Thursday, May 13, 2010

Hiding Behind Per Capita Emissions Doesn't Make Us Cleaner Than West

I wish India emitted a lot more CO2 and its per capita emissions were comparable to the developed nations.

I say this because I get mad reading headlines like this one in Indian newspapers:

Greenhouse emission numbers out and we're cleaner compared to West

The article uses our low per capita emissions as an indicator that our economy is cleaner than the West. That is misleading. Take a look at energy sources and how efficiently we use that energy. Here is a graphic which compares India's energy intensity (efficiency) and fuel mix with other major emitters. We compare poorly with the West and most other developed nations when it comes to energy efficiency and we use similar proportions of dirty energy sources as most other countries.

Source:World Resources Institute

We emit less both absolute and per capita because of widespread poverty and huge energy shortfalls..because of energy required but not produced.

Hundreds of millions of people live subsistence lives and hundreds of millions more have a low energy footprint. These people have minimal access to energy and no amount of spin doctoring numbers about per capita emissions vs absolute emissions should be allowed to hide that fact. The media needs to keep hammering away at this reality and not write self-congratulatory articles on our low per capita emissions as if that is something to be celebrated.

In fact, there is absolutely nothing to celebrate in our current emissions profile.  Less per capita emissions is a reflection of a large poor population and not a clean energy economy.

I wish that for once our politicians will look us in the eye and admit the real reason for our low emissions instead of making pompous pronouncements on per capita emissions and I wish our stupid media looks beyond these exaltation's  and not get hoodwinked into giving comforting news bytes about being "cleaner" than the West.


  1. I totally agree to this post Suvrat. How long will we use per-capita as an excuse to support our rhetoric? This is not to say that developed countries need to be spared. But it is our own fault that we have such an uncontrolled population growth and the nett effect is that the environment is being irreparably damaged - now whether this is because of per capita or total emissions is of no consequence!

    I had written along similar lines last year; and the environment summit at Copenhagen few months back only reinforced my stand.

  2. "Less per capita emissions is a reflection of a large poor population and not a clean energy economy."
    Very true. Cut the head off to cure the head, no headache.