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Looking smoggy south of Delhi
Looking smoggy south of Delhi
Stuart Richardson

-Analysis-

When Donald Trump pulled the United States out the Paris Agreement on Climate Change last month, he declared that the historic international accord "hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world's top polluting countries." He was talking about China and India.

True, both countries are expected to increase emissions as their economies continue to grow in the coming years. But they have also stated that their long-term economic strategy is to reduce their respective national carbon footprints. And even more than decisions from the White House, the success of India and China in making a shift to environmentally-friendly policies is crucial to surviving the effects of climate change. The two countries currently comprise some 37% of the total world population, and will top 3 billion people over the next decade, writes the Mumbai-based Economic Times in a report on new United Nations population forecasts.

But even with the greenest of intentions, there are major questions about exactly how to confront climate change. Just a few days after Trump made his announcement, the world's largest floating solar farm opened in the eastern Chinese province of Anhui. The 40-megawatt power plant, comprised of 160,000 panels, sits atop a flooded coal mine. It is the largest energy project of its kind in the world and the Chinese authorities were sure to release mind-blowing video images of the complex.

China has a penchant for thinking big. In 2012, the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River generated a world-record 98.8 terawatt-hours. Today, deep inside the Chinese heartland, the national government is constructing the world's largest wind farm. When completed in 2020, the Gansu Wind Farm will produce 20,000 MW, nearly 2.5 times the Bruce Nuclear Station, the world's largest nuclear generation facility.

India has said that it too will pursue ambitious green energy projects in the coming decades. Le Mondereported this week on the latest grand declaration from the government of Narendra Modi that India would become the first major country in the world to shift completely to electric vehicles. But with an economy that is only one-fifth the size of China's and a far more decentralized government, India will find it harder to finance projects at the national level. Indeed, observers have taken New Delhi's green energy plans, including the development of a dozen "smart cities," with a grain of salt.

The South Asian country's push toward renewable energy and greenhouse gas mitigation has instead relied on numerous smaller, often local or private, initiatives. Energy Service Companies (ESCO), which make profit from what they save their customers on energy, have become increasingly popular in the country. One government ESCO has helped to drive down the cost of LED lighting as part of a nationwide initiative to replace 770 million house lights and streetlamps with this new technology. The project is expected to cut India's CO2 emissions by 80 million tons.

The smaller-scale "Indian model," with its focus on state government and private initiative, might be America's future as well. Already dozens of cities, states, and companies have committed themselves to the Paris Accord in spite of the Trump's June announcement. Ultimately, scientists and policymakers tell us that saving the planet from global warming isn't an either/or question. National and local governments, India and China, you, me and everyone we know: we will all need to change the way we make laws, conduct business and live our lives.

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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

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