The Global and Local Consequences of the Growth of China and India on People and the Environment

China and India have repeatedly outgrown western economies, with an average of 9% and 6% gross domestic product (GDP) growth per year, respectively. This growth has had a massive impact on greenhouse gas emissions, as the two countries industrialise, and grow their manufacturing infrastructures.

On a global scale, their growth has contributed to increased temperatures and sea-levels, causing increased spending and concern over flood defences, with cities such as London and New York at increasingly high risk of flooding. Some island nations, including Fiji, have already begun evacuation plans.

With economic growth of 9%, India's carbon dioxide emissions would more than triple by 2030. India generates more than half of its power from coal – arguably the dirtiest fossil fuel – and only plans to increase usage.

The growing population will require increased agricultural production, which will likely be supported by imports from Africa. This could either increase wages and employment, or further increase starvation, depending on how the situation is managed. Agriculture invariably requires large amounts of water, which could increase water stress globally. Farming also emits large amounts of nitrous oxide, which has over 200 times the effect of carbon dioxide on global warming.

Industrial development along the Yellow River at Liujiaxia Dam in China.
Industrial development along the Yellow River at Liujiaxia Dam in China. | Source

On a regional level, China's growth has caused acid rain, which falls on 30% of China's territory, destroying crops, and over 70% of freshwater in China to become polluted. However, attention is now being brought to these problems, further economic growth will facilitate eco-friendly initiatives; the government aims to increase its renewable and recyclable energy sources, and already has more solar panels than all but two countries (Germany and Italy), and generates more electricity from hydroelectric dams than any other country. China is also constructing a "Great Green Wall" to reduce carbon dioxide levels, and combat desertification from the Gobi Desert in the north.

India's growth has not yet affected the environment on the same scale as China's, but it is likely to within the next 50 years; this could bring the same problems, unless new, sustainable technology is employed.

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