Monday, July 02, 2007

Praful Bidwai asks poor Indians to practise "austerity" and remain poor to reduce global warming caused by the rich West

Praful Bidwai has written a long article in The Hindustan Times, full of long words but no substance. He is accusing Indian middle class of being wasteful and extravagant for having bought a few washing machines, cars, and air-conditioners, and is exhorting them to show "austerity".

His entire article contains not one single suggestion about how Indians can reduce global warming without going back to the low-tech village lifestyle that allowed Muslim and Christian invaders to conquer and (mis-)rule over us for a thousand years.

Global warming is a problem caused by rich people in the US, Europe, and oil-rich countries of the Middle-East. Indians on average use 20 TIMES LESS energy than that used by the average American, European, or oil sheik. Asking Indians to stop engaging in important economic activities like buying cars, AC's, mobile phones and washing machines (which in turn will stop the economic growth happening in India) is hypocritical of the highest order.

One wonders if Praful Bidwai is being paid by the same anti-outsourcing anti-India anti-competitive low-skill-but-high-pay unionized morons that form the base of the Socialist Parties of Western Europe and the Democratic Party of America; they want to keep India backward by asking us to stop our economic activities with excuses like global warming that they themselves are responsible for, while these American and Western European unionized Leftist morons continue to drive their two-or-more SUV's and minivans per family and go on expensive road-trips every weekend burning millions of tons of gasoline/petrol/diesel every day on their union-negotiated-high-salaries while oil prices keep climbing, and poor Indians struggling every day to feed their starving children and keep them warm in cold winter nights are accused of causing global warming.

Praful Bidwai should be investigated by India's police and intelligence agencies. If he indeed is being paid by anti-India interests to write this kind of crap he should be tried for treason for conspiring to sabotage India's economic development.

Hindustan Times reports:

No room for hot air
Praful Bidwai
July 02, 2007
First Published: 00:19 IST(2/7/2007)
Last Updated: 00:22 IST(2/7/2007)

Tony Blair will be remembered by his critics and supporters for one thing: bringing China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa into a dialogue on climate change with the G-8 industrialised states. But as on Africa, Blair’s exertions on climate change have produced no tangible results. The summit after the G-8 meet, along with these Outreach Five (O-5) states, has failed to generate an agreement on combating the greatest menace to civilisation as we know it: global warming. This was as true of Heiligendamm this month as of Gleneagles in 2005.

Neither these 13 of the world’s 25 biggest economies, nor any other forum, have responded adequately to the unprecedented public concern about climate change. A survey covering 14 countries finds that 86 per cent of people feel “anxious” about climate change, and want governments to fight it proactively. A majority says it’s the world’s greatest challenge. Four-fifths say it should become easier to buy renewable electricity; nine-tenths want at least a fourth of all electricity generated from renewable sources.

There is a stark contrast between the gravity of this concern, and the promise made at Heiligendamm to negotiate a multilateral pact on global warming, beyond the Kyoto Protocol's expiry (2012). The G-8 lamely pledged to give “serious consideration” to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 (over 1990 levels). What the world needs is 80 per cent emissions reduction and a shift to a new energy paradigm — through legally binding targets.

The industrialised nations of the Global North have all along failed to agree even to cap their emissions although that would cost less than what they spend, for instance, on toys or cosmetics. Fifteen years after the Rio conference, they are back to square one. Meanwhile, the South’s bigger economies are imitating their consumption patterns. Alarmingly, China has already overtaken the US as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, years ahead of earlier forecasts.

India’s position on climate change is illogical, untenable and in need of reform.It’s plain that alternative leadership on climate change won’t come from countries like China, India or Brazil. They doggedly refuse even to discuss capping their emissions, leave alone cut them. India’s position on this is especially deplorable. It says “growth … prospects in the developing world” must in no circumstances be “constrained”; higher GDP growth “is the best way for developing countries to address … the issue of … protecting the climate.”

India emphasises on the “principle of common but differentiated responsibility”. This is shorthand for asking that the North pay the bulk of the costs for reversing climate change. India also demands concessions like patent-free “clean energy” technology transfer and financial assistance.

True, the primary responsibility for reversing climate change is the North’s, because it is historically responsible for causing it. The average Indian and Chinese contribute respectively one-twentieth and one-sixth as much to global warming as the average American.

However, it’s also imperative that rapidly growing Southern countries, including India, undertake obligations to cut their ballooning emissions. India’s overall emissions are growing almost four times faster than the global average. They are expected to rise two-and-a-half times by 2030. Vehicular emissions are projected to rise about six-fold.

Even if the North reduces its emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, developing countries, including India, will still need to cut theirs by about 60 per cent. This must immediately translate into quantified stage-by-stage emission cuts. Instead, all we have is the parrot-like emphasis that India won’t be a “significant” greenhouse emitter “in the foreseeable future”.

This flies in the face of facts: India is already the world’s fifth largest emitter, and will soon overtake No. 3 and 4, Japan and Russia. Surely, the responsibility for reversing climate change — a global, universal good, if there was one — cannot be confined to the top four emitters, or, for that matter, 20. The South cannot evade the secondary onus, or postpone its obligations indefinitely.

It’s pernicious to cite per capita emissions as the sole ethical criterion for defining global responsibility. Per capita numbers mean little in India's highly unequal, stratified society, with some of the world's highest rich-poor inequalities. Nor do they take into account India's low per capita access to “natural sinks”, like oceans and forests.

It is not India’s poor, the bulk of whom survive at subsistence level, whose emissions are rising. It is the 80 to 100-million-strong rich and middle-classes, who are on a consumption binge — as if there were no tomorrow. Their insatiable appetite is driving an unprecedented boom in automobiles, air-conditioners, washing machines, microwave ovens and plasma TV.

It is unethical and cynical for the government to obliterate this crucial distinction and hide behind the poor. It should admit that there is not one India, but two, as regards climate change: the 700 million who lack access to modern cooking fuels and tap water; and the elite with its wasteful luxury consumption. The world too should treat India as a dual entity.

Three other points are pertinent. First, India admits there is a universal obligation to mitigate climate change. A universal objective is worth pursuing; it is intrinsically a global good. No conditions should be attached to it — e.g. extraneous benefits such as free technology, or a Marshall Plan-II, which subsidises the South.

Second, there is a strong case for freeing all technology of patents. But that is a generic argument against allowing monopolies in the name of supporting “innovation”: in fact, over 95 per cent of patents are never worked; they are used to claim denial and exclusion, which leads to misanthropy, as in the case of HIV-AIDS drugs. The argument cannot be used selectively for emission-reducing technologies alone.

Third, India cannot convincingly claim it is on a low-emission path by citing CNG buses, the Metro Rail, reductions in energy use per unit of output in certain industries, and by arguing that its environmental and energy efficiency programmes have produced handsome results.

No study has demonstrated that the Metro contributes to emission reductions, especially compared to public buses, or that its efficiency overcomes its adverse environmental, energy and economic impact, including concentration of high-rise districts. For every unit addition to such expensive “public” transport modes, there is a several-fold increase in privatised transport: India’s car production has doubled in six years.

Most countries have seen a decline in energy consumption per unit output. India’s performance isn’t impressive. India’s emissions per absolute dollar of GDP are four times higher than America’s. India’s highly carbon-inefficient economy ranks 85th among 141 countries. India is more carbon inefficient than Bangladesh, Brazil or Indonesia; or even Northern countries like Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and Sweden.

India’s environmental record is embarrassing: the extensive deforestation, relentless pollution of rivers, runaway growth of hazardous industries, construction of big dams (which cause a fourth of our emissions), and promotion of technologies like nuclear power, which produce long-lived wastes. India is indisputably on an ecologically unsound growth path.

On any criterion of environmental equity, India must stop whining about pressure to cap its emissions, and move towards real cuts. That is the best way of laying claim to global moral and ecological leadership-and the ideal means of recovering, and making an example out of, our rapidly eroding tradition of austerity.


At 5:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Except he didn't say anything about poor Indians. He said that India's economy is carbon inefficient. His article was perfectly reasonable and clearly put blame where it belonged, on the West. He just pointed out that India has a very carbon inefficient economy and should look at what it can do to reduce emissions as well.

At 6:29 pm, Blogger Harsh Vardhan said...

Dear Anonymous,

You seem to be having some trouble understanding my points.

As I said, Praful Bidwai has targetted middle-class Indians. He is asking them to stop buying cars, refrigerators, air-conditioners, and such items, and go back to "austerity".

Doing so would slow down Indian economy, deprive millions of poor Indians of their livelihood, and free up oil steel and other resources for the West and other developed countries which will continue their onward progress leaving India behind.

Global warming is a serious matter, but it is not the issue Indians should be worrying about.

Indian economy is not carbon-inefficient. Indian per-capita consumption of energy is barely 5% of that of the "carbon -efficient" West.



Viewpoints such as yours or Praful Bidwai's are not appreciated in India. We have to develop our economy first.

Tell your SUV-driving gas-guzzling three-car-per-family Western friends to drive smaller cars and become a bit less CARBON-INEFFICIENT.

Thank you,
Harsh Vardhan

At 8:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Praful is just acting as a devil's advocate. You need not lament him that much. I agree with you that economic consumption should not be slowed down, but they should kick in .. say about 4-5 years from now. It takes a while to implement measures also.

Coming to the calculations, a more reasonable method to compute pollution level will be pollution/volume.

India has roughly 3 times the less area (compared to US) and 3.5 times more population. So pollution_india = 0.05 pollution_usa => poll_volume_india = 0.5 poll_volume_usa.

Now if this factor rises fast, we would be pretty much at par with the US. Now also remember that we have less forests (5% .. compared to 50% in US), less land for farming, less place to decompose waste, less water-bodies to drink, more dams and such destructive agents created by burrow-crats, and so on. This leaves us in a significantly worse situation.

I don't think environment is just a brouhaha, but certainly its consideration should not take us back to dark ages.

A solution is needed, else people will die in masses.


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