Saturday, November 9, 2019

Air Pollution Crisis in India Highlights Challenges in Paris Climate Accord

Click for photo credit.
Parts of India annually have serious smog issues associated with sinking, stable air masses that form over Asia this time of year. However, air pollution has reached unusual and extreme hazardous levels this year. Monitors have been off the chart and there is significant concern over public health.  The head of UNICEF has warned of serious brain development issues for children as a result of exposure to the high levels of pollution. She has called for very quick action to cut air pollution throughout South Asia. Part of the problem is the burning of fields after harvesting, but a major continuing issue is associated with the use of fossil fuels.

The pollution levels highlight a challenge in the Paris Climate Accord. Places like India and China do not need to cut greenhouse gas levels as rapidly as the developed world. India continues to advance coal as a major energy source even though many countries, including the U.S. have significantly cut coal usage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. 

There are obviously strong arguments why India and China should be allowed to reduce emissions at a slower pace than the west. The main argument is that the western world has grown economically as a result of the burning of fossil fuels and it is unfair to ask other places to put a hold on their development when they were not responsible for the problems associated with greenhouse gas pollution. After all, it is the West that has produced most of the greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution.

This argument is certainly valid and it is an important one. However, the massive air pollution problems in Asia (India isn't the only problematic location) suggests that more needs to be done now to protect the public health of the continent. The reduction of greenhouse gases is an added benefit of moving rapidly to improve air quality.

No comments: