China and India have 36% of the world’s population and produce about 35% of global CO2 emissions, ranking first and third respectively in that category. The United States, with a little over 4% of the world’s population, produces about 16% of global CO2 emissions, good for second place.
Regardless of these statistics, there has been a prevailing view that China and India are the real obstacles in the battle against climate change because both countries make heavy use of fossil fuels and both have been undergoing rapid development.
According to recently released research, things have changed. Both Asian countries have greatly accelerated their investments in cost-effective renewable energy sources and both are rapidly reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.
Both China and India should easily exceed the targets they set for themselves in the 2015 Paris Agreement signed by more than 190 countries. China’s CO2 emissions appear to have peaked more than 10 years sooner than its government said they would. And India is now expected to reach its target of getting 40% of its electricity from non-fossil fuel sources by 2022, which is eight years ahead of schedule.
Our current administration is backtracking on multiple initiatives our country made to reduce greenhouse gases with the excuse that these actions would cost jobs and damage the economy. Meanwhile, China and India are finding that following environmentally sound policies does not impose economic penalties and in fact can be beneficial. By investing heavily in solar and wind power, they and other countries like Germany have helped drive down the cost of these technologies to a point where, in many places, they are now the cheapest way to make electricity. Embarrassingly, we now appear to be the backward country.
Photo, posted November 25, 2015, courtesy of IBM Research via Flickr.