October 22, 2021 6:10:35 pm
Ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, an assessment of US intelligence agencies has said that India and China will play critical roles in determining the trajectory of temperature rise.
America’s National Intelligence Council, in its latest national intelligence estimate report on Thursday, noted that geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet the Paris Climate Agreement goals.
Debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay, and how quickly, and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies required for the clean energy transition.
Most countries will face difficult economic choices and probably will count on technological breakthroughs to rapidly reduce their net emissions later.
“China and India will play critical roles in determining the trajectory of temperature rise,” said the report released by the National Intelligence Council ahead of the the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow.
The report said that China and India are the first- and fourth-largest emitters respectively, and both are growing their total and per capita emissions, whereas the US and the EU, as the second- and third-largest, are declining.
“Both China and India are incorporating more renewable and low-carbon energy sources, but several factors will limit their displacement of coal.
“They need to modernise their grids, have sunk costs that make it relatively cheaper to use coal compared with other energy sources, want to minimise reliance on fuel imports for national security reasons and are trying to appease domestic constituencies who rely on the coal industry for jobs,” the report said.
China accounts for about 30 per cent of global emissions and has pledged to peak before 2030, but modest emissions reduction targets in its 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025) in 2021 put that into question.
“China has not publicly articulated detailed plans for meeting its 2060 net-zero-emissions target; to do so, we assess that Beijing would need to follow through on President Xi Jinping’s pledge at the US Climate Summit in April to phase out coal consumption.
“India almost certainly will increase its emissions as it develops economically. Indian officials have not committed to a net-zero target date and have instead called on countries with larger economies to reduce emissions,” the report said.
The Council judged that transboundary tensions probably will increase over shared surface and groundwater basins as increased weather variability exacerbates pre-existing or triggers new water insecurity in many parts of the world.
Climate change effects on local and regional weather, including loss of glaciers and more frequent and extreme droughts and floods, will make water management, resource allocation and service provision more complex and difficult, and probably more contentious.
“Although scientific forecasts are not precise enough to pinpoint likely flashpoints, we assess that several areas are at high risk,” it said.
“Pakistan relies on downstream surface water from heavily glacier-fed rivers originating in India for much of its irrigation and requires frequent data from India on river discharges in order to provide advanced warning to evacuate villages and prepare for flooding,” said the report.
The Mekong River basin already is an area of growing dispute over dam building, largely by China, that threatens the smooth flow of water for agriculture and fishing on which other countries rely heavily, particularly Cambodia and Vietnam, it said.
According to the report, the US intelligence community has identified 11 countries and two regions of great concern from the threat of climate change.
These countries of concern are highly vulnerable to the physical effects and lack the capacity to adapt, suggesting that building resilience to climate change in these countries would be especially helpful in mitigating future risks to US interests.
“Five of the 11 countries are in South and East Asia — Afghanistan, Burma (Myanmar), India, Pakistan and North Korea; four countries are in Central America and the Caribbean — Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua; Colombia and Iraq round out the list,” it added.
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