Mittal Institute: Thank you for speaking to us, Professor McElroy. You have done a lot of research at the intersection of energy, climate, air pollution and development in China. When and why did you start broadening your interest to these same challenges in India?
Michael B. McElroy: China became the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases about 10 years ago, surpassing the United States. The United States is number two. The EU is number three. And number four is now India, with a rapid growth rate in terms of its emissions. Then you look at the overall dynamics of its situation. India has the world’s second largest population, it has rapid growth in its GDP, and its influence on global affairs is important and growing. In some sense, people are looking at the path that China took: it progressed from the point where Chinese were not worried about climate change in the 1990s and 2000s – instead focused on poisoning people from the air pollution they were breathing – to the point it is at now, where China has begun to resolve some of its worst air quality problems and is increasingly taking a leadership role in dealing with the new global imperative of climate change. It is natural to wonder now if that is the model for India’s future as well, or in what respects it can or should take a different path? India has very serious air quality problems; India is also very heavily reliant on coal as its primary energy source. And so, in some respects, it’s an obvious thing to explore next India’s future energy economy in a world of changing climate.