5. Balancing Immediate Energy Needs With
Global Pollution Ramifications
In India, about 30 percent of households, more
than 300 million people, do not have access to
electricity. As noted by Sunita Narain with the Cen-
tre for Science and Environment in Delhi, India
stands poised to follow in the footsteps of the de-
veloped world, because coal is both abundant and
inexpensive in India.
“If you created the problem in the past, we will cre-
ate it in the future,” she says. “We have 700 million
households that cook using biomass fuel today. If
those households move to coal, you have that much
more use of fossil fuels. Then the entire world is
However, she also notes that if using solar is so sim-
ple, convenient and inexpensive, why hasn’t the
U.S. made the conversion already? The U.S. needs
to put its money where its mouth is, and if we’re
so concerned about climate change, then we need
to take a long, hard look at our own consumption
first, before we lay eyes on India.
According to Narain, the average American uses
the energy equivalent to 1.5 citizens of France, 2.2
citizens of Japan, 10 citizens of China, 34 citizens
of India, and 61 citizens of Nigeria, each and every
day of the year.
“Your consumption is really going to put a hole in
the planet,” she says. “The fact of the matter is, we
need to put the issue of lifestyle and consumption at
the center of climate negotiations.”
In short, Narain believes Americans must take re-
sponsibility, both for our bloated energy consump-
tion and our own addiction to fossil fuels. If we
were to invest in and transition to renewable ener-
gy, then others, including India, could pressure its
leadership to follow.
6. Crisis in Kiribati
In Kiribati, an island nation in the central Pacific
Ocean, rising seawater has now started to enter
homes, farmland and the freshwater ponds used
for drinking water. According to Anote Tong, presi-
dent of Kiribati, the projections put forth by scien-
tists is that the islands will eventually be complete-
47 | HAPI Guide
If you created the
problem in the past,
we will create it in
the future,” she says.
“We have 700 million
households that cook
using biomass fuel today.
If those households move
to coal, you have that
much more use of fossil
fuels. Then the entire
world is fried.
ly submerged by rising sea levels. The question is
what can be done about it?
Short-term, people have been relocated inland,
but Tong realizes that a long-term solution must be
prepared, for eventually the island will not be able
to accommodate all of its inhabitants. Ultimately,
migration is inevitable. Kiribati has acquired part
of the Fiji Islands, and if people choose to migrate,
now or later, they have someplace to go. As noted
by one Kiribatian, many of the island nations that
contribute the least to global warming are the ones
experiencing the worst, and earliest, impact.
Industrialization and pollution have also taken a
dramatic toll on oceanic ecosystems. In the last
three decades alone, HALF of all coral has been
lost. And with the death of coral the entire ecosys-
tem falls apart, ultimately leading to starvation —
as more than 1 billion people worldwide depend
on fish for sustenance — and loss of livelihood,
which leads to poverty.
The ocean soaks up about one-third of the CO2
dumped into the atmosphere. This makes oceans
a stabilizing force in climate. The problem is we
have been, and certainly still are, creating CO2 at
a faster rate than the oceans can process and filter.