China is now experiencing an unprecedented environmental crisis because of a sustained heatwave and other extreme natural phenomena. It has declared a nation-wide yellow alert, highlighting a drought emergency. Many cities in the country, which is not used to high temperatures, have now seen the mercury going above 40 degrees Celsius. In Shanghai, the country’s biggest city, the measurements were above 40 degrees on many days recently. It soared above 45 degrees in Beibei district in the south-west region. Apart from the heat wave, the lack of rainfall is accentuating the crisis. There is a 45% rainfall deficit in most areas of the Yangtse basin. The decline in rainfall has caused rivers to dry up. It is said that over 60 rivers, including the Yangtse, are dry or are running dry. There are other natural disasters also that have disrupted life. China, which is a vast country, is used to natural calamities and weather aberrations. But it is the first time that it is experiencing disasters of such a high order across the country at the same time.
The changes seen in China are part of the changes seen in other parts of the world. Recently, forest fires broke out in many parts of Europe, the US and South America. They have been reported even from Siberia and the Amazon rainforests. Rivers and reservoirs are drying up in many countries and some regions are hit by droughts. Europe is going into a winter without assurance of adequate energy supplies. Cyclones and other weather events have become more frequent and severe in their impact. The warming of the oceans is causing sea levels to rise, and glaciers are melting faster. In most places, the usual weather patterns and natural phenomena have reversed, disrupting established styles of living at individual and collective levels.
India witnesses the impact of climate change in every part of the country in some form or the other. The weather and seasons have become unpredictable. Severe manifestations of the change are reported on a weekly, or even a daily, basis. The latest events are the flash floods and landslides in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which resulted in the loss of over 25 lives and much damage to property and infrastructure. The Himalayan region is vulnerable environmentally and climatologically. Destabilisation of its climate will hit millions of people on both sides of the ranges, with results that are hard to predict. India’s plains and coast are also most vulnerable. Agriculture, industry and all other sectors will be badly affected. Actions on both global and local levels are needed to counter the threat that is real and present but is still not being taken seriously.