Warmer years ahead

CLIMATE CHANGE

The latest report on climate trends and projections for the State by an IISc team, in association with the Bangalore Climate Change Initiative-Karnataka (BCCI-K), says Karnataka is likely to experience a 1.5 to  3 degree rise in temperature by 2030. The annual maximum and minimum temperatures in Bangalore will also see a spike, writes Madhumitha B.

The latest report by a research team at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) could not have stressed more on the need for political ideologies to make the shift towards decisions that begin to either counter or prepare people and places for inevitable environmental change.

The warning for Karnataka is getting serious and, if left to the present way of functioning, the damage could get severe and almost impossible to reverse. Among the many findings, the most worrisome include temperature rise, droughts and possibly an entirely opposite weather pattern across districts that have historically held a certain type of climate suitable for that region. For Bangalore too, the projections show increased temperatures and extreme rainfall.

In less than two decades from today, extreme weather conditions could become the norm and, coupled with the atmosphere getting warmer, it can only be an indication of difficult times ahead. What further alleviates this challenge is the resulting consequence of food production, with agriculture taking a severe beating due to erratic climates. There need to be localised solutions to the problem, and each region and its reaction to climate change needs serious examination.

The latest report on ‘Historical climate trends and climate projections for Karnataka’ by the team at IISc along with the Bangalore Climate Change Initiative-Karnataka (BCCI-K) takes a closer look at this area with a State-wise assessment of the past trend, the current scenario and the course it will take in the near future.

According to the assessment, which has used 18 different climate models and taken the average of them all to ensure sound and definitive findings, Karnataka is likely to experience a 1.5 to 3 degree rise in temperature by 2030.

If this happens, the State will have crossed the global threshold agreement to limit the warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees compared to the pre-industrial period. A dangerous limit to cross, as adaptation after this point will be a formidable task.

The dangers could lie with respect to destruction of natural ecosystems and biodiversity, apart from carbon sequestration. Food production, which is already witnessing a crisis globally, will suffer further obstacles. Scientific studies have shown that the global production of food is already being adversely affected with the outcome of wheat and maize lower than usual, said Prof N H Ravindranath, one of the authors of the report. Escalating greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) will only worsen this condition.

A warmer City

Bangalore, too, will have to brace for warmer winters and hotter summers. According to the report, the maximum and minimum temperatures through the year will also see a spike from anywhere between 0.8 and 1.9 degrees and 1.2 and 2.1 degrees respectively. The City will also witness an increase in rainfall with the projections being highest during August-October for the short term or by 2030.

This report, with Prof G Bala, Anitha D Sagadevan, Indu K Murthy and R K Chaturvedi also as authors, categorises the enormity of effects due to climate change into four areas, following the projections based on the Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP) scenario that is at present considered among the most efficient methodologies of analysing and understanding climate change.

Of them, the two most significant scenarios under which most of the projections fall under include the RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5. While the former indicates a radiative forcing or levels of warming of 4.5 watts/m2 by 2100 and moderate GHG emissions, the latter is an indicator of 8.5 watts/m2 by 2100 with a higher emission scenario. Based on this, the projections for Karnataka is cause for alarm as the statistics indicate a serious concern for both environment and development.

Most parts of the northern districts will experience an increase of 4 to 6 per cent in rainfall by 2030 and 8-12 per cent by 2080 respectively.

Prof Ravindranath reiterates the analysis in the report when he says that the temperature projections are robust while the rainfall projections have a large range and high uncertainty. Having said that, “Rainfall projections are more uncertain, but what is certain is that the pattern may undergo change. Any change in the rainfall, increase or decrease, will have adverse impacts on crop production,” he emphasised.
All these analyses raise further questions on the larger issue of sustainability.

Sustainability of water, energy and of the environment through forests and ecology along with food security. There are some parts of the State that have initiated solutions at the village levels and these, said Prof Ravindranath, have begun to result in a change for the better or have at least equipped farmers to face what lies ahead. “This only goes to show that the localised method is the only way forward. All these scientific reports along with the reality on ground should be a wake-up call for the government. They have to start thinking and planning on coping strategies and soon,” he added.

In Karnataka, 70 per cent of the population lives in rural areas and a further 80 per cent of this rural population depends on agriculture.

The report states that 80 per cent of the agriculture is rain-fed, subject to vagaries of the monsoon. Karnataka is also home to biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, which is likely to be impacted by projected climate change, leading to irreversible loss of biodiversity and other ecosystem services. The two major river basins namely, Krishna and Cauvery, are crucial for agriculture and drinking water supply, and climate change could impact the flow and availability of water in these rivers.” India still accounts for a very small percentage of global emissions.

But, the effects at the local levels is starting to bring the changes caused by climate change, to the fore. This is not something that can wait for global agreements or negotiations that are taking way too much time simply deliberating the issue.

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