Lack of Outcry over India: Hypocrisy?

Roger Pielke Jr is back at his own teapot, blogging up a tempest or two again. Whether you agree with his points or not, he usually makes for provocative reading and comment threads can be very entertaining and informing. I have not hung around there for quite a while but will pay more attention from now on I think.

Anyway, this post is about his post from last Wednesday, titled “Climate Science and National Interests” – rather more general than its actual subject.

His implicaion would seem to be there is some hypocrisy on the part of the usual climate change activists and the IPCC but not objecting vociferously to India’s recent climate change plan [PDF].

Its problem according Roger is that it “places economic development and adaptation ahead of mitigation” and that “the report’s views of climate science are at odds with that presented by the IPCC”. Both of these points are rather flimsy. In usual Pielke style his points are defensible through effective quote mining and very literal reading of his own meaning, but not really fair criticisms if you consider the report as a whole.

But let’s leave that aside for the moment and address the implied charge of hypocrisy. I don’t think it is hypocritical to loudly criticize one’s own government while remaining quiet about other countries. We are a democracy, our governments represent us. If they say or do something we disagree with it is our responsibility to object. India’s own citizens are the ones we should be expecting to be loud about the Indian government’s policies.

It is not reasonable to expect local critics of the US to be that outraged. It is, however, useful for any of us to hold any government’s policy statements to the light, so thanks to Roger for that.

What about India’s global obligations versus those of “the U.S. (or British or German or Australian . . .)”. Are they the same? Not according to the UNFCCC treaty. This document, singed and ratified by all of the countries Roger lists, clearly acknowledges that the responsibilities are different for developed nations, clearly acknowledges that the current problem was created by the developed nations, and clearly acknowledges that per capita emissions are low in developing nations. That was 10 years ago, China is now the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, but per capita they are still only one fifth as bad as Americans.

That fact is not an irrelevancy despite its invisibility in the political discussions of climate change action.

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