The dramatic rise of China and India is a wake up call that should prompt people in the United States and around the world to take seriously the need for strong commitments to build sustainable economies, according to a report by a US-based research organisation.
This change presents one of the "gravest threats and greatest opportunities" facing the world today, says the Worldwatch Institute in its 'State of the World 2006' report.
And, viewing this colossal shift in global geopolitics as an opportunity rather than a challenge holds the greatest prospect for ensuring a stable and peaceful 21st century, the report by the global environmental and social policy research body, said.
The report calls for broader cooperation between China, India, Europe, and the United States to develop new energy and agricultural systems, maximise resource efficiency, and continue recent progress towards participatory decision-making in China and India.
Educational and professional exchanges should also be stepped up, it recommends.
"China and India should urgently be invited into key international bodies such as the G-8 and the International Energy Agency," the report suggests.
In next few years, the choices these countries will make will lead the world either towards a future beset by growing ecological and political instability or down a development path based on efficient technologies and better stewardship of resources, it says.
The report, while expressing concern over global resource squeeze, commends the innovative methods adopted by China and India in conservation of natural resources.
"Already, China's world-leading solar industry provides water heating for 35 million buildings, and India's pioneering use of rainwater harvesting brings clean water to tens of thousands of homes," says Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin, one of the lead authors of the report.
"China and India are positioned to leapfrog today's industrial powers and become world leaders in sustainable energy and agriculture within a decade," he said.
Though their per-capita resource consumption is still low, with their huge populations China and India are joining the United States and Europe as ecological superpowers whose demands on the world's ecosystems will vastly outstrip those of other countries, the report says.
Other challenges facing China and India include shortage of fresh water and increased consumption of oil as a result of burgeoning automobile industries in both countries.
Since China and India have the only large coal-dominated energy systems in the world today, both countries are central to future efforts to slow global climate change, it says.
Such trends have a number of influential Chinese and Indians questioning whether their countries are on the right path, with Sunita Narain of India's Centre for Science and Environment saying that India, China, and all their neighbours have no choice but to reinvent the development trajectory.