Bill McKibben: Climate Change Is an Indian Problem Too

American author and environmentalist Bill McKibben spoke in Mumbai on July 30, 2009.

MUMBAI, July 30, 2009 - Climate change and global warming may present the biggest challenge facing relations between the United States and India.

This was one of the main points made by American environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben in an evening presentation organized by the Asia Society India Centre and the American Center Mumbai. McKibben discussed the potential impact of global climate change on India and India's responsibility to respond. His stop in Mumbai was part of a global tour to motivate different audiences to join in the fight against global warming.

In the past few years, McKibben argued, it has become increasingly clear that climate change is accelerating much more rapidly than projected, and something close to panic has beset the scientific community. The shrinking of the glaciers in the Arctic has enormous implications across a number of systems, such as the rise of disease and the fall of water availability. One bright spot is that this new understanding of the far-reaching implications of climate change has led to a stronger assessment of what we need to do to combat its perils.

McKibben said, "In the last year or two, we have come to understand that global warming does not present a future threat to be concerned about and take precaution against. It presents a very current emergency that requires desperate action now .... We have to make a big change, we have to make it fast, and those are two things that are difficult for political systems to do."

There is an inherently unfair aspect to the perils of global warming, although the US and Europe are arguably largely responsible for the levels of carbon in the atmosphere, it will be the world's poorest communities who face the greatest suffering. Therefore, India has every right to be angry at the United States' lack of action against climate change. However, this anger should not prevent India from dealing with climate change head-on. Development in India will prove impossible if the perils of climate change are not acknowledged and combatted.

Reported by Madeline Gressel, Asia Society India Centre