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Environment

India and the Iron Law of Climate Policy

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I have an idealistic streak that is increasingly tempered by real world events. So on Sunday I admired the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of people who marched through the streets of Manhattan to sound their concern about climate change and other environmental issues. I tried not to let this article ruin the good vibes. I tried to put this out of my mind:

The blunt truth is that what China decides to do in the next decade will likely determine whether or not mankind can halt – or at least ameliorate – global warming.

Now comes word from India's environmental minister, as reported by Coral Davenport in the New York Times:

The minister, Prakash Javadekar, said in an interview that his government’s first priority was to alleviate poverty and improve the nation’s economy, which he said would necessarily involve an increase in emissions through new coal-powered electricity and transportation. He placed responsibility for what scientists call a coming climate crisis on the United States, the world’s largest historic greenhouse gas polluter, and dismissed the idea that India would make cuts to carbon emissions.

The cold, hard reality of climate change politics (from an international perspective) is exactly as University of Colorado political scientist Roger Pielke Jr. has been saying for years:

When policies on emissions reductions collide with policies focused on economic growth, economic growth will win out every time.

UPDATE: Some helpful perspective from Brad Plumer, who asks if the "planet is cooked" if India's carbon emissions keep rising? "Not necessarily," he says.

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