By Arré Bench Oct. 23, 2020
US President Donald Trump labelled India’s air “filthy”. Trump was both correct and incorrect: India’s Air Quality Index is among the worst and Indian cities figure on lists of the most polluted places in the world. However, the context of the remarks was climate change, and India’s per capita emissions are nowhere near those of developed countries.
In USA’s election season, India seems to be witnessing the most action. The latest salvo came – unsurprisingly – from Donald Trump yet again, who labelled India and China “filthy”. Trump was both correct and incorrect: India’s Air Quality Index is among the worst and Indian cities routinely figure on every list of most polluted places in the world. However, the context of the remarks was climate change and global warming, and India’s per capita emissions are nowhere near those of developed countries.
Our air IS filthy. Every year about 15 of the 20 cities with the filthiest air in the world are in India. We’ve also done little to address this, except pass the buck around. No point being outraged when Donald Trump speaks that truth. Our air is an awful global embarrassment
— Shekhar Gupta (@ShekharGupta) October 23, 2020
“Look at China, how filthy it is. Look at Russia. Look at India. It’s filthy. The air is filthy. I walked out of the Paris Accord as we had to take out trillions of dollars and we were treated very unfairly,” Trump said, while talking about pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and claiming that the US has the “lowest number in carbon emissions”. The Paris deal aims to cap global warming below 2 degrees.
Trump just called India “filthy.”
Over to you, Trump loving Hindu nationalists.
— CJ Werleman (@cjwerleman) October 23, 2020
The remarks were in response to a question posed by the debate moderator Kristen Welker, on how Trump would combat climate change and support job growth simultaneously. This isn’t the first time Trump has made similar comments about India’s air quality. In another interview in May, he had said, “China, India, Russia, many other nations, they have not very good air, not very good water, and the sense of pollution.”
Trump calls Russia, China, and India filthy and claims he values 'jobs' over the international Paris Accord agreements to justify pulling out. Falsely claims the US has the 'cleanest' air and water in the world. In reality, he's deregulated environmental safeguards. #Debates2020
— Anonymous (@YourAnonCentral) October 23, 2020
Trump: India is filthy.
Trump-train Hindu nationalists: *crickets*
— Audrey Truschke (@AudreyTruschke) October 23, 2020
Predictably, Trump’s remarks left a lot of feathers ruffled. Several Twitter users pointed out that India had rolled out the red carpet for the US president, while he had no qualms throwing India under the bus. Still others spoke about why Indians were so riled up, considering the evidence.
Trump: India is filthy
All Indians: pic.twitter.com/K2a8DExnbB
— Floyd (@floydian_sleep) October 23, 2020
However, Trump’s comments were inaccurate, given the context they were made in. As an editorial in the Times of India points out, “While the US is responsible for 22% of the cumulative emissions choking the planet, India has contributed only 2%. As a much poorer plus more populous country India necessarily has greater medium-term dependency on fossil fuels. Paris Accord was meant to help countries like India transition to cleaner technologies,” a deal that Trump backed out of on account of the fact that the US would have had to pay for “cleaning up” the air of other countries.
If we are to fact check Trump's "filthy" remark – it is certainly true that air pollution is a huge annual crisis in India.
However, he was talking in the context of climate change – and on THAT front, India actually has very low per capita emissions. Lower than the US by far. https://t.co/SjcfqsF44H
— Vikram Chandra (@vikramchandra) October 23, 2020
India’s per capita emissions, as many pointed out, are actually far below the USA’s. In fact, as this National Geographic article illustrates, Qatar’s carbon emissions are the highest in the world, three times that of the United States’. Others on the list include Kuwait, UAE, Denmark, Belgium, Australia, Canada, and The Netherlands, aside from USA.
Sadly, data has never been a passion of our favourite overseas friend.