The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ (MoES) has come out with a report titled: ‘Assessment of Climate Change over the Indian Region.’ It is the first-ever attempt to document and assess climate change in different parts of India. The report describes the observed changes and future projections of
Extreme weather events include unexpected, unusual, severe, or unseasonal weather well beyond the historical averages.
The new report reveals that local climate change is influenced not only by the increase in greenhouse gases but also by the increase in air pollution and the local changes in the land-use pattern. The report goes on to warn that the rapid changes in India’s climate will place increasing stress on the country’s
They are expected to cause huge damage to infrastructure and the economy.
The report is edited by scientists of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune.
The report is unlike the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessment reports that are global, as it looks at regional climate change projections.
According to the report, India’s average temperature has risen by around 0.7°C during 1901–2018 and projects that the frequency of summer (April–June) heat waves over India will be 3 to 4 times higher by the end of the 21st century as compared to the 1976–2005 baseline period. This in turn will lead to a high likelihood of an increase in the frequency and intensity of droughts .This trend of increasing year-to-year rainfall variability will disrupt rain-fed agricultural food production that will adversely impact food security in the future.
The growing propensity for droughts and floods because of changing rainfall patterns caused by climate change would be detrimental to surface and groundwater recharge, posing threats to the country’s water security.
At the end of the 21st century, sea level in the North Indian Ocean (NIO) is projected to rise by approximately 300 mm relative to the average over 1986–2005. Low-lying coastal zones, especially on India’s east coast, may witness rising sea levels damaging life, property and increasing groundwater salinity.
A rise in cyclone intensities will result in increasing inundation from the accompanying storm surges that will turn coastal agricultural lands and lakes, saline and threaten wildlife. Climate models also project a rise in the intensity of tropical cyclone and precipitation in the NIO basin during the 21st century. Already, observations indicate that frequency of extremely severe cyclonic storms (ESCS) over the Arabian Sea has increased during the post-monsoon seasons of 1998–2018.
Cyclone Nisarga confirms the accuracy of the climate modelling in this report .
The report observes that the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau have experienced a temperature rise of about 1.3°C during 1951–2014. The warming trend has been particularly pronounced over the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), which is the largest area of permanent ice cover outside the North and South Poles. Popularly known as the ‘Third Pole’, the meltwater generated from the Himalayan glaciers supplies the rivers and streams of the region, including the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra river systems of India. These rivers collectively provide about 50 percent of the country’s total utilisable surface water resources. Several areas of the HKH have experienced retreat of glaciers in recent decades. By the end of the 21st century, the annual mean surface temperature over the HKH is projected to increase by about 5.2°C.
The report concludes that rising temperatures are also likely to increase energy demand for space cooling, which if met by thermal power would contribute to global warming by increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, a rise in water withdrawal by power plants would directly compete with water withdrawal for agriculture and domestic consumption, particularly in water-stressed areas.
The report is a wakeup call. Climate change can undo all the progress achieved so far. The need of the hour is to reorient the development model for a sustainable future.