US President Donald Trump's remarks on the air pollution in India has triggered predictable reactions. In the final round of public debates between the two US presidential candidates, when asked about his plans to take on climate crisis, Trump pointed an accusative finger at the environmental pollution in China, Russia and India. He singled out India saying that the air in the country is 'filthy'. Many blamed Trump for being a narrow-minded nationalist at heart even when outwardly pretending friendship. He is one capable of changing his colours to suit temporary needs. However, although it was stated by Trump, the air pollution in India is not unreal, with metropolises like Delhi suffering it seriously. In winter months from November to February, especially north India, the toxic element in the air rises at an alarming rate. Already in some parts of Delhi, the Air Quality Index (AQI) has touched a serious level. The day Trump blamed India, the AQI in Delhi and outskirts reached the 'emergency' level of 300 in 500. As an example of the hazard posed by it, there is a finding from studies that if the rise in what is termed as PM 2.5 in the measure of the microbic toxins is of one microgram per cubic meter, it will increase the mortality rate of Covid by eight percent. In Delhi the PM 2.5 scale has risen over the last few weeks by 180 to 300 microgram. This is twelve times the safe limit set by the Word Health Organisation. In other words, the Covid pandemic is also intensifying the lethal effect of atmosphere pollution. High atmosphere pollution will cause not only respitarory disorder, but also diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disorder and asthma. A research institute in Boston recently discovered that the highest incidence of PM 2.5 toxicity was detected in India.
Although the pollution level of India is high, America's moral right to blame India is questionable. The US stands second in emitting greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which creates climate crisis – the first being China. According to the Global Carbon Budget Report, when India's greenhouse gas emission was 265 Crore tons in 2018, that of the US was 660 Crore tons. In the scale of per capita pollution level, the US tops the list whereas India's share only an eightth of that. It is simply absurd that America, which leads the table in contaminating the overal atmosphere of the planet, casts a derogatory glance at India. The world should note that it is this very habit of distorting truth for temporary political gain that lies at the root of diverse problems. In a way, the US and India blaming each other - on a grave crisis that demands collective endeavour for a solution - will itself do only harm to the cause of a solution. Atmosphere has no borders, and therefore the poor countries also are having to pay a heavy price for the deed of the rich, industrialised countries who make large scale pollution. And the onus of solving the menace also rests heavier on the rich countries who have greater role in creating it. A pro-active programme of action in this direction, though inadequate, is contained in the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The accord set a goal of limiting the global temperature rise this century to within to 2 degree Celsius from pre-indurial level. But, coming to bras-stacks not only did America under Trump fail to implement what it had committed to accomplishing, it even adopted a policy to back out from the agreement itself. The US thus overturned 72 mitigation rules related to the environment. At the root of this insular policy of Trump is its narrow nationalism. And he has minced no words while declaring many times that what he upholds are national, not international interests.
But like America, there are other countries too ruled by hyper-nationalists, who put their own countries' interests at the top. They do not set a goal of the health of the earth as a whole, but instead are driven by the gain for the huge corporates of their own country and war-mongers. Even when pollution shoots up steeply in India, there are moves to allocate coal mines to vested interests. In a way, what the climate crisis lays bare is the hollowness of divisive nationalism. The solution to that crisis lies not in each country being worried about its own interests, but the recognition that the earth is home to every one. The call emanating by the current crisis of the planet is the call for not only Trump, but also for Modi and other leaders to come to be on board for a worldwide collective towards global humanity – a demand also raised by the toxic air in India.