INDIA contribution to Global Warming

by Ginosar  

Since the developing world will emit the largest amount of GHG by far in the coming decades we need to look at the key players to understand them and their potential to curtail GHG emissions.

The main ones now are India and China.


First, some significant items to grasp the magnitude of India:

Some of the most significant things about India are: its immense and growing population. Second, is its wide spread poverty. Third, is the primitive and nature-dependent living condition of its large rural population. Forth, population wants a better life. Fifth, the rapid rise in motorized transportation combined with lack of infrastructure. Sixth, the difficulty of upward mobility due to India's long established, hard to eradicate - class discrimination.

Result: More people wanting more means higher energy use, and higher GHG emissions.

India population (6/09)  1.16 B just behind China. It is projected to be the largest in the world in 2 decades, over 1.53 B ,

China, now at 1.34 B. In 2 decades 1.53 B

India growth rate: 1.41%, China 0.66%


GDP: $3.5 Trillion, growth rate 7.5%

per capita income: $3,000, with extremely unequal distribution

Land area 3.3 million sq km, one third of US.


Half the land is arable, a third of which is irrigated.

Fourth largest coal reserve in world, 500 B BBL oil equivalent

Water supplies, mainly rivers from the Himalayas glaciers, and from Monsoon (seasonal heavy rain falls), both would be affected by GW.

Environmental problems: deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides; tap water is not potable throughout the country; huge and growing population is overstraining natural resources. (CIA data)

Life expectancy 63 years, literacy 52%

High birthrate, with moderate/modern death rate

A third of the population, 400 MILLION, is below 15,

Average education 10 years in schools

Half of India, half a billion people, is estimated to be without electricity! More electricity more GHG.

Some 30% of population, 350 MILLION,  is urban, and the additional urbanization is 2.4%, 25 MILLION per year. Next ten year may have 250 million more in urban areas?

If so, the result is a US size population movement with combination of larger incomes, larger energy demands, and larger slums too. The potential mix is unknown now, may be not easily influenced either.

India is a democracy with 28 somewhat powerful states. The Rule of law determined also the ability of governments to dictate energy related laws. But, unlike the US and Europe, in the vast India continent the actual federal and state control is mostly theoretical. It is more pronounced in the developed urban areas, but not in remote primitive villages. It is hard to control the diverse, wide spread, immense population.

Additional snapshots of India:

It is hard for Western people to grasp the population density and the deep poverty of India. We see the pictures of the modern side. However, when we see pictures of the poverty it is done artistically and in taste and we are ignorant of the reality, the suffering, the malnutrition of millions. India rural area is often isolated, lack electricity, and have very low standard of living.

In the last decade the media emphasized the rapid advance in the urban SOL (Standard of Living) and the new middle class associated with high tech industries. But this is not typical India, it is just the we pay most attention to because it is similar to the US.

The millions of Untouchables continue to be discriminated in a way we can not even imagine. They are the sewer cleaners, no one wants to be near them or let them inside their homes unless mandatory. There are 40 millions nomads that the rest do not want to have any thing to do with or live nearby them. The cast system is in force despite some feeble attempts to reduce it. Because there are so many people, because so many are so discriminated against and so many are in agony, the cast system give the "higher up" the ability to "elevate" themselves above the common.

With one third of the population below 15 and limited schooling many young people just roam aimlessly around. Tens of millions have no place to call home.

The government is composed of mostly middle and upper class people who may be intellectually interested in improving the lot of the downcasts, but their power come from the educated and higher income population. I do not believe they themselves believe something substantial can be done to elevate the downcast out of their misery in the next few decades. It is a almost undoable because of rapid population growth, lack of funds for wide rural education and lack of power by the rural, and underprivileged. They are not important.

An example: The Mumbai slam is the biggest in the world with one million people in about a square mile. It is being liquidated now, against the will of the majority there, to build high rise buildings in this center of the city. The population density there (typically on three primitive levels) was equivalent to 400 people living in the moderate lot my wife and I now occupy!

(From Wikipedia): "In the late 2000s, India's economic growth has averaged 7.5% a year, which will double the average income in a decade. Despite India's impressive economic growth over recent decades, it still contains the largest concentration of poor people in the world, and has a higher rate of malnutrition among children under the age of three (46% in year 2007) than any other country in the world. The percentage of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25 a day decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005. Even though India has avoided famines in recent decades, half of children are underweight, one of the highest rates in the world and nearly double the rate of Sub-Saharan Africa."


Curtailing GHG emissions:

Current situation: Three main areas of high GHG emissions:

1. Modern electricity generation for the urban and industrial areas,

2. Oil (diesel and gasoline) for expanding transportation

3. Wide spread use of solid fuels (wood and charcoal) and also kerosene in rural areas.

India has a very high CO2 emission per GDP dollar, four times the US level. This is a promising opening for cutting projected increases in its looming and immense GHG. Much of it is from its primitive industry, and low efficiency coal driven electricity generation. Coal would continue to be the major source of electricity as its industrialization and urbanization are continuing at rapid rates. It is dirt cheap and India would not replace it with more expansive green technology on its own. It will need a combination of global economic pressure and financial and technical assistance.

Their national pride would resist external pressure, but it would be moderate, unlike China. India government is inclined to be practical, and not rush into fast actions.

Potential changes?

1. Considerable amount of India production, from shoes to clothing, is by very primitive means, with a lot of very cheap hand labor. There is no desire to industrialize that "home industry" which are actually sweat shops on a small and large scale. It provides employment to tens of millions very young people, and their number is increasing. What else would supply this minimal level of sustenance?

2. Demand for oil imports will increase rapidly as the population is moving from bicycles to scooters, to motorcycles, and to small, locally built, cheap cars. The cheap, low weight cars have small engines but are not likely to be very high miles per gallons. GHG emissions from the mass production and use of over a hundred million of these vehicles will be substantial.

3. It is estimated that massive amount of black sooth, accelerating glaciers melting, is emitted by the primitive cooking and lightening in India (and Africa). There are advance testing of combinations of miniature PV, battery, and high efficiency LED light systems that seems economical for this conditions. Reliable, low cost packages would be useful. But hard to spread widely without government intervention and financial assistance. This is not too likely in rural India or any other wide spread, poor society.

4. There is considerable deforestation in India and to cut it substantially they need reliable, very simple, low cost cooking and heating alternatives. A very difficult combination.

Technologists in the West see it as a good potential for replacement by more efficient cooking approach on a large scale. I am doubtful. Where will one find locally available, no cost replacement to locally cut trees and dung?

It is a matter of survival to them and they do not have the luxury to think about complex solutions that cost more and may be require education to operate.

5. Only where there is governmental control/knowledge of a substantial scale, electrical power generation, could changes towards higher efficiency, lower GHG energy, can be made in  2 or 3 decades. And this is already too long a cycle.


India emission of GHG will escalate rapidly in the coming decades. It would be at a lower rate than before if the cost of fossil fuel increase noticeably. Only part of its more modern sector emissions could be slowed down by reducing its CO2 to GDP ratio. The majority of the population, the poor and rural community, could only marginally reduce their very high CO2 to GDP ratio.


India rapid increase of GHG would not slow down on its own due to the immense internal pent up demand, which a Democratic government has to listen to. External forces would have to intervene to help India cut its immense GHG emission before the Earth has passed the point of no return and enters a massive positive feedback of GHG emissions.

(Sorry, no time to fully edit.)


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