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.