There are few elements of global climate change policy trickier than the relationship between climate change and development. Developing states insist that they have a right to get rich as fast as they can, with no particular heed paid to their greenhouse gas emissions. The figures for air travel in India show one small part of this:
According to the Airports Authority of India, the total number of domestic and international passengers was 10.7 million in October 2009, up 23% on the same month a year earlier.
Aircraft movements climbed by almost 59% in the same period.
And yet, if billions of people in the developing world follow a high-carbon path to development, the eventual emergence of catastrophic climate change is all but assured.
The future of human prosperity depends fundamentally on a stable climate. Achieving that end will require the recognition in developing states that they cannot pursue a high-carbon form of development indefinitely. To do so would be to grant a bit more wealth to those working now, while undermining the basis of prosperity for all future generations. At the same time, developed states need to show that it is politically and economically possible to have a society with rapidly falling emissions.