Climate Change: 60 Crore Indians at Risk
TOPIC: General Studies 3
- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
In News: World Bank report titled ‘South Asia’s Hotspots: The Impact of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards’ mentions –
- Climate change could cost India 2.8 per cent of GDP, and depress living standards of nearly half of its population by 2050, as average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1-2 per cent over three decades
- If no measures are taken, average temperatures in India are predicted to increase by 1.5-3 degrees
- Even if preventive measures are taken along the lines of those recommended by the Paris climate change agreement of 2015, India’s average annual temperatures are expected to rise by 1-2 degrees celsius by 2050
- About 600 million people in India today live in locations that could either become moderate or severe hotspots of climate change by 2050 under a business-as-usual scenario.
India and Climate Change
Extreme Heat: India is already experiencing a warming climate
- Unusual and unprecedented spells of hot weather are expected to occur far more frequently and cover much larger areas.
- Under 4°C warming, the west coast and southern India are projected to shift to new, high-temperature climatic regimes with significant impacts on agriculture.
Changing Rainfall Patterns
- An abrupt change in the monsoon could precipitate a major crisis, triggering more frequent droughts as well as greater flooding in large parts of India.
- Dry years are expected to be drier and wet years wetter.
- Droughts are expected to be more frequent in some areas, especially in north-western India, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh.
- Crop yields are expected to fall significantly because of extreme heat by the 2040s.
Groundwater: More than 60% of India’s agriculture is rain-fed, making the country highly dependent on groundwater. Even without climate change, 15% of India’s groundwater resources are overexploited.
Sea level rise
- Sea-level rise and storm surges would lead to saltwater intrusion in the coastal areas, impacting agriculture, degrading groundwater quality, contaminating drinking water, and possibly causing a rise in diarrhoea cases and cholera outbreaks, as the cholera bacterium survives longer in saline water.
- Kolkata and Mumbai, both densely populated cities, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise, tropical cyclones, and riverine flooding.
Agriculture and Food Security
- Even without climate change, world food prices are expected to increase due to growing populations and rising incomes, as well as a greater demand for biofuels.
- Seasonal water scarcity, rising temperatures, and intrusion of sea water would threaten crop yields, jeopardizing the country’s food security.
- The increasing variability and long-term decreases in river flows can pose a major challenge to hydropower plants and increase the risk of physical damage from landslides, flash floods, glacial lake outbursts, and other climate-related natural disasters.
- Decreases in the availability of water and increases in temperature will pose major risk factors to thermal power generation.
Water Security: An increase in variability of monsoon rainfall is expected to increase water shortages in some areas.
Migration and conflict
- South Asia is a hotspot for the migration of people from disaster-affected or degraded areas to other national and international regions.
- The Indus and the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna Basins are major trans boundary rivers, and increasing demand for water is already leading to tensions among countries over water sharing.
- Climate change impacts on agriculture and livelihoods can increase the number of climate refugees.
The Way Forward:
- Improvements in hydro-meteorological systems for weather forecasting and the installation of flood warning systems can help people move out of harm’s way before a weather-related disaster strikes.
- Building codes will need to be enforced to ensure that homes and infrastructure are not at risk.
- With built-up urban areas rapidly becoming “heat-islands”, urban planners will need to adopt measures to counteract this effect.
- Investments in R&D for the development of drought-resistant crops can help reduce some of the negative impacts.
- The efficient use of ground water resources will need to be incentivized.
- Major investments in water storage capacity would be needed to benefit from increased river flows in spring and compensate for lower flows later on.
- Building codes will need to be strictly enforced and urban planning will need to prepare for climate-related disasters.
- Coastal embankments will need to be built where necessary and Coastal Regulation Zone codes enforced strictly.
- Crop diversification, more efficient water use, and improved soil management practices, together with the development of drought-resistant crops can help reduce some of the negative impacts.
- Improvements in irrigation systems, water harvesting techniques, and more-efficient agricultural water management can offset some of these risks.
Connecting the Dots
- Discuss the factors responsible for long term climate change. What evidences do we have that support current global warming. Explain.
- The fight against climate change is more effective at the household level than macro level policy formulations. Do you agree? Substantiate.