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Brooks Wilson's Economics Blog: India and Global Warming

Saturday, July 25, 2009

India and Global Warming

Effective worldwide carbon reduction will require the participation of populous developing nations like China, India, Indonesia and Brazil.  These countries may not want to sacrifice current economic growth for future growth.  Economists like to think at the margin.  Claiming that current growth should not be sacrificed to fight global warming implicitly assumes that the marginal cost of lower growth caused by carbon reduction outweighs the marginal benefits of lower environmental costs in the future.  There are several ways for marginal costs to exceed marginal benefits.  One is to claim that Western climate science exaggerates the costs of carbon emissions.  This is exactly Jairam Ramesh, the Indian environment minister's claim (Lamont, James, Joshua Chaffin, and Fiona Harvey, "India widens climate rift with west," Financial Times, July 23, 2009).  They write
Jairam Ramesh...accused the developed world of needlessly raising alarm over melting Himalayan glaciers.

He dismissed scientists’ predictions that Himalayan glaciers might disappear within 40 years as a result of global warming.

“We have to get out of the preconceived notion, which is based on western media, and invest our scientific research and other capacities to study Himalayan atmosphere,” he said.

“Science has its limitation. You cannot substitute the knowledge that has been gained by the people living in cold deserts through everyday experience.”

Mr Ramesh was also clear that India would not take on targets to cut its emissions, even though developed countries are asking only for curbs in the growth of emissions, rather than absolute cuts.

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