Is It Fair To Ask Underdeveloped Countries To Go Green?

While we all seem to be agree about the need to decelerate and reverse global warming, little agreement exists on how we go about it. Developed countries would like to put a freeze on further increase in energy consumption, but underdeveloped countries see this as an unfair deal. Our selfish disagreements can be the final nail in our coffin.
Is it Fair to Ask Underdeveloped Countries to Go Green?
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As humanity comes to terms with the challenge of climate change and the need to prevent environmental crisis, it is clear that action for protecting environment cannot be delayed further. However, when the responsibility is on the humanity as a whole, the question of who should contribute how much remains unanswered.

Fair to Only One Side is Not Fair at all!

While asking communities and people to sacrifice part of what they have, it is essential to take into account their capacity. The concept of 'EQUITY' demands not equal contribution, but a contribution according to the capacity to contribute. So it would

be unfair to ask a sick man to carry the same load a healthy man is able to carry, and it will be unethical to ask a destitute to pay the same tax as that paid by a millionaire!

When it comes to cutting energy consumptions, the comparison of developed and underdeveloped world is similar to that of a millionaire versus a destitute, if we take their per capita energy consumption into account. Thus the scope for reducing energy consumption is not the same among all countries. In many underdeveloped countries, the energy consumption is still below the minimum levels required for a dignified living. Putting pressure on them to reduce it further may be difficult to justify from any perspective of equity.

The Costs of Modern Development

This becomes further complicated, if development during the last few centuries and its environmental costs are taken into account. The modern human development is nothing but an era of industrialization, which, in every form is the ante-thesis of the 'green' pre-industrial, agrarian human existence. All the rest about 'green' is mere rhetoric and little substance. The success of the developed world today lies not in achieving a 'green' status, but in controlling the explosion of its population growth, which poses greater danger to the environment than mere per capita consumption of energy.

This is where the underdeveloped countries differ from the developed world and pose a threat.

Vast Differences in Energy Consumption

Today, the average per capita consumption of energy, in a developed country is many times that of

a person in the underdeveloped world, yet we are more bothered about them, because that is where the real hike in energy consumption is going to take place, both on per capita as well as country wise basis, and the problem will arise larely because of the booming population. That is exactly the reason why what happens in China and India in the next couple of decades is seen as having the potential of deciding the fate of our planet.

In China, India and many other emerging economies, the incomes are rising, and people are just beginning to taste the fruits of technological development. The contribution of these countries to global warming during the past three or four centuries is far less compared to that of developed countries, and now, when these big chunks of humanity finally emerge from centuries of sub-human existence, it will be inhuman to create blocks in their return to human dignity.

Waiting for a Breakthrough in Clean Energy

China is already moving fast towards becoming an aging society, and may not be a great threat in terms of population expansion. If the changing social norms in India and other Asian countries are any indication, they will also control their population growth soon. In the meantime, technology continues to grow, and there is no reason to believe that we will not have new breakthroughs in 'green' technology. Many feel we are very close to such an event. The cost of harboring solar energy continues to fall by around seven percent per annum even without any major breakthrough, and if this source of energy can be tapped in the warmer part of this planet, it can keep the modern civilization and its current life-style sustainable for any foreseeable future.

Maybe we need to be just a more sensible, while also being just in our approach.

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