Personally, because a formative experience of my youth was spending almost three months traveling around the Indian subcontinent, having just turned nineteen in my gap year before going to university. It gave me a sense of the extraordinary range in our world – of geographic extremes, of economic and social conditions, cultural heritages, and more – as well as the beauty and tragedies to be found as one travels. I later went on honeymoon in India and travelled to Delhi for many meetings.
Professionally, because India may be one fulcrum of what the 21st Century could become. When I first wrote on climate change, in a report for Chatham House in 1989, India’s population was half what it is today, energy consumption was tiny, its CO2 emissions per person averaged less then a tenth of US levels, and its global carbon footprint was barely visible in the global total. This year, India may surpass China as the most populous nation on earth, with over 1.4 billion people, and it is rapidly emerging as a major economic and industrial power. A country like India should not have to prematurely bear global burdens, if burdens they be. But if it continues to follow the old patterns of western industrialisation – as largely mimicked by China – and cannot help to carve out and demonstrate a more sustainable path, all ambitions to contain climate change will be gone.
My Indian tour was professionally important for more personal reasons too, in that by good fortune I was able to give three lectures, interrelated but complementary, which span a good range of key research interests and contributions. If interested, consider them as setting out a broad landscape of information and thinking, within which the more specific academic research outputs available on this website can be located.
• My first visit to Bangalore for more than forty years (!) was at the invitation of the Divecha Centre for Climate Change at the Indian Institute of Sciences, where I was honoured to give the annual Grantham Lecture. I didn’t make it easy, using the opportunity to deliver a sophisticated overview of Planetary Economics and the challenge of climate change, combining scientific developments around risk assessment, with arguments in my 500+ page book Planetary Economics. The lecture offers an intellectual framework combining risk, economic evaluation, and innovation dynamics, drawing broad policy implications. IISc hosts the global South Asia hub of Future Earth and I also grateful for their promotion of the talk to wide audience across Asia.
• A follow-on lecture at the IISc campus at the Institute National Institute of Advanced Studies. (NIAS) at Bangalore, delved into the theme of energy innovation, drawing on my long-standing research interest in the field with a recorded lecture on “The Economics of Energy Innovation and Transition: lessons and principles for policymaking”. This combined earlier research with recent insights from the programme on the Economics of Innovation and Systems Strategies, of which I became strategic director last summer.
• Finally, I am grateful to Shreekant Gupta form the Delhi School of Economics, and colleagues at the Indian International Centre in Delhi, for hosting a lecture to present key findings of the The IPCC report on Climate Change Mitigation, with a deliberately tantalising subtitle: “Glass half empty, half full, or half broken?”. The slides drawn from the IPCC report itself are available Here, which I hope are self-explanatory for the theme of why the glass of progress towards tackling climate change may be more than half empty, but is filling. My concluding remarks on ‘half broken’ – not on the slides or public – offered reflections on a fragile, inadequate and politicised intellectual and institutional context for tackling one of the greatest challenges humanity faces.