Greenhouse gases and India

February 24, 2010

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

Friends of ours are spending February in India with another couple. The two husbands were classmates years ago, along with a woman who later became a prominent political figure in India.

The husband of the second couple has written a chapter for a book about India that is expected to be published in the summer of 2011. His chapter addresses India’s policy position in regard to the need for international agreements to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

India argues that Western countries created the situation, so they should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently to solve the problem while allowing India and other Asian countries to increase their releases to raise their citizens’ standards of living.

The author has argued that India will suffer the most from climate change and face a condition of permanent disasters if it continues to place economic development concerns above those of curbing greenhouse gases.

During his visit, the author intends to confer with leaders responsible for developing India’s international climate change policy positions. He would like to learn what actions they believe might minimize the anticipated harms from greenhouse gas emissions. His former Indian classmate is assisting his efforts to speak to India’s leading policy-makers.

A recent public radio program highlighted the vulnerabilities of populations living on islands at the mouth of the Ganges River to global climate change. The rising sea level in the Bay of Bengal has already covered formerly-inhabited islands and is threatening the livelihoods of more than 4 million residents. An Oxford University study estimates that eventually some 20 million or more could be forced to flee flood-prone areas of India. The environmental refugees would present serious social challenges to India and neighboring countries.

While Indians living at the mouth of the Ganges blame the gods for the loss of the land, scientists point to global warming as the culprit. The political challenges to striking an appropriate international agreement to curb global emissions have intensified with the campaign to undermine public acceptance of the contributions of human activities to climate change.

As the world continues to ignore the consequences of climate change, the International Energy Agency expects Indian national energy consumption to increase from 116 gigawatts in 2002 to 252 gigawatts by 2020. India’s increasing development of renewable sources of energy will not offset its projected increased rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

When the author developed his views, it appeared that the United States Congress was about to curb carbon emissions. With the prospects of CO2 regulation less certain, there is a question of the impact on the discussions.

Acting alone, India cannot protect the world’s climate. All major emitters must make reductions. Unfortunately, Caterpillar, BP PLC and ConocoPhillips have announced they will not renew their membership in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, which supports capping greenhouse gas emissions.

We hope the author will share his insights at the Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair Aug. 7-8 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the Feb. 24-Mar. 2, 2010 issue

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