January 11, 2006
China and India Hold Key to World's Riches or Ruin -- Report
China and India are poised to shape the world's future and decisions made by the ascendant Asian giants in the next few years will determine whether that will be for better or worse, a prominent environmental think-tank said Wednesday.
Abid Aslam, OneWorld US
Wed Jan 11, 9:14 PM ET
WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan 11 (OneWorld) - China and India are poised to shape the world's future and decisions made by the ascendant Asian giants in the next few years will determine whether that will be for better or worse, a prominent environmental think-tank said Wednesday.
The good news, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Worldwatch Institute, is that the average Chinese or Indian person consumes, wastes, and pollutes far less than the average American or European. Additionally, both countries have taken decisive steps to improve environmental performance.
The bad news is that there are so many Chinese and Indian people that although they leave relatively small footprints on the Earth's resources and ecosystems, their collective environmental impact adds up to a massive dent on the planet, the organization said in its flagship and widely awaited annual ''State of the World'' report, released late Wednesday.
Nor does it help that American and European consumers leave little for their Chinese and Indian counterparts--who make up nearly 40 percent of the world's population.
''Rising demand for energy, food, and raw materials by 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians is already having ripple effects worldwide,'' said Christopher Flavin, Worldwatch's president. ''Meanwhile, record-shattering consumption levels in the U.S. and Europe leave little room for this projected Asian growth.''
The resulting pressure on everything from water to oil already is evident in riots over rising oil prices in Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country; forest loss and overburdened fisheries in Brazil, which has the world's fifth-largest population; and the loss of manufacturing jobs in Central America, the report said.
The United States, with some 296 million people compared to China's 1.3 billion and India's 1.1 billion, still consumes three times as much grain per person as China and five times as much as India, said the report. America emits six times as much carbon dioxide--a leading cause of global warming--as China and 20 times as much as India.
If Chinese and Indian people were to consume and pollute as do Americans, ''it would require two planet Earths just to sustain their two economies,'' according to Worldwatch.
Already, China alone uses 26 percent of the world's steel, 32 percent of its rice, and 47 percent of its cement, the report said. India's use of oil has doubled since 1992 and like China, it has begun to build what it says will be one of the largest automobile industries in the world.
Fortunately, said Flavin, a growing number of leaders in the Asian nations are taking steps to improve environmental performance.
China has loosened political controls, allowing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) stronger legal standing to participate in policy-making. There are now more than 2,000 environmental groups in the country, compared to almost none in the early 1990s, according to Worldwatch.
''Already, China's world-leading solar industry provides water heating for 35 million buildings and India's pioneering use of rainwater harvesting brings clean water to tens of thousands of homes,'' Flavin said. ''China and India are positioned to leapfrog today's industrial powers and become world leaders in sustainable energy and agriculture within a decade.''
Advances in areas such as mass transit, wind and solar power, and the use of fuels derived from agricultural waste in the Asian behemoths could benefit others--for example, by making affordable technologies available to poor countries, according to Worldwatch.
The report calls for broader cooperation between China, India, Europe, and the United States, and urges that the two Asian countries be invited into key global bodies such as the self-selected Group of Eight (G-8) dominant states and the International Energy Agency, a forum of governments seeking to improve energy security.
''The rise of China and India is the wake-up call that should prompt people in the United States and around the world to take seriously the need for strong commitments to build sustainable economies,'' the report concluded.
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