Sunday, March 2, 2008

Sweating in India

Here's a disturbing cocktail-party fact, courtesy again the New York Times: Close to half the population of India lives beyond the electricity grid. That is worrying in two ways. First, it's terrible that nearly 700,000 Indians subsist without modern conveniences like air-conditioning. Second and uncomfortably, it may be problematic for us if this changes. According to the article, India is already the world's fourth-largest greenhouse gas emitter. What happens when its now-modest per-capita emissions soar?

This is the fundamental conundrum facing climate change policymakers around the world. The developing world cannot be denied its right to higher living standards. But neither can the atmosphere easily absorb the consequences. In India, as in China, coal is the easy, cheap--and dirty--way to meet demand. How to incentivize alternatives?

Oops, correction to the aboved (a mistake in the original NYT article that was subsequently corrected): it's 700 million, not 700,000. What a staggering figure!

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