Right Opinion

Plagiarizing the Industrial Revolution: Of Coal and India

Vijay Jayaraj · Aug. 4, 2016

India’s new Environmental Supplement Plan (ESP), drafted by its Ministry of Environment and Forests in May, came under heavy scrutiny for plagiarism recently.

It was found that many sections of the ESP were copied from the American version of it.

While plagiarism in itself is wrong, it is worth noting that India’s Environment Ministry has admitted that it borrowed the idea (of ESP) from the U.S., and that the language of its draft is different. This is not a creative document, but a policy document, and many documents such as these borrow from one another.

Further clarification on this matter is expected from the new Environment Minister, Anil Madhav Dev. But the article in The Washington Post that addresses the similar documents goes well beyond criticizing India for plagiarism and warns against an industrial revolution based on fossil resources.

Western voices like this, and many within India, forced India to pledge a highly ambitious carbon dioxide emission reduction target at the Paris Climate Conference last year. But the Indian government, unlike radical environmentalists and the climate alarmist West, is very cautious about policies that will jeopardize the lives of a billion people on a daily basis.

And, of course, it should be cautious! India does not enjoy the same economic status as countries in the West.

According to official statistics from the government of India, the country houses the largest proportion of global poor with 363 million people (30 percent of the population) living in poverty. India is home to 18 percent of the world’s population yet uses only 6 percent of the world’s primary energy. Three hundred four million Indians don’t have access to electricity, and millions more have access only to fluctuating, spotty supplies.

India’s hope for a bright future rests on its economic development. The developed nations’ economic growth in the past century, and the role of coal in the industrial revolution in the West, is a testament to the potential future of India.

India, if it sincerely wishes to come out of poverty, must depend on its most abundant, affordable and clean fuel source — coal. If it doesn’t industrialize rapidly, and aggressively, using fossil fuels, it will continue to reel under rampant poverty.

Recently, the Indian government announced that the country will not face an energy deficit in the year 2016–2017. The national government has attributed this huge turnaround in energy production to the revival of coal plants and the reformation of power distribution companies.

India should continue to expand its coal production in order to meet this exponential increase in energy demand. Renewables such as wind, solar and biofuels are not sufficient to meet that need. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), even if a greater proportion of India’s energy comes from low- or zero-carbon energy sources, the overall carbon dioxide emissions are still projected to double by 2040 (5.2 billion tonnes per annum). Ratification of the Paris agreement will cause irreversible damage to the pace of economic development in India.

Moreover, the very science behind the Paris agreement is highly debatable.

Leading climate scientists have agreed that global temperatures have failed to raise significantly in the past 18 years, yet we have not reduced our carbon dioxide emissions significantly, so why haven’t global temperatures risen to dangerous levels as predicted by the majority of the (clearly faulty) models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

Also, the most recent satellite temperature measurements revealed a massive drop in global temperature levels during the past two months helped by the receding El Niño and the fast-approaching La Niña. In fact, this two-month drop of 0.37˚ C (0.67˚ F) in global average temperature May-June was the second largest in 37 years of recorded history. This raises serious uncertainty about the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and global temperature levels.

While the majority of voices in the West are concerned with India’s emissions from burning coal, we in India are concerned about the daily battle for life. Coal is the backbone of India’s energy security. To demonize emissions from burning fossil fuels is to prolong the poverty of millions of households.

It is unethical to ask developing countries like India, China and other poor countries to take responsibility for a supposed climate crisis that is completely unproven and forego the same resources that made the West the economic powerhouse it is today.

We, like the West, have the right to alleviate poverty through economic development, and, for now, coal is the best hope Indian’s have for a better future.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.S., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, lives in Udumalpet, India.

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