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Global Warming and India

Dr. Nitish Priyadarshi

by Sambit Kumar Garnayak
Global warming has emerged as one of the most important contentious international environmental issue. International efforts are ongoing to address this issue and in every summit this issue is being discussed. In the recently concluded G-8 summit the issue of global warming catches the attention of both the developed and developing countries. 
In 1975 the presidents of France and Germany invited, the strongest economies, the United States, Britain, Italy and Japan to Rambouillet on the outskirts of Paris. The purpose was to bring the leaders of the world's strongest economies together for an informal discussion of the economic turmoil left in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis and the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates. The group has been meeting since then annually to discuss their problems in a coordinated way.
Since then, the group has grown - Canada joined in 1976, the European Union was associated, and Russia joined in 1994, became a full-fledged member in 1998 - and the gatherings have become longer and larger. In this summit at Heiligendamm on the Baltic coast, the G-8 has invited five developing countries, Brazil, India, China, South Africa and Mexico, collectively known as “outreach countries”. But still, at least in theory, it gives a chance for informal discussions between world leaders.
The primary focus of the group is to discuss things related to world economic development, but in recent years, many other things of global importance have been discussed with great fervor. The summit of 2005 at Gleneagles, Scotland, focused mainly on economic aid to Africa, the summit of 2006 at St. Petersberg, Russia, focused on global warming and Israel and Lebanon war and this year's summit is also focusing its attention on global warming.
The G-8 plus the outreach countries make it the world’s largest organization in terms of human and capital resources after the United Nations. The G-8 countries share of world economic out put is nearly 60 per cent, if outreach countries are added it will be more than 75 percent. The United States has largest share in the world GDP, more than $10 trillion per year. China and India both are growing economies and growing at the rate of more than 8 per cent per annum, faster than all other countries of the G-8. Russia is recovering very fast under the leadership of Putin and its share in world GDP now stands over $1trillion. It is emerging as a global leader in energy resources. France, Canada, UK, Japan all are developed economies. Brazil and Mexico are two developing Latin American countries.
All these are modern industrialized states and in the process of their modernization, their economic development, environment has been affected considerably. Jared Diamond, in his 2005 book, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” says ecological devastation brought down earlier failed ones citing one or more proximate causes:

# deforestation and habitat destruction;
#  soil degradation through erosion, salinization or fertility decline;
#  water management problems
#  over-hunting and/or fishing;
#  over-population growth;
#  increased per capita impact on the environment; and
#  the impact of exotic species on native plant and animal ones.
In the present globalized industrial states, the earth is getting warmer day by day. The burning of fossil fuels and other green house gases is causing:

  • arctic ice cap melting;
  • rising sea levels;
  • changed rainfall patterns;
  • increased frequency and intensity of weather extremes like floods, droughts, killer heat waves, wildfires, and hurricanes and cyclones.
  • a plague of infectious diseases
  • water scarcity;
  • agricultural disruption and loss of arable land;
  • as many as one-third of plant and animal species extinct by 2050, and
  • increasing disease, displacement and economic losses from natural calamities like hurricanes, other extreme weather-related events, lowering of ocean pH, reductions in the ozone layer, and the possible introduction of new phenomena unseen before or never extreme enough to threaten human life or environmental sustainability that will when we experience them.

The agenda of each session to some extent reflects the goals of the host. This summit of the most eight industrialized and developing five (G-8+outreach 5) was expected to focus on climate change and its consequences. The member states agreed to “seriously consider” not to let temperature rise more than two degree Celsius, a plan which would require halving of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050,as proposed by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel It may be considered as a significant step.
Adequacy of this longer-term step, with no immediate or short-term commitments to alleviate the risks posed to developing countries from the committed climate change, is highly questionable. Besides this G-8 + outreach countries agreement, the UN also deals with the problem of global warming.
Recently the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change makes its strongest recommendations on global warming and its consequences. The panel observed that the rate of warming accelerated in the 20th century due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Besides the Kyoto Protocol is one of the most important global initiatives to address climate change. Thirty five industrialized nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5 per cent from the 1990 levels during 2008-2012.
The industrialized countries are responsible for about 83 percent of the rise in carbon dioxide emissions since 1800.The contribution of India to global carbon dioxide emissions is around 4 percent, while it has 17 percent of the world population. But the sad fact is that the Kyoto Protocol is not signed by the world’s largest green house gas emitter the United States. The United States emits nearly 5.9bn tones of carbon dioxide per year followed by China 4.7bn, Russia 1.7 bn,Japan1.3bn, India1.1bn.(sources: Energy Information Administration, The Guardian)
Why all these hues and cry about global warming in the G-8 summit? Why these industrialized countries scream for a new agreement? Why don’t they accede to Kyoto Protocol which deals with cut in greenhouse gas emissions? The US which contributes most greenhouse gases emissions to the atmosphere and the most industrialized country is out of the Kyoto protocol. It has not signed the agreement. Instead President Bush has invited 15 of the world’s biggest polluting countries, including China and India, to meet by the end of the year to agree on targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2008.
Why USA is taking all these steps to check global warming solely instead acceding to a multilateral agreement? The American plan appears to be a fatal blow to the German and European led initiatives on reaching a deal on emission curbs at this week’s G8 Summit. Although Germany, welcomed the new plan as “common ground” between Europe and the US on climate change, the German Chancellor, Angel Merkel, is sure to be disappointed.
The Europeans wanted to strike a new deal this week in Heiligendamm to renew the UN-sponsored Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The Europeans want strict carbon emission limits, and have proposed a plan, which would see global temperatures, rise no more than 2C this century. In this front the G-8 seems divided. China, which is projected to replace the US as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases by the end of this year, has also welcomed the initiative, but has said that any new talks should not displace the UN treaty on global warming.
President Hu Jintao on June 4 unveiled his country’s first ever plan on climate change, but said that any initiatives in climate change should not jeopardize China’s economic and industrial growth. China’s national strategy on global warming is the first such national programme announced by a developing country. Similarly India has declared National Energy Policy of 2006, which underlines plan to raise the efficiency of energy use.
The blame of global warming is put on the developing countries. The five outreach countries are home to nearly half of the worlds population, and most of its poor, these five nations produce less than 12 per cent of global out put and consume less than a fifth of these energy. Merkel affirmed that it was crucial to include developing nations, particularly China and India, into the climate dialogue. The recent action plan of China to address climate change also states that for China, the first and overriding concern was economic and social development and poverty eradication.
India has 400 million people who are not even connected to the physical infrastructure of energy supply networks, an equal number who are served for less than 20% of their time and the balance who pay energy prices that are comparable with most developed countries even without adjusting for purchasing power parity! About 90% of India’s rural population still uses biomass fuels for cooking. Its HDI (Human Development Index) rank in 2005 was a low 127 and it is struggling to manage its fiscal deficits. The irony of the US using India as its crutch for inaction cannot be more stark.
The severe energy supply crisis that India faces has translated into measures that have reduced India’s emissions/GDP intensities by nearly 30% over its 1990 levels. India will continue to be sensitive to climate considerations as its vulnerabilities are significantly higher and its adaptive capacities significantly lower than the world averages, but sustainable development for us has to come first. (TIMES NEWS NETWORK, June 11).
Economic development and concerns for the environment go hand in hand. If we will only consider for economic development disregarding environment, definitely a day will come we have to repent and our future generations will suffer the devastating effects of the climatic alterations. On the other hand, to protect the climate and environment we can not go back to the Stone Age. We are living in a globalized world now, with more developed technologies and faster means of communications. We need economic development and at the same time we have to address the issues of preserving the environment and protecting the climate. To do both is possible through the use of alternative clean fuel and efficient energy saving technologies.

In this matter the developed nations should help the developing countries. But unfortunately efficient energy saving technologies are not shared with developing countries. Declaration after declarations in various international summits by various organizations, and blaming each other, more on developing countries like China and India, are not going to help in any way unless these agreements are accepted and implemented in a wholehearted way. The G-8 from now onwards should make a wholehearted effort to cooperate with the UN, instead working alone in this regard for a sustainable living in a green world.
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