Climate concerns

It is not only the deficiency of the monsoon, confirmed by the met department, and likely to cause serious economic disruption in the country, which should cause concern. While the rainfall was below par in many areas, it was excessive in others.

Places like Assam saw unprecedented floods. Flash floods in a wide Himalayan area, including Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal, have caused much destruction. Other places like Kerala also saw landslides on a scale not associated with the monsoon.

The inference is that the monsoon has become more erratic than deficient and the answer may have to go beyond usual suspects like El Nino. The changes in weather patterns have not been limited to India. There was a drought and heat wave in the US and more than normal rainfall in Europe. Climatologists are coming to the conclusion that the vagaries are possibly related to climate change. Some international weather agencies, including reputed research bodies, have linked the extreme weather events all over the globe to global warming.

   These concerns have to be taken more seriously than in the past by national governments, international bodies and others who formulate and influence public policies and opinion.

The argument that no direct correlation has been established between the disconcerting natural phenomena like depleting snow cover, diminishing glaciers, increasing mean temperatures, rising sea levels, and changing weather patterns on the one hand and global warming on the other is no consolation. Weather is such a complex part of nature that science has not been able to fully understand it. By the time it finds the correlation, it may be too late to act.

Global climate change talks are in a limbo and therefore concerted international action may be too far, if at all. The Kyoto protocol is set to lapse soon. So there is a bigger need for more effective climate change mitigation and adaptation of policies at national and local levels.

These should include greater reliance on clean and renewable energy sources and conservation of natural assets like forests. Since extreme events like the failure of rainfall, heat waves, cyclones, hailstorms and landslides are on the rise disaster management strategies should be readied to cope with them. Both short-term and long-term planning and policies are required to deal with the new situation. Indian policy-planners should wake up at least now.

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