bushheads said that "US ways of living is non-negotiable."

Obamites claim no responsibility on its historical carbon emissions.

Sanjay

December 17, 2009 10:13 AM

What the western countries are not talking about is emissions per person. Every individual on the planet needs to take responsibility of reducing emissions. Fact of the matter is that the average emission per person in US is almost 20 times more than an average person in India and 5-6 times more than an average person in China. Reducing emissions is responsibility of every nation on the planet. But seems like there will not be any consensus among the nations of the world any time in the near future.

Henry L.

December 17, 2009 10:19 AM

@Alex Lee. Let me add more to what you've just said. The industrilized country get $1 for every pound pee'ed into the swimming pool and became millionairs. Seeing this, China and India is trying to do the same. The problem is that the pool is now 99% full and the rich Industrilized country is asking China and India to stop and pitch in to clean up the pool

Rob

December 17, 2009 10:22 AM

China and India are trying to emerge from poverty - that means more industrialization, consumption and therefore more energy utilization. Additionally they don't have the resources to innovate on cutting edge technologies to reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, it is today's industrialized nations that have contributed to an overwhelming majority to global warming - and it is these nations that have the infrastructure/resources in place to create new technologies. Asking emerging nations to cap emissions at a time these nations are trying to lift billions out of poverty is unreasonable. If global warming is so important to sustaining life, then why can't the developed world pony up a few hundred billion? Is this issue being used to check the growth of poorer nations?

Nav

December 17, 2009 10:41 AM

US and European countries have had the advantage of polluting the world for so many years during industrialization. It is only natural that India and China now expect them to take lead curbing emissions. India is taking a fair stand saying they will act to curb emissions but wont take any legally binding limit. Having lived both in the US and in India, I am amazed at the high levels energy use and waste here in the US. Comparatively, Indians are much more frugal in using energy. No way I would accept American arrogance and dominance in this issue!

Atul Mehta

December 17, 2009 10:55 AM

Perhaps the title of this article would be a little less misleading with 2007 stats (from Wikipedia's
List_of_countries_by_carbon_dioxide_emissions_per_capita )

United States 19.1
Canada 17.4
Australia 18.8
UK 8.6
China 4.6
India 1.2

Math is math. Anyway, I'm all for cleaning up the environment without the hypocrisy of asking the poor to pay for the damage caused by the rich~!

E-OK KIDS

December 17, 2009 12:43 PM

No matter how it's explained or what they say,continual global warming is NOT E-OK

dave

December 17, 2009 1:07 PM

While the developed countries should aggressively take action because we have a greater means to collectively, it is not fair to say that we are responsible for historical emissions.

The world has only recently come to a consensus that this is a problem at all. Furthermore, the methods and tools that have been developed to fight it were not available earler. Technology developed during our 'dirty' industrialization is what makes it possible for the world to find a greener path now.

Population control

December 17, 2009 1:09 PM

India needs to control its population growth, until then, things will only get worse. More mouths to feed will only lead to more pollution.

Abhijit S

December 17, 2009 2:37 PM

Well said in all other comments... and probably the per capita basis of pollution control would be the most effective and promising way for the talks to move forward. Btw India is 139th on the basis of per capita carbon emissions yet critics has made it their prime target for hampering talks, this despite the unilateral cuts announced by India. Just a small note Bruce Einhorn - even though India is the 4th largest polluter... US each year takes one of the first three spots... and they can do this with less than half the number of people than in India. This said developed nation could take the lead and developing nations follow the suit. As for the "Soot" would contribute to the warming but the question is it among the top hitters on the Pareto chart... if not then we are trying to solve the problem with the wrong focus... I think the biggest concern here is disagreement on "Monitoring, Reporting and Verification" between all nations which needs to be standardized and honored by all countries.

hanu

December 17, 2009 2:39 PM

All the rich countries want the developing counties to impose heavy cuts on emissions so that the rich can live a better life and sell their green equipment to developing countries

Justice !

December 17, 2009 3:11 PM

Am I the only one who notes that India's past, present and ongoing massive contribution to global warming via its uncontroled MASSIVE population growth?!

People is the root cause of global warming, and Indians have turned blind eyes on it...

World citizens, wake up to the Indian Population Timebomb!!!

Ni

December 17, 2009 3:38 PM

India has 16% of the world's population and contributes 4% of the worlds emissions. Its per capita emissions are less than a 10th of America's.

There is really no moral or statistical case for asking India to cut its emissions, when its fair share of the pie is 16% of the world's emissions.

Also, clubbing China and India in the same category is unfair. China is a more developed nation than India and has
4 times the per capita emissions of India. Even so, it is not as bad as Australia, Canada and the USA.

Australia, Canada and the USA have the highest per capita emissions. Most of these are luxury emissions, caused by driving gas guzzlers, living in obscenely large houses, driving private jets.

Why don't westerners live in India has 16% of the world's population and contributes 4% of the worlds emissions. Its per capita emissions are less than a 10th of America's.

There is really no moral or statistical case for asking India to cut its emissions, when its fair share of the pie is 16% of the world's emissions.

Also, clubbing China and India in the same category is unfair. China is a more developed nation than India and has
4 times the per capita emissions of India. Even so, it is not as bad as Australia, Canada and the USA.

Australia, Canada and the USA have the highest per capita emissions. Most of these are luxury emissions, caused by driving gas guzzlers, living in obscenely large houses, driving private jets.

Why don't westerners live in

VP

December 18, 2009 6:41 AM

The fight between developed & developing nations will go on - the developed nations will ask developing nations to restrain their pollution growth & the developing nations will ask developed nations to cut their emissions levels more drastically. To begin with the emission cuts should be technical in nature and equally applicable to all nations. They should for ex. specify that the minimum mileage for automobiles should be 20mpg, they should specify that the minimum efficiency of a coal fired plant should be 40% & should emit not more than xxx tons of CO2 per 100MW. They should also fix the energy mix in each country, for ex. 1/3 by renewables & 2/3 by non-renewables. This kind of deal will be a good start to begin with. This way developing countries can keep growing in a responsible manner and developed countries will also reduce their current CO2 emissions.

dd

December 18, 2009 7:09 AM

Life by itself does very little pollution. It is technology that does the pollution. India and china have always had more population than the rest of the world but until they industrialized recently they were not on anyone's radar except the racists who fear the huge brown and yellow populations overtaking the black and white. Check out the stats:

Consumption of oil:
India 2.438 million bbl/day (2005 est.)
China 6.93 million bbl/day (2007 est.)
USA 20.8 Million bbl/day

See? USA is still a bigger polluter than India and China put together and I havent added other nations like canada and europe and other ways of polluting than oil. Before you ask India and china to stop polluting you have a long long way to go in reducing your pollution caused by technological advancement where you are at the forefront.

2Bob

December 18, 2009 3:35 PM

Yes the US and other more industrialised nations need to take more responsibility while also acknowledging the right of other nations to provide for a higher living standard for their people. Equally however India and the like need to be more proactive in redicing their burgeoning populations. At least China is honestly tackling this issue at both ends.

Interconnect

December 19, 2009 9:12 AM

The black carbon (soot) Himalayas are warming at higher rate than global average. Glaciers supply water for 500 million inhabitants of the Indo-Pak subcontinent region and beyond. The region of Indo-Pak sub-continent is , starved for serious water shortages as supply disrupted by Indian administration. Will President Obama use good offices to address this issue to rescue 500 million inhabitants of the region, to rescue.

SURESH PATIL

December 20, 2009 8:10 PM

INDIA HAS 2 PERCENT OF THE WORLD'S LAND AREA BUT CONTRIBUTES 16% OF THE WORLD'S EMISSIONS....

IT IS ALSO DESTROYING ITSELF BY DENUDING THE HIMALAYAS.

IT IS IN INDIA'S INTEREST TO STOP EMISSIONS AND SAVE INDIA FROM WATER SCARCITY AND FAMINE...OR IS INDIA WAITING FOR IT TO HAPPEN SO THAT HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF ITS PEOPLE DIE OF STARVATION AND THEN INDIA COULD CALL IT NATURAL POPULATION CONTROL.

C. H. Ng

December 20, 2009 9:03 PM

Issues on how to tackle global warming will not worked because:-

1) The world consists of too many countries & too many people.
2) The gap between the rich nations & the poors is too wide.
3) With the poor in the undeveloped & developing countries having to think about how & where to get their next meal rather than to worry about pollution.
4) Likewise their governments with limited resorces have their hands full of how to tackle the social problems in their respective countries to really bother about climate warming thing.
5) Or worse, the government leaders & their cronies are too busy filling their own pockets to really care about their countries's problems; no need to even talk about other problem.
6) And I am sure whatever money the rich nations will to contribute to the global warming cause will ended up with a big portion into the hands of the corrupted government officials.
7) Which ultimately will defeat the whole idea of helping the poor countries to curb global warming.
8) And which at the end of the day, the rich nations will start to lose patience & interest and say "what the heck about all this global warming anyway...??"

So I would like to say this to all the government leaders of this world.."Nice try but you all are just wasting time"

nikhil govind

December 20, 2009 11:18 PM

it is interesting that the defenders of india's meager per capita emission rate suddenly feel thankful for some of their fellow "indians". how convenient and hypocritical, adding the huddling masses to bring down per capita rates when policy makers and the "educated" classes have shown so little interest in these peasants over the last several decades- & income equity is barely a blip on the endless talkathons on cable tv regarding india's perennially alleged & perennially imminent superpowerdom

1Sparky

December 21, 2009 5:40 PM

You can blame everyone at the end of the day: US companies for demanding cheap crap made in China and at same time displacing the pollution from making those products.

C. H. Ng

December 21, 2009 9:26 PM

The recent concluded UN Climate Summit Meeting at Copenhagen ended a failure, just like all those previous meetings on Kyoto Protocol. So would be the next scheduled meeting at Mexico come next November 2010.

I am not surprised, not because it's very hard to change a person's mind to work out something which is going to be good to the welfare of everybody (as in this case of reducing carbon emission)but because it's very hard to change our human being's selfish behaviour. Lets us look at this scenario for an example....

On one corner we have the quite well-to-do Jackson family of 4 living in a bungalow well equipped with all the latest modern gadgets & 2 cars. They even have a few dogs as pets. All these cars, aircons, electrical gadgets, etc etc are contributing to the carbon footprints, including their pets. So are the annual travelling by air for their summer holiday. Try telling them to give up on all these luxuries like using a bicycle to work instead of driving their guzzlers, will they listen? of coz they won't..!

On the other hand we have Samy, a poor worker with a passion for smoking. He has several children. Their home is a bare minimum where they have to chop down trees & use the wood to do the cooking. They have no choice because they can't even afford to use gas. He can't quit smoking as it's his passion & he uses it as a form to "escape" from his hard life. Since he's poor & can't afford to go anywhere, sex with his wife is his only form of
"entertainment" at home. And because he can't even afford to buy condom, they ended up with more kids than they can feed.

From the 2 above extreme examples, one is rich & he refuses to give up all the trappings of a luxurious lifestyle. Whereas even though the other is dirt poor, he is selfish too by his unresponsible behaviour of bringing too many children into this world more than he can afford. So in this scenario, how are we going to cooperate for the sake of mankind if everybody is selfish to an extend? This goes the same to all the countries in this world. All the nations are only thinking of their own interest & so the agreement on the climate change will not worked at all.

Argument

December 22, 2009 2:05 AM

India - my emissions per capita is only 1/10 of you USA, 1/4 of China

USA - but you've produced so many people and continue to make a new Australia's population every single year!

Russia - To be fair, let's take India's iresponsible baby making into the equation. We should talk about emission per unit of land. This is the only fair way, after all, the emission will spread into the sphere.

Canada - Great idea, Russian bro.

Singapore - Ouch, I don't have much land.

USA, EU, Russia, China -- let's continue the emission, and see who will be screwed up the most.

Russia - sound good to us. When India's temperture raises another 5', Indian will be screwed. But we Russians will be feeling much better.

Sathish

December 22, 2009 6:06 AM

Define the Development:
Development is vastly misunderstood term.Its nothing but the greed on Money and materialistic way of Life.If We study the Pre British Era and Going Backwards through the centuries you find the India & China were more developed with life combined with the nature..Its greed which is contributor of all this smut...

Paul

December 22, 2009 10:06 PM

Copenhagen wants the developing world to cap their per capita carbon emission levels at far below that of the developed world. This represents potentially catastrophic social economic harm at least as alarming as climate change. If developing countries were to be bound by such unequal treaties, they will never get the chance to industrialize. But that may be exactly what the US and Europe want. I always don't understand the logic that people living in the Western world are somehow entitled to carbon emission per capita many times that of people living in developing countries simply because they get there first. These people refuse to acknowledge that they themselves are the real culprits to climate change. It is only natural for India, China, Brazil and other developing countires to work togehter to stop the Western world imposing unfair rules on developing countries.

C. H. Ng

December 22, 2009 10:45 PM

@ BW Editor:-

What's happening to all our comments? I see nothing being posted for the past few days. Is your people all sleeping or off for the coming Christmas holidays?

jim

December 24, 2009 2:02 AM

Granted that since the days of caveman, humankind has been contributing to global warming, however, the current situation is the cumulative results of rapid industrialization of Europe and North America of the last 180 years. Developing nations such as China and India are only responsible for future accumulation and only on a per capita basis. Anything else is rubbish!!

Vanamali

December 28, 2009 8:43 AM

I guess our problem is that Indians and chinese stuck close to home and did not "discover" other countries. I don't understand how an average american family of 4 members each having 4 cars, pointing to an indian family and saying you can't have even one for the entire family! The fact is that the western countries want to continue their current lifestyle and they want the poor countries to fix the global warming problem! Colonial bigotry 21st century style!

nishkam suryapani

February 5, 2010 11:15 PM

nishkam suryapani

its a beautiful observation and analysis

Mike

March 28, 2010 8:52 PM

I think that it's a wake up call for us all, and if we don't do something to stop the spreading of Global warning then there will be no future to give to our children.

Nishant Sood

April 26, 2010 7:02 AM

we are gonna die very soon just due to our mentality. we are running after money by hook or by crook but not thinking about the heat which we have just experienced in start of april 2010. we are cutting trees, wasting water releasing harmful gases but we are Indians we are just copy cat we cant think ourself somebody has to tell us about the climate. we are Indians we never run until their's fire on our tail.

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