The Financial Times discusses the need for China and India to face the climate change challenge.

The world’s two fastest-growing large economies are growing increasingly conscious of the global warming in which their rapid development is playing a part.

The UN report signals a decisive shift in the debate, drawing attention not just to overall levels of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere over time – largely from industrialised countries, led by the US – but also to the rising flow of greenhouse gases from big developing nations.

The article compares the “cumulative emissions” of China and India vis-a-vis the US and the OECD countries.

Although China and India acknowledge their emissions are rising, they argue that, per capita, they remain a tiny fraction of those from developed countries. Moreover, China’s cumulative emissions are only one-third of those of the US and one-sixth of those of all the developed countries grouped in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to the World Bank. The cumulative emissions of India, which has a higher energy efficiency rate than China, are about one-tenth those of the US.

What if Australia had the population of China?

Gao Guangsheng, the director of China’s Climate Change Coordination Office, pointedly singled out Australia, population 20m, at a recent conference in Nairobi, saying that if it had as many people as China’s 1.3bn, its carbon emissions would total 8.6bn tonnes a year. China’s emissions are now about 1.3bn tonnes a year.

The Indian Finance Minister talks about India’s right to develop.

We are prepared to assume our share of the responsibilities and obligations, provided the world recognises we have a right to grow and that means that we will consume large quantities of energy and, second, that we need to be given access to clean technology, including civilian nuclear energy,” he says. “If these two points are recognised, I have no doubt that India and other developing countries will come forward to assume their share of the responsibilities. But we are not the largest polluter: our carbon emissions are still very small.”

At the end of the day whatever be the situation, India and China both face increasing environmental issues due to Climate Change.

Both China and India suffer from acute air and water pollution. In 83 Indian cities for which air quality monitoring data are available, more than 84 per cent of the population was in 2004 forced to inhale poor, bad or dangerous air. Only 3 per cent had access to air that was rated good. China is home to 16 of the world’s 20 most polluted cities, with dirty air causing the premature deaths of 400,000 people a year. About 340m people, about one-quarter of the population, do not have access to clean water.

Still, both China and India are clearly concerned about climate change for their own sakes, let alone the impact on the rest of the world. In China, scientists warn that the impact of rising temperatures on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau could alter the amount of water flowing into the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, which originate in the region. The same sort of impact may be felt in key Indian river systems.

India’s agricultural productivity, already flagging, is thought likely to suffer because of high temperatures, drought, flood and soil degradation. The Chinese media have cited similar scenarios, including a fall in grain output by 10 per cent a year from 2030. Such threats run counter to the maintenance of food security, which both governments prize.

If the issue is not acknowledged then China and India will increasingly face water, food, resources shortage, pollution and other problems. Adaptation and change is better for both.

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